All of my tips & tricks for healthy food without the big price tag
Whenever I talk to the people in my life about my passion for food and healthier alternatives, I always get the same question. How do you afford it? It’s a great question — healthy food CAN be expensive. It especially can get pricey when just going for the most convenient option, rather than putting in a little work. So, I want to share how I manage to stay within my budget while continuing to keep my diet as clean as possible.
As with any lifestyle change, you’re going to need to put in some planning to make it work. You’re also going to need to make some decisions about what’s most important to you. Careful planning and decision making are key to the way I purchase food both at the grocery store and at restaurants. And, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible to eat well on a budget. I’m 22 years-old, just graduated from college, work part-time, hourly jobs, and make it work! Here are my top 8 tips to do it:
1. NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE ORGANIC OR LOCALLY SOURCED
Don’t get me wrong, I think food is at it’s best when it’s made in the simplest and safest ways, but that doesn’t always align with a tight budget. In grocery stores, organic produce and meat tend to be the most expensive. If you’re at the beginning of your health journey and just need to make it work, then don’t feel guilt for not going organic. Do what works with your budget! While locally-sourced food can be more expensive as well, that’s not always the case. If there’s a farm near your home, go and check it out! There are often discounts on certain produce items that cannot be sold, as well as on seasonal items.
2. BUY MORE EXPENSIVE ITEMS IN BULK, WHENEVER POSSIBLE
This one is HUGE for me. Cooking with things like almond flour, coconut flour, almond butter, honey, olive oil, etc, etc, etc… can be expensive! They are especially expensive when you buy just a small amount for one recipe. So, I always buy big quantities of the things I know I’ll use a lot. Even though it can be an up-front investment, it saves you big time in the long term. Amazon is a great place to get big quantities, as well as stores like Costo and Aldee. This also applies to fresh produce when it’s on sale. Buy a bunch and then freeze it for later use!
3. GO FOR FROZEN OPTIONS, THEY’RE OFTEN MUCH CHEAPER
Frozen vegetables are my absolute favorite thing. Some people think that their produce is not as fresh when bought frozen, but that’s actually not true! As a matter of fact, frozen vegetables are often a BETTER option than the fresh produce at the grocery store. Who knew?! Frozen veggies are picked at their peak of freshness and nutrients, and then frozen immediately. Fresh veggies are picked long before they show up on the shelves, losing some of those nutrients that help our bodies. So, unless you’re going to a local farm to get your produce, those fresh veggies are no better than frozen!
4. LOOK FOR DISCOUNTED PRODUCE, LESS POPULAR CUTS OF MEAT & SALE ITEMS
There are a million ways to do “healthy,” and that means you don’t have to fit into a box of the most popular or trending health foods. Less popular produce is often cheaper or discounted if it doesn’t sell, so I always check out the discount shelf before shopping for anything else. Also, those items that are usually bought pre-cut like squashes, pineapples, and beets are cheaper to buy full and cut on your own. Stores also have all different kinds of meat cuts other than chicken breasts, ground beef, etc. that are a lot cheaper. My personal fave cheaper cut is chicken thighs!
5. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE & BUY BASED ON THOSE GOALS
We can’t do it all, right? That’s why it’s important to figure out what your body needs and what your goals are. For me, I buy products that promote gut health (ginger root, kombucha, probiotic yogurt, chia seeds) because that’s a part of my body that needs attention. There are SO many superfoods, supplements, and vitamins that you can buy for all different reasons. Instead of trying to buy a little bit of everything, set your intention on certain target areas.
6. PUT IN THE EXTRA TIME TO MAKE YOUR MEALS AT HOME
Going to the salad bar at Whole Foods or stopping at Sweetgreen are two of my favorite healthy treats when I’m in a time crunch. Doing things like this are totally fine and work well with a busy schedule, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Why buy something that you can make at home for a cheaper price? It all comes down to planning. Make your meals on Sundays or keep some cut chicken and your favorite veggies on hand in your fridge. Those small moments of planning ahead will save you from a $14 salad purchase later in the day!
7. DON’T OVER-COMPLICATE IT, STICK TO THE BASICS
Your meals don’t have to be Insta-worthy, full of a million ingredients, and filled with a dozen different spices. While all of that can make food a more enjoyable experience, it’s not all necessary. If you’re on a budget and just want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, make it as simple as possible. I always try to follow Kelly Leveque’s rule of having a plate with protein, fat, fiber, and greens, no matter what. If you can achieve that with just a few ingredients, then do it! No need for bells and whistles here.
8. MAKE A BUDGET & MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Ultimately, knowing what your expectations are when it comes to your food budget will lead you to success. Plan exactly how much money you want to spend on food for the week or the month, and follow it! Keep adapting and figure out what works best for you. This might mean reallocating some of your “fun” money to food, if that’s what it takes. Either way, there are always ways to cut down on your food costs, if you’re willing to put in a little extra work.
I hope these tips help you get closer to a healthy lifestyle on a budget! As always, these are only my personal recommendations, and are the strategies that have worked best for me. Please reply with any questions, and follow along @goood_eaats on Instagram for more helpful tips and recipes!