If there is ONE most important element to healthy living, I believe it’s eating healthy food. Why? It’s something we do (at least) three times a day, every day. It’s what fuels our bodies to get the exercise we need, nourishes our brains to support our mental health, and builds up our immune system to fight off sickness. Food affects the way we feel, the way we look, our energy level and our general health.
Yet, it’s a sad fact that a lot of junk food is cheaper than healthy food. There’s a reason why people buy McJunkFood – it’s cheap, filling and fast.
But junk food doesn’t help your health – it hurts it – and I don’t want that for you. I’m standing on my soap box to say that it IS possible to eat healthy without spending a fortune. With a bit of determination and some smart planning and shopping, you can buy healthy, organic food to nourish your family without breaking the bank. And keep in mind that paying a bit more for groceries can save you money on health care in the long run. It’s no joke that doctors should be writing preventative prescriptions for vegetables!
I truly believe that good food is the pillar of healthy living and I want to help you make it a pillar in your life too! Check out these budget-friendly tips and let me know in the comments which ones work for you!
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Buy in bulk
When you buy from the bulk bins you skip both the packaging and the marketing – why waste your money on things that don’t add value? Hit up the bulk section for dry goods like flour, oats, grains, beans, pasta & nuts. Many stores also sell oils, nut butters, honey and other wet or liquid foods in bulk. And don’t forget the spices, which are often in smaller bulk jars nearby. Many conventional grocery stores have bulk bins these days. Just beware – not everything in there is healthy – I see a lot of candy in the bulk bins these days!
Real life: At my local food co-op, organic oats and rice are considerably less expensive in bulk than they are in a package. Plus I can buy exactly the amount I need!
Plan to cook
Unless you can afford to hit up the deli at Whole Foods every day, you’re going to need to do some cooking. And healthy cooking is a lot easier if you plan. No, you don’t need an elaborate meal plan for the entire week, but planning out recipes and shopping lists will help you manage your budget, get you motivated to make healthy meals and keep you from relying on take-out yet again.
Real life: This easy breakfast idea recipe from my blog is a great place to start! Mango Chia Overnight Oats
Shop at warehouse clubs and value-driven stores
Warehouse clubs like Costco have jumped onto the organic bandwagon in a big way. Just be careful to buy things you will actually use and not more than your family can eat. Certain value-driven stores like Aldi and Trader Joes have some very good prices on organic and healthy foods. Look for the store-brand, which usually cost less than popular brand names. If you don’t have these stores near you, Thrive Market is an online membership club with fantastic prices on packaged natural and organic products.
Real life: Costco sells organic chicken in 3 packs at a much lower price per pound than regular grocery stores. The packs can be separated easily so I toss a couple in the freezer for later use.
Buy in season
Just because a particular fruit or vegetable is available all year round, doesn’t mean it’s smart to buy it. When produce is not in season, you’ve probably noticed it’s more expensive. So stock up on organic peaches and plums in the summer when you can afford them, and go for other fruits the rest of the year. And remember to use the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to help you understand when buying organic is most important.
Real life: In peak season I often find organic strawberries for the same price (or only slightly higher) than conventional. You can bet I stock up then!
Grow your own
Organic produce still a bit too pricey? Consider growing your own. It will almost certainly be less expensive and extra healthy from all that love you put into it! Container gardens are great when space is limited. Herbs and lettuces are especially easy to grow in pots.
Real life: A packet of basil seeds costs a lot less than a package of basil from the grocery store – not to mention that a plant will produce a lot more basil!
Buy directly from a farmer
Buying direct from the farm means no middleman and lower transportation costs. This could be purchasing a share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), shopping at local farmer’s market, or going on a fun visit to a farm. Either way, you’ll save money and feel closer to your food.
Real life: With a CSA share, you pay the farmer at the beginning of the season, but then reap the benefits later with fresh produce and often eggs, meat or dairy delivered weekly. I’ve found this to be a great value over similar quality food purchased at a store.
By keeping your pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with healthy basics, you’ll be ready to cook a healthy meal and avoid another call to the pizza place. Some of the things you’ll always find in my house include chicken stock, organic olive oil and coconut oil, beans, rice and other grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit, baking supplies, frozen fruit, lots of herbs and spices, plus a basic assortment of fresh produce and dairy products.
Real life: When it comes to cooking, I’m less of a planner and more of a wing-it type. But with a well-stocked kitchen, I can pull it off!
Eat less meat
Save some bucks by skipping meat once or twice a week and substituting low-cost beans and grains combined with healthy vegetables. No need to go completely vegetarian, but I bet you’ll find that saving money never tasted so good!
Real life: Can’t get the family to give up meat completely? Try using it more as a flavoring as opposed to the main course – i.e. corn chowder with bacon – or using less – like a stir fry with mostly veggies and only a little bit of meat.
Do you have any tricks for eating healthy without breaking the bank? Please share!
(*Disclaimer: Mindful Momma occasionally uses affiliate links. If you make a purchase using a link, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for your support if you do!)