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I’ve heard over and over again how eating healthy is so expensive. My opinion? That statement is completely bogus! If you want to eat healthier, follow these general rules: eat as many whole foods as possible, and avoid processed foods with more than a couple ingredients. You can easily stock your kitchen following these rules and not go over budget. I’ll give a few cost examples along the way. Take some of my tips into consideration. Your wallet and your health will thank you!
This is the second post in my Living On A Budget Series. You can check out the full series here:
Convenience is expensive, eating healthy is not
- Don’t go out to eat often. I think this is where a lot of people get caught up in the ‘healthy eating is expensive’ myth. In actuality, eating junk food out for lunch is expensive too. I am by no means saying ‘NEVER go out to lunch.’ Only you know your budget and whether you can swing it.
- Try not to pick out ‘convenience’ foods at the grocery. You may be tempted to buy the ‘pre-grilled ready for salad’ chicken breasts. DON’T buy them! They are expensive and have crap-loads of preservatives and junk. Just a look at some of these ingredients… hydrolyzed soy protein, modified food starch, wheyprotein concentrate, carrageenan, sodium phosphate, soy lecithin. Making chicken is easy as 1,2,3:
- Thaw chicken
- Season chicken
- Bake in water or low sodium chicken broth at 350 for 40 minutes
- That being said, prep your own food routinely. It’s cheaper, healthier, and prevents last minute deliveries or drive-thrus. I buy 2 pounds of carrots for around $1.50 that last as snacks all week long. I food prep every week. There are several bloggers that post Sunday food prep ideas! Here are two that are good examples:
- Meal plan. It can be very helpful. Even if you don’t plan out a week’s worth of dinners like I try to do, knowing what you are going to make the night before is super helpful, even if it just comes down to having the right meat thawed out.
- Have easy to make grains and carbs on hand. Brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat pasta are all cheap, healthy grains. I keep black beans and chickpeas on hand for salads and soups. I buy quinoa when I can afford it or find it on sale! You can cook or season these foods however you want.
- 16 oz Great Value brown rice for $0.73 vs. 16 oz quinoa for $5 and up
- you can find most off brand whole wheat pasta for $1.00/box vs $1.50+
- Make your own snacks to replace the processed ones you miss:
- dips and salad dressings (Try this white balsamic dressing)
- muffins (or these apple cinnamon whole wheat muffins)
- trail mix (how about adding these roasted chickpeas to almonds and raisins)
- I find chickpeas for $0.68/can. One can makes two snacks!
- protein bars (Larabars, anyone?)
- applesauce (no sugar added!)
- spend $1.50-$2 on apples, 15 minutes of your time, have 5-6 servings of applesauce
- Carry snacks with you to avoid impulse buys.
- Keep leftovers portioned. Take what you don’t eat for dinner for lunch the next day.
homemade applesauce parfait
Know where to go
- Find your local grocer with deals on meat. Example? Albertson’s always has ‘Buy 1 Get 2 Free’ deals or something similar. You generally have to freeze them, but that’s not a big deal. Last night we took advantage of the Buy 1 Get 3 Free extra lean pork tenderloins. These pork tenderloins are 2 pounds a piece, and last us several meals.
- 9 pounds of extra lean pork tenderloin, originally $7.99/lb. We got it for $2/lb, and it will give 36 4 oz portion meals. Comes out to about $0.50/4 oz portion.
- Find stores nearby or on your work route. Don’t waste gas money driving across town for a few items that are advertised on sale. In fact, we don’t really coupon at all, it just works out going to the right places. We go to an Albertson’s that is convenient, but some items I get from a Wal-Mart that is on my way home.
- If there are processed items you can’t live without, know where find them cheaper or on sale. We really don’t buy many processed foods. Examples of processed foods we buy from Wal-Mart:
- hummus ($2-3 dollars name brand vs $4+)
- extra lean ground turkey (ok not really ‘processed’, but cheaper)
- most canned goods
- turkey bacon
- Kashi GoLean Crunch ($3 at Wal-Mart compared to $6 at Albertson’s!)
- Greek yogurt
- cottage cheese
- Find your local the farmer’s market. You can find this in your area easily enough through Google. You will probably be amazed at the prices and quality of food you find there.
Dallas Farmers Market
At the store
- Check out the frozen veggies and berries prices. These are sometimes cheaper, depending on the season. They are easy to thaw out and use for sides, salads, smoothies, etc
- Buy meat that is on sale if you can. (see above)
- If you can use anything in bulk, buy it and freeze. If you see and buy a deal on a bulk quantity of produce, freeze it. Use it for meals later on, just remember you have it! If it doesn’t freeze well (let’s say avocados) don’t buy more than you know you’ll use.
- Skip the stacks of bottled water. I didn’t grow up in a city so I don’t have a phobia from trying tap water. (I’ve seen this a lot for some reason.) If you can’t drink it, a Brita pitcher with a filter is probably cheaper in the long run.
- $6-8/filter will give you unlimited filtered water for 3-4 months
- Don’t be afraid of trying off brand! Some products we’ve bought Great Value brand of in the past and had success with:
- cottage cheese
- Toasted O’s (like Cheerios)
- whole wheat pasta
- Greek yogurt
- canned goods like chickpeas, black beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes
- Thick & Creamy Mac ‘n’ Cheese (not healthy, that’s a cheat meal!)
Do you find it easy to keep healthy on a reasonable budget? What ways do you adjust to keep it healthy?