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How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Picture this… 

It’s 11:59pm on December 31, 2019. 5…4…3…2…1… HAPPY NEW YEAR!  The excitement of 2020 is already coursing through you as you begin to plan the upcoming year.

This will be YOUR year! Life is GOOD!

The first item on the agenda is food. It’s time to start prepping meals, eating clean & being more aware of what you are putting in your body. CHECK! As you walk through the grocery store, you skip past the processed junk. There’s no need for that anymore. With your head held high, you head to the all-natural, name brand, celebrity recommended corner of the store. 

Who cares if it costs a little more, right?! Your health is worth it!

This WILL be your year. Life is GOOD.

On to the second item on the agenda – money! It’s time to start a budget. You sit down and plan out your whole year. You determine what you will make at your full-time job (minus taxes and insurance, of course) and write it down – IN INK! There’s no going back on this budget! You eliminate things like “eating out” and “Starbucks” from your spending for the year. It’s so perfect – you’ve saved just enough money that spending a few extra dollars on the pricier foods won’t even affect you. Plus – it’ll give you the freedom to choose other ways to have your money help YOU- whether it be by getting a gym membership or buying a new pair of running shoes. SCORE! 

This will be your year! Life is GOOD! 

The first few months are going great… 

And then something unexpected happens. There’s news of an impending pandemic. They are saying that jobs could be affected. Food supply could be affected. Your health could be affected. Life as we know it could be affected. 

Crap. You didn’t budget for a pandemic.

What now?!

I’m not sure how many other people played out this exact scenario just one short year ago, but I sure as heck did. 2020 was definitely something none of us could have seen coming. However, love her or hate her, 2020 was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Ultimately, among other things, she taught me this – How to Eat Healthy on a Budget. You never know what life has in store but sacrificing your health should never have to happen. Now, you can save money and eat healthy! Win – Win! 

If you’re interested, here are 7 tips for eating healthy on a budget. 

  1. SET A STRICT GROCERY BUDGET

The first way to stick to your grocery budget is to have a strict grocery budget in place. Sometimes, when setting up a budget, it’s easy to under-estimate what you might spend on groceries for the upcoming month because you are just really unsure of what you are spending. This is the first place you will always get into trouble. To avoid this, simply add up the 2 months prior worth of groceries. This will give you a more accurate idea of what you’re spending.

Pro Tip: If you are unable to leave the house for health concerns or otherwise, you can use an online service such as Instacart or Shipt. This allows you to build your entire shopping list and see the final cost before actually checking out.

This way you have a much better idea of how much you are spending and where you can cut back in your over-spending. When I first figured this out, I found that I was constantly buying snacks and other items I just didn’t need which leads us right into my second tip for eating healthy on a budget.

2. ALWAYS HAVE A GROCERY LIST

My second tip for eating healthy on a budget is to always make a list before you go shopping and stick to your list! Grocery stores are tricky. They are purposely set up in a way that makes you buy more than what you plan for. Have you ever realized that milk is in the back of EVERY grocery store? That’s because it’s one of the most commonly purchased items. You have to walk past all those delicious treats and are more likely to buy things you don’t need! Tricky tricky, Mr. Grocery.

PRO TIP: When writing out your list, organize it by the layout of the store. That way you have a clear path to each of the items on your list and you will be able to get in and out of the store fast without making any unnecessary purchases.

3. PLAN MEALS AHEAD OF TIME

Listen, meal planning can be a pain in the butt. When you first start doing it, it can take what feels like a lifetime to write it all down. But create a spreadsheet or a notebook of all your go-to recipes. Get on the good ol’ Pinterest and jot down some good ones, too! Trust me – it will all be worth it. Write down what each meal requires and then buy ONLY THAT! Make sure to plan for all meals… this includes breakfast, snacks, lunch & dinner. When I first started meal planning, I only planned for dinners. The rest was “off the cuff.” (That didn’t work out in my favor, btw)

Pro Tip: Try eating the same meal several days a week. For instance, breakfast can be a simple eggs & bacon everyday plan. That will eliminate food waste as well as save on money overall!

4.MEAL PREP

Meal Prep. I’ll be honest – this isn’t my favorite step but man oh man… when it’s all said and done, it’s worth it! Taking the extra time to prepare myself & my family for the week is critical to our success. Here’s some math for you:

You spend $10/day on lunch + your spouse $10/day on lunch + $7 for the Happy Meal on the way home from school for your kiddo + $8 for the gas station snacks = $35/day on food that could have been prepared at home. Conservatively, if you only do this 2x/week, that’s $70/week equaling $3,640 a year on a couple lunches and gas station snacks in the week. That’s a LOT – especially considering that this is assuming that you’re also making dinner at home EVERY night during the week.

All this to say, prep your food and leave the house prepared. Your wallet will thank you.

5. LEARN TO COOK AT HOME

The easiest way to blow your grocery budget is to constantly eat out.

The best way to save your food budget (especially when eating out is a habit of yours) is to learn how to cook at home. Learning how to cook your meals at home can seem daunting and time-consuming at first but the benefits far outweigh any cons.

Pro Tip: Get a Crock-Pot, Instant-Pot and/or an air fryer. You don’t need to know how to cook like Gordon Ramsey…

6. USE CASH BACK APPS

There are so many great cash-back apps that make it easy to save money and stick to your budget when grocery shopping. Its an extra step (like taking a picture of a receipt) but SO worth it when you consider what you’re saving!

Some of my favorites are:

  • Ebates
  • Checkout 51
  • Ibotta
  • Dosh

7.COMPARE FLYERS TO FIND THGE BEST SALES

You would be surprised how many GREAT deals you can find on Buy One, Get One deals. Take the extra time when you’re making out your grocery list and look up the ads. I jot down the price at each of the stores I go to next to the item. Then I build a grocery pick up order at each store based on the best cost. Extra step? Yes. Extra money in my “I gotta be ready for another unexpected pandemic” fund? Also, yes.

Pro Tip: If you’re in the store shopping & comparing brands, the price label will show cost per ounce. This is a way to determine which is the better value.

TAKE-AWAY

If you’ve stuck around for the end of this long list, you deserve to know that all of these tips may seem like extra work in the beginning. That’s true. But take it from me, if you are diligent in committing to the process, I can assure you that you will find yourself never being a victim of “it’s too expensive to eat healthy” again.

  1. Set a strict grocery budget
  2. Always have a grocery list
  3. Plan meals ahead of time
  4. Meal prep
  5. Learn how to cook at home
  6. Use cash-back apps
  7. Shop the flyers
  8. BONUS TIP: Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

Over to you – what are your best tips for saving money and eating healthy on a budget? Share them in the comments!

Thanks for reading, friends! Chat again soon! XO

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