Is saving money and eating healthier of your list of New Year’s Resolutions? Do increasing food costs, decreasing paychecks and the grocery shrink-rays minimizing everything in sight make you think your goals are impossible? You want to save money and eat healthy, but it is just too damn hard.
I used to feel the same way. Four years ago, I went to my doctor’s for a check up and at age 25 had blood pressure high enough to give me a stroke. It was “do or die” time and I needed to make some changes in the way I approached food – and fast. But how? I was making next to nothing with 80% of my paycheck going to rent and student loans.
Some of the following tips are easy to implement right away, others require slow steps over time, but all are totally achievable.
If this busy gal can who used to only eat white rice can do it, you can do it too!
8 Methods for Grocery Shopping Sanity
2. Check your cupboards
Before making your list, check to see what you already have and can use in the coming week for cooking. No clue about how to stock a pantry, check out this article from the New York Times as well as this great post from The Kitchn on stocking a vegetarian or vegan pantry.
3. Cut out the processed foods
Boxed mac & cheese, soup in a can, chicken stock in a box, jars of tomato sauce. These are all HUGE wallet drains. In 20 minutes or less you can MAKE all of this at home. It will be cheaper, faster and healthier than buying this crap at the store. Stop wasting your money.
4. Stock up on whole grains, dried beans and nuts.
If you live near a Trader Joe’s then you’re good to go. If not, check out the closest grocery store or food retailer that sells this stuff in bulk. Asian food markets (like Super 88 here in Boston), Harvest Co-op, and Indian groceries are all great places to purchase this stuff in bulk. Store the grains (rice, quinoa, wheat berries, barley, etc…) in airtight containers in the a cabinet or in the fridge. Store the nuts in the fridge or freezer (nut oils go rancid when kept in the cupboard. Betcha didn’t know that, did ya.) How is stock-piling this stuff helpful? They’re cheap for one. For another, try this: on Sunday night cook up a lot of beans using this no-soak, fool-proof method. Add a few cups to whatever veggies you have on hand. Instant healthy dinner. (Side note: here’s a good post on beans with out the music, if you know what I mean. ::wink::) Store the leftovers in the fridge for burritos, tacos, rice & beans, curries, Asian stir-fries, soups, stews and anything else you might want to make that week. Your main ingredient is ready to use! (And is much cheaper and healthier than canned beans. The texture difference alone will astound you.)
5. Love the frozen veggies
Fresh fruits and veggies too expensive? Frozen fruits and veggies are a great way to cut down the food budget and eat healthy. Make sure the veggies are flash-frozen: you should be able to feel each individual piece in the bag. If it’s one solid clump, then they’ve been thawed and re-frozen and the nutritional value has been compromised. Fresh is still best, but frozen is a great alternative especially when compared to canned – YUCK!
6. Buy organic when it matters
If you have the financial means to buy everything organic, then great for you. For the rest of us, it’s a constant balancing act of getting the biggest bang for the buck. My rule of thumb is to buy organic when it’s a) on sale and b) if it’s something I eat the skin or the whole item. Things like oranges, melons and bananas don’t get eaten whole, but items like strawberries, grapes and tomatoes do. So if you’re concerned about the chemicals you might be ingesting, then buy where it matters and where your budget will allow.
Related articles: How to Save Money at Whole Foods
Saving at Whole Foods (I’ve blogged this one before)
7. Eat at home
Cook with your spouse. Cook with your friends (hello, potluck!). Cook with your kids. It’s great quality time and everyone has fun. You’ll also be eating cheaper and healthier. If you have kids, you’re also setting a great example for them and teaching them to have a healthy relationship to food. Cooking with your partner is a great way to spend quality time together. Just make sure you turn the burners off if you get “distracted”.
8. Join a CSA
If this is an option for you, DO IT! Last summer alone I saved over $300 on food by joining a Community Supported Agriculture program. For a one time payment (or a payment plan depending on the farm), you get a weekly delivery of in season, local and organic produce. Some places will even email or post on their website what’s included in the weekly delivery and you can make your grocery list from that! Super easy! Super fresh! And most importantly, super cheap!! [And the money directly supports small, local farms … how much more socially conscious can you get?!]
Do you have any tips and tricks you use to eat healthy AND within a budget? Share them in the comments below!