8 Ways to Eat Healthy on a BudgetSaving Money
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We all want to eat healthy, but it’s easy to end up buying fast food or junk food when you want something quick. With that in mind, you might think that unhealthy food is the cheapest option you have.
Fortunately, you don’t have to break your grocery or dining out budget in order to eat a relatively healthy diet.
While it may take you time to build better habits, cheap and affordable food is out there if you know where to look. Let’s take a look at eight of the most effective ways to eat healthy on a limited budget.
1. Use Shopkick
Shopkick is a rewards platform that enables shoppers to earn cash back while buying from their favorite stores and ecommerce vendors.
As a Shopkick member, you’ll have the opportunity to earn rewards for purchasing certain products, purchasing from specific vendors, scanning barcodes in stores, or even walking into a supported storefront.
No matter where you shop, you should be able to trim some of your food budget by using Shopkick when you shop online or in-store.
Take a look at my Shopkick review to learn more about how Shopkick works and how it can help you save money.
If you think Shopkick makes sense for you, use our referral code to get a $5 bonus using the invite code LOGAN. You’ll get the bonus if you create an account and make an in-store scan within seven days of signing up.
2. Make Food at Home Instead of Going Out
It’s always tempting to go out for food, but the average person ends up spending thousands of dollars every year just on dining out.
Cooking just one or two more meals per week could help you cut a lot of money out of your monthly budget.
Preparing food at home can be intimidating if you’re not in the habit, but it won’t take you that long once you get used to it.
Here’s a good place to start: The USDA’s collection of quick, easy, healthy recipes.
3. Check Unit Prices to Compare Costs
When you see prices at the grocery store, they’re usually listed first as the price for a single item or package.
However, that price can be deceiving if it turns out that a more expensive item is less costly on a per-unit basis.
Imagine you go to the grocery store and see a four-pound bag of sugar for $2, plus a ten-pound bag next to it for $4.
Even though $4 is more than $2, the larger bag is actually cheaper when you take the size into account.
Instead of looking at the sticker price, consider how much you’re paying for each pound, or whatever unit makes sense for the item you’re buying.
At $2, a four-pound bag costs 50 cents per pound, compared to just 40 cents per pound for a ten-pound bag at $4.
That makes the larger bag the more affordable option—as long as you end up using all ten pounds.
The one issue with per-unit pricing is that you might not be able to use a larger version of the same item. For example, a gallon of milk might be cheaper on a per-unit basis, but that doesn’t matter if you’re only able to use half the bottle before it spoils.
Related: How to Make a Budget
4. Buy Fewer Processed Ingredients
Next time you’re at the grocery store, compare the unit cost of whole chicken breasts to the unit costs of pre-sliced chicken.
If you’re trying to save money while shopping, one of the most reliable strategies is to opt for ingredients that are left relatively unprocessed.
The more work the store or supplier has to do to prepare the item for the shelf, the more you’ll end up paying at the register.
The same thing is true for all kinds of items. Raw greens are cheaper than salad mixes, blocks of cheese are cheaper than slices, and nuts and dried fruits are cheaper than packaged granola bars.
Cutting out these processed items will help you spend less money at the store while making sure you know exactly what you’re eating.
5. Plan Meals in Advance
One of the most difficult things about grocery shopping is predicting what you’ll end up using and what will end up in the trash.
Meal planning is the best way to use your grocery budget more efficiently and avoid buying too much or too little of any ingredients.
Over each weekend, write down ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week. Try to come up with dishes that use common ingredients so that you’ll have a chance to use leftovers for future meals.
Make sure to leave space for any times you might want to go out to eat. Planning those occasions in advance will also help you avoid spending too much money dining out.
Once you have a clear meal plan, just make a trip to the grocery store and pick up everything you’ll need for that week. You’ll only go to the store once per week, so there won’t be as many opportunities to make impulse purchases.
6. Buy Local Fresh Veggies in Season
People used to expect different fruits and vegetables in each season, but the rise of a global produce market led to the expectation of year-round availability.
The logistics of transporting produce around the globe add significant costs for the end consumer.
Local, in-season veggies cost less to transport, and they’re also much fresher than anything that’s being shipped from another country or region.
Looking for local produce could also connect you with the locavore movement, which encourages consumers to buy groceries from local producers in order to eliminate the unnecessary environmental impact of moving products around the world.
7. Find Uses for Scraps
According to the FDA, current data indicates that between 30% and 40% of the American food supply ends up being thrown out.
It might be impossible to eat 100% of what you buy, but we should all make an effort to come as close to that goal as possible.
Fortunately, there are several uses for food scraps that will help you throw less food away while preparing ingredients for meals you may not have had a chance to try before.
Carrot tops, onion peels, and meat scraps, for example, will give you a great start for a homemade soup made from scratch.
If you’re unable to use food scraps, consider composting them in order to minimize the environmental impact of your leftover food.
8. Don’t Buy Snacks at Checkout
Grocery stores put gum, chocolates, candies, and other snacks near the checkout counter in order to pull you in for impulse purchases.
There’s nothing wrong with buying these items if you really want them, but you should make an effort to resist the last-minute temptation as much as possible.
Checkout snacks typically offer little to no nutrition. Furthermore, they won’t fill you up, so you’ll still need to eat something with more nutritional value in order to stop being hungry.
Healthy Doesn’t Have to Mean Expensive
You might think that you have to spend more money to eat healthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
These eight tips will help you reduce your grocery spending while eating a more balanced diet.
Don’t forget to let us and other readers know about other money-saving grocery tips in the comments below.
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.