There's a common — and unfortunate — belief that healthy eating costs too much money to be sustainable. That an entire paycheck is required to foot the bill for a diet made up of real, whole foods.
Well, I'm here to tell you that eating healthy is totally attainable, millionaire or not. Here are some of my favorite tips to keep your grocery bill low and even save money on your meals.
1. Track your spending.
Set aside a specific amount of money you're willing to spend on food for the week. Withdraw that amount and store it in an envelope. Don't charge any food for the week: any extras will come out of that envelope, groceries come out of that envelope, even your coffee run comes out of that envelope. Once the money is gone, your spending for the week is done and you'll have to get creative with what you already have in your kitchen.
To ease into this, try a test run for a week or two. Write down every cent you spend on food and then create a budget around that number. Make it sure it's reasonable in terms of your income and also your basic needs.
2. Run a "kitchen sweep."
Every once in a while, I hold a "kitchen sweep" week. I don't buy groceries, instead using up what I have left in my kitchen. Typically this means that I use any frozen meals or vegetables, cook bulk whole grains and beans, clean out the fridge and raid the cupboards. This does take a little more creativity than usual, but it's definitely worth it to save that grocery money for the week. It also ensure I'm using everything I buy in a timely manner so nothing goes to waste.
3. Shop locally.
Explore your local farmer's market or join a CSA. Organic foods tend to be less expensive when bought locally. Foods that are in season are also cheaper (and usually of better quality) than out-of-season produce. Take advantage of stores known to be less expensive (for me, this means places like Market Basket or Trader Joe's) and keep in mind that you don't have to shop all in one place. If meat is cheaper at one store but fresh vegetables are cheaper elsewhere, go to both places and stock up on what you need.
4. Go semi-vegetarian.
Organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat is always your healthiest option when it comes to animal protein. But this stuff is pricey. To cut back on costs, make two meals a day meatless. Experiment with a "meatless monday" dinner if you're up for it, instead focusing on alternative sources of protein like beans, tofu, whole grains and eggs. (You'll see health benefits from this in addition to saving money!) Figure out how your body thrives and make it work for you.
5. Buy in bulk.
Stores often have great deals on buying foods like grains, nuts, legumes and spices in bulk. They're typically healthier and usually have no added ingredients or preservatives. These are all foods with a long shelf life, so stock up when you can and keep them stored for a quick, easy, cheap meal.
6. Shop the sales.
Pay attention to sales, local deals and coupons, and take advantage when you're able. Stock up when non-perishables are cheaper so you have them on hand for later use. Meats, herbs, fruits and vegetables often freeze well. Grains, nuts, beans and spices will last a long time in your cupboards. Sales are also a great time to stock up on packaged items such as almond butter, canned pumpkin and vegetable stock.
7. Buy frozen.
Don't be afraid of the frozen food aisle. For some reason, we typically associate frozen produce with less nutrition but this is simply untrue. Not only is frozen produce often less expensive than fresh, it's often flash frozen to retain more nutrients than fresh fruit or veggies would.
8. Enjoy your leftovers.
Never throw food away! Spice up day-old meals to make a brand new dish you're bound to save money. Turn last night's healthy dinner into today's lunch. Not only will this cost you less money, but it'll also save you time and keep you healthy.
9. Plan your meals.
Before you do your weekly grocery shopping, make a plan for the week. By thinking ahead to what you're going to cook for each meal, you're way more likely to stick to only the ingredients you need and not spend money on unnecessary items and impulse buys. Take stock of what you already have on hand so you're only buying exactly what you need.
10. Cut back on restaurants and delivery.
Eating out can seriously add up over time. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the less you order food, the more money you'll save. This means dinner, snacks, lunch ... even your morning coffee. Start bringing lunch from home (see #8) and make coffee in a to-go mug every morning. Store snacks in your desk and invest in a reusable water bottle. Additionally, preparing your own meals ensure you know exactly what's going into them, making it that much easier to follow a healthy eating plan.
So there you have it. I challenge you to implement these tips and let me know how much you save!