It’s true that eating healthy can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to. There are ways to cut the cost and still enjoy good wholesome foods. Tim and I pride ourselves on finding ways to eat healthy foods and still manage to keep our grocery bill in check. Here are 20 practical ways to eat healthy and save money.
1. Cook at Home
We eat at home as much as possible and save dining out for time spent with friends and family. Generally, one restaurant meal is the same cost as feeding an entire family of four. It’s not just about saving money. You also have control over the ingredients that are going into your food. Restaurants typically use too much oil, cream, and high-calorie additives that you can avoid when preparing foods at home. Many restaurant meals are calorie laden and can derail your healthy eating habits if you aren’t careful.
2. Use a Meal Plan
Plan your meals for the month or week based on what you have on hand. This way you are using up the food you have already purchased and not allowing things to expire or go bad. I do a general monthly meal plan based around foods we already have, then revisit once a week to make adjustments and add items to our shopping list for that week.
3. Do an Inventory
Check your meal plan and the recipes you plan on making that week. First, see what you already have stocked and what you need to purchase and then add to your store list. This way you will not have any surprises when you are preparing your meals.
4. Stick to Your List
When you are shopping, stick to the list and don’t add any impulse purchases. Since you have already completed an inventory you will know what is on hand and avoid buying extra items.
5. Use the Food You Have on Hand
At the end of the month, take a look and see what you have and incorporate these foods into your meal plan for the next month. You can even make it into a challenge and see how many meals you can come up with to use up available ingredients!
6. Buy Frozen Fruit and Veggies
Frozen fruit and vegetables are picked and flash frozen just after harvesting. This means they are often more nutrient dense than fresh produce. They are also picked at their peak ripeness so the flavor can be better. Frozen produce can offer significant savings over fresh produce. We purchase mainly fresh fruit and vegetables, but always have bags of frozen green beans and stir fry veggies. I can then easily whip up a healthy side or a stir fry dish and avoid eating out or ordering take out.
7. Know the Cost of Food Items
Keep a list of sale prices of the items you purchase most so you know when they are at their lowest price and when it’s time to stock up. You can use the list as a reference when checking the sale circular or at the store, so you won’t overpay.
8. Buy What’s on Sale and Combine with Coupons
Buy what’s on sale and combine the item with a coupon if you have one. This way you are getting the lowest price by stacking a coupon with the sale price. Also, plan your meals around what is on sale. Many people plan their meal first before they know what’s on sale and may be overpaying for the ingredients. Another strategy is to stock up on proteins such as chicken or fish when they’re on sale and then freeze them. You can then plan your meals around the main ingredient you already have in the freezer.
9. Try a Discount Grocery Store
We shop at Aldi for many of our fresh fruits, vegetables, condiments, and dairy items. They have really great weekly specials on seasonal produce. Even the produce that is not on special is a fraction of the price at other grocery stores in our area. We also enjoy a variety of light dairy products that may be available such as cream cheese, sour cream, and specialty cheeses.
10. Don’t Buy More than You Need
Just because the sale may be 10 items for $10, doesn’t mean you have to buy all 10 if you won’t use them. You can still purchase smaller quantities for $1 per item. However, if it is something you will use up fairly quickly, then stock up.
11. Try Going Meatless for a Meal
We enjoy eating meatless meals several times per week. It not only saves money but numerous studies have shown the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Some of our favorites are quinoa or legumes in salads, burgers, tacos, and soups. One of our go-to meals is this Greek Quinoa & Avocado Salad.
12. Embrace Leftovers
I often cook in large batches, sometimes doubling or tripling recipes. This way we can heat and eat dinners after a busy day and take our lunches on the go. It is nominal time to cook in large quantities and you can use the meals that week or freeze them for future use.
13. Grow Your Own Herbs
Herbs are a great way to add that extra layer of flavor and make your recipes taste amazing. They are so expensive from the supermarket and usually aren’t very fresh. Grow your own in pots or a garden. Then you will have super fresh herbs that you can just cut the right amount as needed. A small pot of herbs run about $3 and most are perennial that will continue growing indefinitely.
14. Try Generic
Many stores carry generic products that are nearly identical to the name brand. The savings are typically 25% or more! It really is risk-free as most stores offer a 100% money back guarantee on generic items if you aren’t completely satisfied.
15. Skip the Junk Food
Not only is junk food unhealthy but it is void of nutrients. It also gets expensive and let’s be honest it can be addictive and who can eat just one?
16. Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Bottled water is not just costly, the plastic bottles are also horrible for the environment. Switch to regular tap water or filtered water.
17. Eat Seasonal Produce
Seasonal fruits and veggies are generally grown closer to your home and have considerably less distance to travel. This means that they are typically fresher and have a higher nutritional content. Buying food that is seasonal can save you 30- 50% because of the high supply you save. We belong to a co-op in our area and are able to get a medium or large bin of fruit and vegetables at a very inexpensive price. This also allows us to buy local and support area businesses at the same time.
18. Cut and Prep Your Own Fruit and Veggies
Buying pre-cut fruit and vegetables is significantly more expensive. Carve out some time (I do it on the weekends). Not only does pre-cut cost more, but it also does not last nearly as long. It also makes it easy to use them that week. By having everything prepped, you can easily throw a salad together, roast some vegetables, and have cut fruit ready for lunches.
19. Calculate Unit Price for Best Value
Compare the unit price on items you purchase regularly. This way you can see what size is the best value. This also comes in especially handy when comparing prices from the warehouse club to the grocery store. Many times the unit price at Aldi is nearly the same as the warehouse club. We buy the smaller quantity at Aldi because you can use it up more quickly and not risk it going bad. Smaller quantities also takes up less space to store.
20. Pack Your Own Lunch
This does require some planning. Try doing a meal plan for the month and then having the items on hand to prep the lunches on the weekend. This avoids you having to eat out because restaurant meals are typically high in calories and more expensive. The savings by avoiding eating out can be substantial. Consider that the average healthier takeout option will cost you around $10.00. If you eat out 5 days a week, that’s $50.00 or $200/per month. If you and your spouse both eat out daily this figure doubles to $400/per month! $10.00 is actually pretty low, in many cities $15-$20 is more in line for even a basic chain style restaurant lunch.