I have to admit that the first time I went to the store with the hopes of buying some healthier foods, I spent a fortune! Not only that, I came home with a ton of food that I didn’t know what to do with and went bad before I could even eat it. This left me feeling defeated, broke and hungry. However, over time I created certain rules of thumb that allow me to create healthy meals, while sticking to my food budget.
Never Shop without a Plan
Grocery stores are a business, so they are designed to entice and sell to you. That’s why the fastest way to blow your food budget at the grocery store is to go in there without a plan. Check out my meal planning article for tips on creating easy and healthy weekly meal plans!
Eat for the Season
One of the luxuries of our current grocery system is that we can pretty much get any food we want, any time we want it. However, if you are buying something that originated on the other side of the country, or even world, someone has to pay to transport it to your local grocery store. Unfortunately that someone is you. On the other hand, produce that is local and in season tends to be much less expensive because it doesn’t have to travel and there is simply more of it. In most grocery stores the produce that is in season is found at the front of the produce section and is usually on sale!
Averaging around $4.50 per pound, animal protein can be one of the most expensive items in your shopping cart. Beans and lentils average about $1 per pound and you can buy them for substantially less if you cook them yourself. So if you were to choose vegetarian options for just a few meals a week the savings could quickly add up to over $500 per year!
For a delicious budget friendly vegetarian meal, try this Quinoa & Black Bean dish from Allrecipes:
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro. Makes 10 servings.
Skip the Sunday Paper Coupons
It may seem funny to skip the coupons when shopping on a budget. However, if you think about it, they are typically for things you wouldn’t normally buy, and that aren’t even close to healthy! Instead of skimming through the paper for coupons go directly to the website of your favorite products. They will usually have downloadable coupons that you can print out and bring to the store. In some cases the grocery store will have weekly coupons posted on their website for additional savings (yes, even Whole Foods!). This way you purchase the food that you really want and still get to stick to your food budget!
As you can see, with just a little planning and meal creativity you can buy healthy foods while sticking to a budget. What are you favorite ways to create budget friendly meals? I’d love to hear about them. Please share them in the comments below!
Check out Healthy Eating at Total Gym Pulse for more recipes and tips to eating healthy!
Article first appeared on TotalGym.com.