living well on a budget“I can’t afford to eat healthy”… That, my dear friends, is total BS.  The truth is you can’t afford NOT to eat healthy.  A recent study done by Harvard School of Public Health showed that the difference in cost between healthy & unhealthy eating habits was only $1.50 a day.  But let’s face it, if you have a really, really tight budget, $1.50/day might as well be $50.  So here are some very realistic ways to eating clean on a budget without totally ripping apart your wallet.  Here are some of the most common ways to save some dough:

  1. Reduce the amount of spending you do on convenience foods:  those 100 calorie snack packs might be easy but they are certainly way more expensive than a DIY project of pre-packaging those same snacks yourself.  Dressings and sauces fall in this category too.  Do some research and learn how to make your own in a tasty, healthy, and more economical way.  Fresh is always best!
  2. Be wise with your organics:   Not EVERYTHING you buy needs to be organic.  Be picky and choosy when it comes to your selections and you’ll save some cha-ching in the process.  Have you heard of the “Dirty Dozen”???  These are produce that tend to absorb the most pesticides, so they’re the ones you should concentrate on purchasing organic.  Then we have the “Clean 15” which is where you really want to focus your savings.  These are produce that absorb the least amount of pesticides and are therefore, not as urgent on the list of “must haves” when it comes to buying organic.
  3. Buy in bulk:  It’s true that many items can be purchased in bulk to save you quite a bit of cash.  But only buy in bulk if you’ve got the storage space for it.  Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting all those extra goodies if the mice or other varmints get into them!
  4. Buy in season:  When your produce is in season, it’s much more readily available and therefore, often times cheaper.
  5. Fresh is best. Frozen is next:  Can’t find something in season?  Don’t be afraid to buy the frozen version, especially for veggies.  Just avoid the stuff with added sauces or ingredients.  All that stuff just adds sodium and calories that you just don’t need.

Anywhere you do research on eating clean on a budget, you’ll see some version of those items listed above.  But what else can you do to curb your spending on healthy foods?  These are some of the items I find the most helpful in my house:

  1. Plan ahead:  Nothing will save you more time and money in the long run than having a plan and sticking to it.  Start your week off right by putting together a menu, writing out your grocery list based on that menu, and then prepping ahead of time.  Chances are, you’ll be less likely to pick up that extra something-something from the convenience store or vending machine because you’ll already have healthy snacks/meals right at your fingertips.
  2. Organize, organize, organize:  Take a weekend to clean out your spice rack and re-organize it.  Put them in alphabetical order or sort them by savory vs sweet.  Whatever floats your boat, just make a mental note of what seasonings you have available, how long have they been sitting in there, and what you can use them all for.  (not sure how long those spices are good for?  Check THIS OUT.)  Now what about your fridge?  Do you know what’s lurking in that back corner or how long it’s been there?  And how about that pantry?  Go through it and know what you already have.  Now use all of this information to develop a menu that uses all of these resources before going out and buying more stuff.
  3. Technology can be a lifesaver:  And it can save your wallet too!  I’m sure you’ve heard to “Shop the Sales”, right?  Well, these apps take this concept to a whole new level:
    1. Did you know that specific stores have their own apps to tell you what’s on sale and at what price?  Check out Whole Foods, Aldi, and Target as some examples.  Do a Google search of your favorite store(s) to see if they offer an app too!
    2. Key Ring is another fantastic app that shows you sales at a variety of stores, no-clip coupons, a place to put in your shopping list, AND it holds all of those stupid loyalty key cards all in one place.  No more bogging down your car keys with those little plastic cards!
    3. Ibotta is another that touts its ability to save you money thru cash back rewards.  It supports a variety of big and small supermarkets including Target, Walmart, Kroger, Price Chopper, and Stop & Shop.
  4. Eat leftovers: Waste not, want not!  Eating leftovers saves you tons of time AND money by having foods readily available for times when you’re on the go.  I find life so much easier when we plan ahead and make enough food the night before to pack away into my lunch for the next day.  Don’t want to eat exactly the same thing 2 days in a row?  Consider taking the main ingredient from dinner and transforming it into something new the next day.  Here are some examples:
    1. Take a whole chicken roaster and make chicken salad or pulled chicken sandwiches from it for lunch.  Depending on how much chicken you have left over, this could give you lunches for days!
    2. Grill a steak for dinner then slice up the rest for a steak salad or steak fajitas the next day.  Just by adding a few ingredients, presto chango, you have a whole new meal!

Now, how are you feeling about eating clean on a budget?  Is it doable?  What tricks and tools do you use to get you and your family eating clean on a budget?