5 More Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget (Part 2)
Let's welcome Sarah Jane Parker again for Part 2 of her Budget Tips for Healthy Eating! I'm sure we've all picked up some great tips from her last guest blog post. Sarah's blogs TheFitCookie and FitBetty feature allergy-friendly recipes and fitness, nutrition and work-out fashion for women.
If you are on a journey to better health, buying and preparing the right food can be a challenge. Here are 5 more ways to save some money on your grocery bill while keeping your eating habits smart and sensible.
- Exercise Caution at discount grocery stores: Discount grocery stores are awesome! But I have found that I tend to buy a lot of junk food that I don't need at discount grocery stores just because they are a really good deal. Ultimately, people who shop at discount grocery stores need to really think about what they need, otherwise it is too easy to spend money on frivolous sale items. Discount junk food might be a good bargain, but it's still junk food that will end up on your waistline regardless of the price. Save your money for healthy staples that you need so you don't get sucked into the savings trap. And don't forget to check expiration dates: you will always overspend on food that gets thrown out, regardless of the discount!
- Eat less packaged foods, even if they are healthy: Healthy snacks and packaged health foods are fun to have around, but they should still be considered occasional treats. Packaged health foods are usually more calorie dense and they cost much more than whole, fresh food because you are paying for preparation and packaging. Keep staples around the house, like crackers and cereal, depending on your family dynamic, but keep the bulk of your intake from whole foods and you will save money and calories! There is, however, an exception to this rule…
- It is ok to spend a little more money for convenience if it means less waste: It is ok to spend more for some convenience if it means that food (and money) won't get wasted. I used to buy leaf lettuce because it was cheaper than bagged salad, but I honestly hate washing lettuce. The lettuce would just get old and tossed, so even though it was cheaper, I still wasted money. I decided to spend a bit more and buy bagged salad. I don't have to wash lettuce and we still get our greens! Take a good look at your family's habits and see where you can spare the extra cash and where you can save it. Every family is different, so don't feel guilty for making your own grocery shopping rules that fit you best.
- Instead of eating out in a pinch, try this: "Don't eat out" seems like a no brainer tip and is on everyone's list of ways to save money and calories. But let's be practical: what do you do when you are pressed for time or don't have the energy to cook a full meal? People are busy, and McD's is fast and cheap, but it isn't something you should rely on regularly. We will usually go to a supermarket to buy our food instead of a fast-food place. When we are pressed for time, here's what we do: when we are at the store, we buy a rotisserie chicken and bagged salad or veggies (frozen or fresh) and we can throw together a healthy meal in 15 minutes. The cooked chicken is a bit pricier than a whole chicken you might cook at home yourself, but it is much healthier and more affordable than feeding 4 people (or more!) at a restaurant. A couple of our local stores also sell the rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone, and many times it actually costs less than the whole chicken (considering the weight of skin and bones). We buy the pulled chicken, whole grain tortillas, avocados, and tomatoes to make easy pulled chicken tacos. If you are on-the-go and can't make it home to eat, buy some cooked chicken and pair it with a bag of carrots or some fruit for a quick and healthy meal even if you can't make it home to sit down and eat. Many supermarkets also have a good selection of fresh single-serve green salads that are often cheaper than salads at many fast-food restaurants.
- When traveling, hit local supermarkets: You can save a little cash when you travel by hitting up the grocery or drug store for food and snacks rather than a restaurant. We have traveled to Las Vegas several times and the food and snacks can add up to a hefty tab! We took a walk down to Walgreens and picked up fruit, trail mix, and bottled water at a fraction of the cost that snack vendors were charging. We try to book hotels with a microwave and fridge/freezer, and we hit the supermarket to stock up on healthy food for the next few days. There are plenty of quick and healthy meal options at a supermarket when you are traveling: single serve yogurt, single serve milk, fruit, veggies, healthy frozen meals (like Kashi), trail mix, dried fruit, cereal, etc. Between bringing some of my own staples (like gluten-free oats, nuts, and apples) and local grocery stores, we can still eat healthy and stay on budget when we travel!