I consistently hear people complain that eating healthy is just too expensive.
I’ll spare you the lecture on the value of your health and cut to the chase. That’s simply not true. I’m here to tell you exactly how to save money on healthy food.
This misconception is largely a result of marketing. When a new Raw-Vegan-Gluten Free Yogurt comes out, the manufacturer needs you to know just how healthy it is. Otherwise, why would you pay $12 for a tub of it?
But there’s nothing inherently special about a healthy diet. You can be a healthy vegan or a healthy Paleo enthusiast. The day-to-day food choices you make would be different, but the root is simple, minimally processed foods.
Other than that, it’s just a matter of eating less food if you want to lose weight and more food if you want to gain weight. There’s nothing expensive about that unless you’re trying to bulk up on 4,000 calories a day.
If your grocery bills are too high each month, here are three ways I’ve found how to save money on healthy food. You’ll see that it doesn’t take much effort to find some big savings.
Money Saving Tips:
Rethink your Sources
When you’re starting a healthy diet, it’s tempting to head to the fully stocked shelves of Whole Foods. Without aisles of chips and soda, Whole Foods just “feels” healthier than your local supermarket chain. But if you’re on a budget, don’t stress about shopping at specialty or organic stores.
If your local grocery store has a pitiful produce department, consider shopping at your local farmer’s market. In addition to local produce, you’ll also meet vendors for eggs, milk, and meat. And because you’re not paying for cross-country transport of food, you often get higher-quality items for less money.
You can even sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share where you pay to receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce each week. Bringing home a new box will encourage you to try new things and keep you from paying $10 for pre-sliced fruit at the store.
Of course, it’s possible to shop at Whole Foods and other specialty stores on a budget. Look for the store brand instead of national brands and take advantage of bulk bins. Bulk bins are a great way to load up on healthy grains, beans, and even exotic spices for very little money. Buy only what you need and you won’t have to worry about waste.
Watch for Sales
Spend 10 minutes each week taking a peek at weekly sales flyers. You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money when you shop, just head to your local grocery store’s website and see what’s on sale. You’ll find that each week many items are 50% off (or BOGO).
Over time, you’ll notice that these items rotate and will be on sale again every 4-6 weeks. That means it’s good to stock up on pricey items while they’re deeply discounted. Even items like boneless, skinless chicken breasts go on sale. When that happens, buy plenty and prep them for freezer storage. By the time you run out, they’ll likely be on sale again!
Even if you don’t have time to look at the sales ahead of time, pay attention to special pricing on the shelves. Your usual brand of oats might not be on sale, but another might be marked half-off. This means that sometimes the big name brands are cheaper than store brands if that’s what’s on sale.
Checking for sales is part of your planning, but thinking through your weekly meals will help even more. You don’t have to be the queen of #mealprepmonday to save time and money by creating a weekly menu.
Creating a menu will optimize your ingredients and leftovers. This helps reduce food waste which is like literally throwing away your money. For years, when a recipe called for celery I would buy a bag at the store, use one stalk, and then end up throwing out the rotten bag one week later. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I finally realized that this was costing me money (and more than a little environmentally irresponsible). Now if a recipe calls for celery, I’ll try to plan a second meal that week that uses it too. If that doesn’t work, I chop up whatever’s left and freeze it for later use in soups and sauces.
It works the same for leftovers. If you plan ahead, you can assign a meal to each recipe. If I’m cooking a casserole that serves four but I only need two servings, I’ll freeze the rest or have it for lunch the next two days. This means that my spring cleaning routine no longer involves discovering old half-eaten stew and salad in the back of the fridge. Gross.
Even if you acted on all these tips at once, you’d probably only add 20 minutes of work to your week. For me, I spend 10 minutes going through the sales on Wednesday (when they come out in my area) and about 10 minutes looking through recipes online and planning my week. Strolling through the Saturday farmer’s market is part of my routine anyway, so grabbing some fresh veggies there is no hassle.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s easy to eat healthy foods without breaking the bank.