Eat healthy on a budget…we are all searching for that golden ticket that will make eating food that is good for our body AND our wallet, WHILE fitting into our busy lives possible. Because there is no sugar-coating it: eating healthy food can be EXPENSIVE and INCONVENIENT!
Let me preface this list by saying, I do not have the golden ticket. In fact, I don’t think this golden ticket exists. Truly eating in a way that your body needs will require an investment of money and time. But through the past few years, I have figured out a couple tricks that I hope will at least help with that.
1. Be open to using multiple venues
I definitely am not saying that you HAVE to use multiple venues because you might just have that perfect local store that sells all the items you need at the cheapest possible price…but I wouldn’t set your hopes on that.
When it comes to saving money on healthy food, there are several different strategies you will probably need to take. Here are some examples of the regular venues in my life:
- Costco – As long as you plan well, buying in bulk can save you sooooo much! The majority of our groceries come from here and we have been very impressed at how intentional Costco has become about offering organic and clean options.
- Walmart – Their produce section isn’t usually the best and it can be difficult to find truly clean options sometimes. But there are always some items that we need in recipes that can not be bought in bulk and so we usually make a stop at Walmart on our way home from Costco each week.
- Amazon.com – I would encourage anyone to shop on Amazon. But more specifically, you can save SO much money by joining Amazon Prime (LINK) and using Subscribe & Save (LINK). We have subscribed to almost 40 products that we routinely use and save 5-20% on each one of them! They are often very clean products that can’t be found in bulk or at a “normal” store, and would cost an arm and a leg more at a health food store.
- Local butcher/farm – I have gone into more depth on this topic in another post (LINK), including tips on how to find the best one near you. When it come to quality meat, there is no better/cheaper place then as close to the farm as possible! Dairy products are also something I try to purchase directly as well.
2. Frame meal planning around bulk buying instead of coupons/sales
Have you ever noticed that when you look through sale flyers, just about everything seems to be prepackaged junk? More than that, have you ever been tempted to purchase something that you knew was bad for you simply because it was significantly on sale? And let’s not even talk about the hours and hours you can spend cutting coupons!
Would it surprise you to hear that I haven’t touched either of those since starting our health journey?
Ultimately, you can save so much money buying things in bulk. I have found it to be MUCH more effective to plan my weekly menu around healthy bulk items at Costco. As I mentioned before, that is our main shopping location.
But you have to be VERY intentional about it. There were MANY wasted groceries when I was first discovering the wonderland that is Costco! Everything we bought was such a good price but I hadn’t fully figured out how to maximize the potential.
I want to do a separate post on meal planning but let me give you an idea of what I mean. When I am putting together my shopping list, I write down “4 Costco veggies”. These four massive packages of veggies are cooked, as needed, throughout the week and are used for sides at dinnertime, sent with my husband in his work bag, and eaten by my kids and myself at lunchtime. Buying in bulk often means a little less variety during the week but it is so worth it!
3. Treat treats like treats
Well now, that was a bit of a tongue-twister! But the fact of the matter is that treats are often not as good for us, much more expensive, and a distraction from the food we really should be filling up on.
I believe every house should have some treats around on a regular basis. It is also true that many wonderful treats can be made in a healthy and cheap way from scratch. But somehow, there is no treat quite as special as the “store-bought treat”. Am I right?
For instance, I make our own chocolate chips. We are on a Keto diet which doesn’t include any sugar. So any chocolate chips in our home need to be made with a sugar-free sweetener like Stevia. I can make them for soooo much less money then anything found in the store. But, although my kids like “Mommy’s chocolate chips”, there is much rejoicing when they find out that we have “the store’s chocolate chips”! 🙂
But because of the dent in the budget that store-bought treats cause, they need to be used in a very special fashion. Small portions, once-a-week treats, or mixing store-bought with homemade desserts are all great ways to keep things special and the budget under control.
4. Eliminate snacking
And yes, I’m talking about the kids too! This is a MAJOR budget saver but it is also a MAJOR health saver! For more details on that, check out this video (LINK).
But think about it, snack foods kind of fit into the same category as treats in the fact that they are rarely healthy and almost always more expensive. And at the end of the day, they are COMPLETELY unnecessary! My first reason for moving in this direction was the health benefits I learned about. But I then quickly realized how much that helped our budget.
Our bodies are perfectly capable of learning to get all the calories/nutrition we need in three meals a day. Usually the main thing holding us back is the mental habit of eating frequently. For our kids, I load up their plates and am not opposed to seconds so that I can make sure they are getting everything they need. After about a week, the habit of “snack time” was broken and we truly haven’t missed it since.
5. Plant a garden
It is a fact that every step we can make toward homesteading or being self-sustaining will save us money in living a healthy life. I am still in the research category on this one. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will be building our dream house on a couple acres and be able to turn it into the homestead of our dreams!
Whether it be a fully functioning farm, a few chickens in the back yard, or a few herbs in the kitchen window; it will all be taking a step toward a healthier life that is better for your bank account. Check out some of the links below for some of the resources I have been getting inspiration from:
6. Change your definition of “low budget”
Here is the tough one. You can follow every tip in the book, but in the end, healthy eating still hurts the wallet. Animals and plants raised on cheap diets and chemicals produces cheaper food. That is simply the way it is.
So my last and biggest tip is this: always keep the big picture in your heart! I have heard it said many times, “Spend it now, or pay for it later.” The truth is that if you aren’t willing to make the investment for health now, you will pay a very different price later.
It may be that you have to spend a lot of money on medical treatment that could have been better spent on healthy food. Or, you might pay the price of freedom as your body begins to deteriorate much quicker than it should. Ultimately, you WILL pay the price of time…time that could have been spent with those you love doing what you enjoy.
Our family is focused on becoming debt-free right now. It has been suggested that we cut down the grocery budget so that we can quickly achieve our financial goals. And, although there certainly have been times we have fallen off the health bandwagon for a short time, we have had many reminders that focusing on our health is the best gift we can pass on to our children. To set them up for a healthy future is worth just about any sacrifice!
Thank you for reading! I truly hope something said here has been helpful to you. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or more helpful tips!