Something that you may not know about me is that I’m a bit of a financial nerd. In college, I double-majored in illustration and business, with an emphasis in finance. I loved working with numbers, and assumed it would be challenging to make a full-time living as an artist, so I figured I better work on a degree that could land me a “real” job, too. Throughout college, I worked as a waitress in an amazing local restaurant (which probably sparked my love for truly good-tasting food, instead of the junk food I had grown up on), and I eventually ended up working as its payroll manager by my senior year. I think seeing how the chefs worked to save money by repurposing leftovers inspired me to get financially creative in my own kitchen, too! (Juice pulp burgers, anyone?)So, today I’ve teamed up with Chase to help keep YOU financially fit. (Because stressing about money isn’t good for your health, either!)
I know that healthy eating is usually considered “more expensive” than unhealthy eating, and it’s true in many cases. Organic produce is more expensive than conventionally grown produce. Pasture-raised animal products are more expensive than factory farmed animal products. And good luck dining out at an organic, raw food restaurant — the prices can be astronomical! However, eating healthier doesn’t have to break the bank. When you make healthy eating a priority in your life, you will most likely cut-back on some other expensive habits, such as dining out often, buying fancy calorie-laden coffee drinks or greasy snacks at the movie theater, and sipping on overpriced cocktails. Improving your health now will likely mean less costly doctor visits for you in the future, too! It’s a total win-win. While you should see significant savings by making the changes above, today I want to discuss how you can save on your grocery bill right away. Below are my eight favorite ways to stay “financially fit” while working toward your healthy eating goals:
- Stick to a meal plan. Not only does meal planning help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals, it also helps you stick to your budget. When you know exactly what you want to cook for the week, and bring a list to the store of exactly which ingredients you’ll need, you’re less likely to over-buy food and end up with wasted groceries. You can use my weekly dinner plans to help you get started!
- Don’t shop hungry. Shopping hungry almost always ends in impulse purchases. Everything looks SO appealing when you’re starving! I’ve totally been guilty of buying something to eat on the way home from the grocery store, but those impulse buys are almost always more expensive than snacking on something at home. If you must shop hungry, choose a piece of fruit to take home with you as a snack instead of an expensive convenience food.
- Keep it simple. In my experience, healthy eating is really expensive when people are first starting out because they want to dive-in and try specialty ingredients and convenience foods that are similar to their old favorites. In some cases, the convenience foods aren’t any healthier than their deep-fried counterparts, and you don’t need fancy-schmancy ingredients to make truly delicious, healthy food! Stick to whole foods without a label, and make your own salad dressings, dips, snack bars, and puddings as healthier and cheaper alternatives to packaged snacks. My recipe index is chock-full of quick and easy ideas for you!
- Shop seasonally. You’ve probably heard that it’s always better to eat seasonally and locally, but one of my favorite benefits of this practice is that it saves you money. When produce is in season, its supply is at its peak— making it easier and cheaper for farmers to distribute to your local store. Those savings get passed on to you! As an added perk, your food tastes better and is at its peak nutrition, too.
- Opt for frozen options when possible. I rarely ever use fresh fruit in our smoothies, because organic frozen fruit is always significantly cheaper. I also often rely on frozen organic vegetables for my family when we need a super-quick weeknight meal. I can throw together a stir-fry in just 10 minutes using frozen vegetables! (I’ll often pre-cook rice or quinoa and freeze it, along with my favorite curry and pesto sauces — I freeze them in ice cube trays for easy portioning!)
- Cut back on meat and dairy. Some of the most expensive items at the grocery store are animal products— especially the organic, pasture-raised variety. My family isn’t vegetarian, but we do eat many vegetarian meals at home because they are flavorful, nutrient-rich, and much more affordable than a meat-centered meal every night. If your family relies heavily on meat, you might want to try using a little less at each meal to lower your grocery bill, and make up the difference by adding extra veggies to your plate!
- Shop around. It’s rare for me to shop at only one grocery store each week. I usually start off at a local store that I know to be the cheapest. But if it doesn’t have everything I need, I’ll stop by a second store. Be sure to take the time to shop around to find which stores carry the cheapest and freshest options for you!
- Know the “dirty dozen.” It’s not always practical and affordable for everyone to buy organic, so familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list to know which crops are most heavily sprayed with pesticides. Aim to buy those items organic, and save money on the rest of your produce by shopping the more affordable counterparts. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re going to eat the skin (like apples and bell peppers), you should buy organic, and if you’re going to peel it (like onions and avocados), you can get away with the conventional versions.
- Shop online for specialty items. I know, I know! I told you not to buy specialty items in step #3. However, as you settle into your healthier lifestyle, there are certain specialty items that make life easier and taster— like chia seeds, hemp hearts, and raw cacao powder. Sure, you can find these items at your local health food store, but they are often much more expensive. (I like to use the Amazon app on my phone to price-compare!) Buying in bulk can also save you money. I often buy my cacao powder in three-pound bags, which lasts me quite a while!
Reader Feedback: Do you have any additional budget-friendly tips to share?