We’ve covered ground when it comes to time getting in the way of eating healthy. In fact, we debunked the myth with our Top 30-Minute Healthy Meals.
Another common hurdle that gets in the way of us making healthy changes in our diets is budget. It’s widely accepted that eating healthy is also expensive, which can prevent people from even giving it a fair shot.
Think about how much money it costs to eat on the go with fast food, takeaway and convenient snack foods, and there’s no doubt it runs up a bill.
Often, we notice the impact less as we’re do big shopping trips to the grocery store, farmer’s market and butcher in favor of splitting up our food bill into a day-by-day matter.
Beyond that, eating well is an investment. Neglecting our health is expensive in other ways, even if it isn’t evident immediately. Moreover, if you’re not cooking with the food you do buy, a lot ends up going to waste.
With that said, we have quite a few ways to stretch your dollar with some awesome budget cooking hacks you don’t want to forget.
Local food means less travel time which cuts down on production costs. As a result, the food is generally a bit less expensive than what you’ll find at your big box grocery store.
The added bonus is you’ll also be purchasing a much fresher product, which means it will last longer in the fridge and taste better on your plate.
This has some of the same added benefits as eating local. Purchasing seasonal produce – even if it isn’t local – generally means that it’s costing less to transport to wherever you may be.
Eating seasonally means that you’ll be more likely to source food from within a closer range to you, and it will often cost much less since there’s less demand. You’ll notice the price fluctuations as the seasons change if you pay attention.
We love meal prep here at Happy Body Formula for a few reasons including staying on track and saving time, but saving money is a big factor, too.
Batch cooking means you’re using food that might otherwise go to waste, giving yourself options to pack for lunch versus buying lunch while out, and preparing meals that can be stored in the freezer for later. It hits quite a few budget-friendly notes, and makes some of our other tips a lot easier.
Did we mention it’s a huge time saver? Remember, time is money! If you need help with meal prep, we have the work done for you – check out our free 7-Day Make Ahead Meal Plan.
Buy ugly produce
Some shops will have deals on produce that doesn’t fit society’s standard of beauty. Carrots with two ‘legs,’ fruits and veggies with minor bruising and any other attributes that make produce stand out amongst the rest will often get them a price cut.
If you can get past the looks, you won’t be disappointed with the grocery bill (or the taste!). Slightly softer or bruised veggies are great roasted, braised or pureed into soups.
Shop at multiple places
Here’s a way you can turn time into money: if you do your research on specific grocer’s sales, farmer’s market days, and deals at specialty stores like Asian markets (which often have some amazing deals!), you can plan a shop and hop day.
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure your savings make up for any gas you use getting from one place to the next. Some cities with clusters of markets, or small towns that are easy to get across, will accommodate this budget tip well.
Eat ‘head to tail’ style
Scared of the whole chicken? Don’t be! We’re talking livers and all. Learning to love offal and cook ‘whole hog’ style (okay, whole chicken if you don’t have a smoke pit in your backyard) can save you big money.
One, you’ll get more food for the money you spend, and you’ll also be more inclined to buy cheap organ meats. Our resident meal planner Irena Macri shows you how to turn one chicken into 3 meals for two on her blog Eat Drink Paleo.
Similarly, you can turn a whole shoulder of pork into three different meals, rather than spend more money on buying individual cuts of meat.
Buy in bulk
Purchasing bulk foods isn’t only good for the wallet; it’s good for the environment. Skipping out on the cost of packaging is a good idea for spices, grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, flours, dried fruits and more.
Many co-ops and natural food stores will have an impressive bulk section to peruse, and it’s generally much more cost-effective than buying the product in the aisles.
You can also choose to purchase as little as you need. On the other hand, you can shop at bulk stores to get impressive unit prices on XXL items – giant jars of coconut oil, anyone?
Get to know your farmers
Learning about local farms often opens up the opportunity to purchase meat in bulk. Even better, the meat is often grass-fed, responsibly and humanely raised/slaughtered, and budget-friendly.
You can purchase in bulk and store multiple cuts of meat in a deep freezer, or you can split the cost with a friend or family member which saves both parties money now and down the line.
Sign up for a CSA
Community supported agriculture – or a CSA – is a great way to form relationships with farmers, get local produce on a budget, and ensure that the money you do spend goes straight to the source.
If you can find a local CSA, you’ll be able to pick up a box of fresh, seasonal produce each week (or bi-weekly). Generally, you’ll sign up for a subscription service which essentially means buying your produce in bulk.
Eating less meat can really change the game if you’re watching your budget. This is especially true if you’re feeding a family! While cheap cuts of meat are an economical choice and can easily be worked in, implementing one meat-free day per week can save big bucks over time.
Instead, opt for eggs, properly soaked/sprouted legumes or lentils, or fermented soy like tempeh to pack in a little protein. You could also go pescatarian for the day and use up some inexpensive tinned fish in salads or seafood fritters.
Cook low and slow
Speaking of cheap cuts of meat, learning how to cook them makes all the difference. The final product shouldn’t taste cheap. Whole chickens, pork shoulder/butt and beef roasts take on new life in the slow cooker, or prepared long and low in a Dutch Oven.
The hands-off approach allows the meat to get nice and tender without having to dish out big bucks for the fancy cuts. For a cheap vegetarian option, slow cook a large batch of dal or gorgeous root vegetable stews.
Make your own snacks
Snacking is what’s really expensive – not eating healthy! How often are you tempted by convenience foods to take on the go? Perhaps more common is how often you’re tempted by foods that have no place in your healthy, happy kitchen – I’m talking to you, checkout chocolate!
Instead of relying on prepackaged goods like fruit and nut bars or jerky which are often marked up, try making your own at home. Bonus: you can avoid sneaky, unwanted additives and sugar!
Buy frozen produce
Frozen produce is often processed straight off the vine, so it’s actually a fantastic way to ensure that you’re getting a fresh product. By choosing organic, you can make sure that you’re getting just as good – if not better – quality as fresh.
This is a great way to save money on produce that is out of season and to stock up a healthy freezer to reach into on days when the fridge is looking a bit bleak.
Frozen fish and seafoods are great and much cheaper alternatives to fresh stuff and can be used in curries, fish cakes and fritters, and delicious marinara-style sauces.
Make bone broth
Don’t throw away bones and veggie scraps – you paid for those! Instead, turn them into additional food. Simmering away leftover bones and veggie scraps in filtered water yields a tasty, gut-healthy, gelatinous finished product perfect for sipping, souping, sautéing and steaming.
Stick to the list
You know how it goes… you get to the store, and either you forgot the list or you abandon its strict guidelines at some point in favor of this food and that food, and oh look – those cookies you swore you bought you last box somehow ended up in the cart!
Sticking to a list – and especially sticking to similar lists over and over – will help you maintain a grocery budget you’re comfortable with over time. Get into the habit!
Follow a meal plan
A meal plan ties into many of the budget-friendly tips on our list. It gives you an idea of exactly what to expect for the week, encourages batch-cooking, helps you write and stick to a list, and make sure no food (or money) goes to waste.
Make a meal plan after shopping
Alternatively, you can create a meal plan that gives all the food that’s now in your fridge a purpose. After all, it’s not going to cook itself.
If the idea of shopping based around a meal plan is intimidating and you consider yourself rather creative in the kitchen, planning out a way to use up every last bit of fresh food will save you money over time.
Carve out time post-shopping to tap into your inner master chef, and get to work.
Shop later in the day
Whether you’re at the farmer’s market or your regular chain grocery store, you’re more likely to find deals at the end of the day. You’ll see produce at the end of its leg and meat with a ‘use by’ date for today, sometimes at less than half the price.
If you’re smart, you’ll take a few nearly-expired goods home. You can prep them that night or freeze them for later. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Your wallet will rejoice.
Think dressings, spice blends, sauces and marinades, fermented foods, kombucha and the like. These are all things you can make it home for far less than they cost in their pretty packaging at the store.
You’ll also be fully in control of what goes into them so you can avoid artificial colors and stabilizers.
Grow a garden
Seeds cost a whole lot less than veggies. If the climate is right and you’ve got a green thumb, get out into the soil and start digging. You’ll reap a fresh bounty of veggies each season, and you’ll be able to use and preserve them as you wish.
Even if you don’t want to take on planting a full garden, a simple herb garden is economical, simple to maintain and adds big flavor to those cheap cuts of meat and frozen veggies.
Store your food wisely
You should educate yourself regarding proper storage techniques to maximise freshness of your produce, meat and leftovers. Proper storage can extend your food’s lifespan by up to a week.
Take care of those delicate greens! This also extends to learning what types of meals can be stored in the freezer, and what foods to avoid freezing.
Learn to love leftovers
If you don’t have an affinity for leftovers, you’re cooking the wrong foods! Lots of dishes taste even better the next day – think soups, stews, curries and recipes that need time for the flavors to blend together.
While nothing beats having a steak fresh off the grill, there’s no need to neglect that pot of cozy beef chili hanging out in the back of the fridge until you forget what’s even in that pot. Learning to love leftovers = less food waste and more money saved.
Enforce ‘cleaning out the fridge’ meals
Maybe you’re more accustomed to having leftovers in the form of stray produce and meat. If your fridge is looking a bit like the grocery store at the end of the day, get creative!
Once again, soups, stews and curries lend themselves well to using up a bunch of spare ingredients that otherwise wouldn’t go together. Put together a few of these tips and clean out the fridge in a productive way – use the stove, not the trash can!
What is your number one tip for saving money eating real food? Share your best advice with us and the community below!
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