Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eating Healthy on a Budget

One of the biggest complaints I hear when talking about eating healthy and organic foods is the cost.  Hopefully this blog helps you save a little money while you stay committed to eating healthier every day.

Usually when I hear the phrase "I don't have the money to eat healthy," it makes me think - the money you spend now will save you a lot of money in the future on healthcare costs.  However, that doesn't necessarily solve the problem.  Many need the money now and can't simply look to the future for the cost savings.  So, let me give you a few tips:

Note: You'll notice I don't mention clipping coupons or only buying sale items.  Unfortunately, this can be a very time consuming project for most people.  And, most of the time, I find these special sales only apply to things like chef boyardee and snack packs (sorry for any offense!).  I am not saying you can't find some healthy sale items or coupons on health items, but they are fewer and far betweeen. I think these tips are more of regular, every day and every week habits.

Tip #1 - Eat Leftovers!

*I read this tip on a similiar thread on the internet and agree, it is very important step in saving money, no matter if you are eating healthy or not.  The fact is, most meat packages come with at least 1 lb of meat; many 2 person families can't (and probably shouldn't) consume this in one meal.  Many people tell me they "don't like leftovers."  I can't make you like them, but if you ate it the first time, why can't you eat it a second time?  What is different? As long as you keep the meal refrigerated and covered, there shouldn't be much of a difference.  Your mom probably told you when you were little, "there are starving people in Africa, clean your plate!" I tend to agree...though those children might not get your leftovers, the point is you are wasting food and money.  I'm not saying I eat every ounce of leftovers in my fridge or never throw any food away. But, if you plan your portions and meals well, you should be able to minimize food waste.  I usually eat food for dinner and then lunch the next day at work.  This also helps me eat out less during the week because I won't have to also plan and prepare a lunch.

Tip #2 - Plan Your Meals

*As I mentioned in tip #1, if you plan your meals well, you will help minimize food waste.  Awhile back, my sister-in-law Brittany showed me a sheet she had printed out from the internet that helped her with planning meals.  It has you list each day what you will eat.  Then, it has you list what groceries you will need for each recipe, categorizing them by Dairy, Meats, Vegetables, Frozen Foods, etc.  When you are done planning for one week, you take it with you to the grocery and buy what you need.  The other benefit of this list, is you save time at the grocery store because everything is categorized in the sections you will find it (time is money people!).  There will always be some standard foods to have in the house, but this will help you plan the short shelf-life foods for the week.  I try to practice this tip each time I go to the grocery store so I only have to go once a week and know I will eat what I buy. 

Tip #3 - Meat Sales

*This tip is one I need to work on as well.  If you find a good sale on meat, take advantage and buy a lot at once and freeze it.  When you need it, it will already be in the fridge and you won't have to worry about buying it each week.  Another idea is to go in with some other foodie and frugal friends and buy a half of a cow or quarter of a cow from a local grass-fed farmer.  My mom has done this in the past, and I am hoping to do it as well this year.  Buying a good deal of meat at once, you will get a discount while buying grass-fed and local!

Tip #4 - Eat Out Less

*I like to eat out at some of my favorite restaurants just as much as the next person (Cleveland-Heath anyone?), but it can become quite expensive.  It will almonst always be more economical to cook at home. My husband and I have gotten to the point where we try to only eat out only 1-2 lunches per week and try to only eat out one night per weekend.  Sure, some days it isn't practical or we don't have enough time, but most of the time if you are planning your meals (tip #2!), you won't run into these instances too often.  Then, when you do find yourself eating-out, it will be a treat and you will find a little more money left in your pocket!

Tip #5 - Buy Local

*I am anxiously awaiting the Edwardsville Farmer's Market to open in May! I find that the prices at a farmer's market are often going to be much less expensive then those at a big grocery store.  Not every vendor at a Farmer's Market are going to be certified organic or use organic methods.  Ask them - how do they grow their foods, what kind of pesticides do they use/not use, what do their animals eat, etc.  You will find many of the vendors use organic methods, or close to it (but can't afford to pay to be certified organic), and this can save you time while supporting a local farmer and local business. 

Tip #6 - Build Your Own Garden

*For the most part, my mom has had a garden for most of my life.  She has grown things such as tomotoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, and so on.  I am excited to have a house instead of renting this year! My husband has already dug up the garden, we are just waiting for the snow to go away!  I bought a cheap indoor kit for starting seedlings and some organic seeds. I plan to plant some of the vegetables we use most often such as celery, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.  It is also a great way to get out in the sun and soak of some Vitamin D and get a little excercise!  I will post some pictures later of the progress on my garden. 

I hope you found some of these tips helpful! I am always open to suggestions, comments, and questions.  These aren't the only ways to eat healthy on a budget, but I think they have greatly helped me and my family. 

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