Eating Healthy On Budget Can Be Affordable

Why are prepared foods are cheaper than buying ingredients from scratch? It seems that eating healthy is way more expensive than eating crap. That’s why it’s so important to watch what you eat. You don’t have to give up flavor to eat better. With a little planning, you can eat better and save time and money.

The Local Farmers’ Market

Farmers market
Farmers selling direct to consumers.

When it comes to fresh seasonal produce, it’s hard to beat a farmers’ market. They can avoid the usual mark-up at the grocery store and give you good deals when their goods are in season. Stocking up on fruits and vegetables can save you time and money down the road. Any that you won’t eat right away can be cut up and put in the freezer to use later.

There are times when the farmers’ markets do not save you money. Very often the providers carry heirloom or rare varieties of produce which will cost more. Also, some will make other products, like jams and preserves, which will cost a bit more than the name-brand products on the grocery store shelf. Even if you don’t buy anything, a trip to the farmers’ market can be very illuminating and give you some good ideas.

Friendly Frozen Foods

Packages of frozen vegetables are picked and processed at their peak of flavor.
Packages of frozen vegetables are picked and processed at their peak of flavor.

Speaking of making good use of your freezer, this is a great way to save money. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and packed at their peak of flavor, which means they can be just as good as fresh. Just avoid any that contains extra salt, a sauce or added sugar. Frozen seafood and meat can save you a lot of money compared to fresh. In fact, much of the so-called fresh products you buy, especially meat and seafood, have been frozen for shipping and then thawed at the store. So fresh is not always best unless you live in Southern California, from where most of our produce comes.

Bulk Up

Rice and dried beans are pretty cheap. But if you buy in bulk, they are even cheaper and can stay in your pantry for months. You should make a pot of rice and a pot of beans at least once a month. They can go into all sorts of dishes for every meal. Not only will this save you money, but time as well.

A grocery list should be made before you go. While you're checking over, eat a little something so you're not hungry in the store.
A grocery list should be made before you go. While you’re checking over, eat a little something so you’re not hungry in the store.

Organize and Eat Before Trip To Store

Check out the store weekly advertisement for what’s on sale and then pick your recipes, fill out your menus and make a list. Impulse buys can add a lot to your food bill and break that grocery budget. Stick to your list. You can usually add that item to your next list. Still, you should keep an eye out for in-store specials which aren’t in the ad. Eat before you go to the store. That will reduce impulse buys.

Shop For Store Brand Products

In most cases, store-brand foods are just as good as name-brand ones. There are some exceptions for personal taste, but in general, it can be significant savings with no change in flavor. Usually, even with a coupon, the name-brand product is still more expensive than the store brand. They are worth a try even if you don’t like them as well. At least now you know.

Buy Whole Foods Instead of Cut-Up

A whole roasting chicken ready to go.
A whole roasting chicken ready to go.

It’s true that you pay more for convenience. There are times when it’s better to buy a few stalks of celery rather than a whole bunch. Unless you find a way to use the rest, you could be throwing away perfectly good food. On the other hand, when it comes to freezable food, like meat and poultry, bigger is better.

Instead of buying chicken parts, buy a whole chicken. They are easy to roast and can be used for a lot of meals throughout the rest of the week. You’ll spend a bit more than a dollar a pound for the whole bird, which can cook in less than an hour, versus nearly six dollars per pound for already cut up, deboned and skinned chicken pieces.

The same is true with beef. Get together with some friends who have big freezers and split a side of beef. You’ll pay less than four dollars a pound versus more than 10 dollars a pound for some cuts.

Egg On Your Protein

Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein. They are food rich in nutrients and are very versatile. Not only are eggs good for breakfast, but can go atop a soup or starches like rice and potatoes. They can be used in baking, frying, or poaching with vegetables to make a complete meal. They are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but science has yet to determine exactly how that affects serum cholesterol in your blood.

Keeping these tips in mind next time you plan to go shopping should save you some money and let you make fresh, healthy meals for the week.