Eating healthy on a budget is easier than you thought. The following are some of my tips for that we regularly do in our household. The things I do make a big difference and are worth the time and effort to figure out. Following these tips, we have been able to cut our grocery bill in half, save lots of time, eat healthier, feel better. We actually look forward to dinner time!
And guess what? I don't really have time for meal prep so I don't do that separately hardly ever. I pretty much just cook extras of food and freeze it. There is barely any extra work on the nights I cook. There are lots of nights I don't cook at all. It's been life-changing for my family!
#1 - Pre-Make Freezer Meals
It is so easy to just grab a meal all ready to go out of the freezer, heat it up and go. It's a huge time saver and the main way I cook now.
#2 - Eat What You Have
Cut down on waste and expense by cooking with what is already in your house. Get creative and cook with the ingredients you already have instead of running to the store because you don't have an item. If you don't have it, make something else or leave it out. Here's the order we TRY to eat food in our home:
- Fridge food
- Pre-made, homemade freezer meals
- When it is all gone or you truly don't have enough ingredients to make anything then go to the grocery store
#3 - Don't Waste Food
This goes hand in hand with eating what you have. Just simply going in the order above cuts down on waste a ton but we don't necessarily EAT the food in that order. What I do is at the beginning of dinner time most nights I start with the fridge and try to get someone to eat the leftovers or I put them in the freezer. They may be sick of it today but in two weeks think it sounds really good.
Next, I see if there are ingredients I need to cook or prep like if I notice vegetables are going bad I will fill up the oven, cook them and freeze them in individual containers.
If apples are going bad I cut them up until I have enough to make applesauce in the Instant Pot . I cut huge blocks of cheese into 1 pound portions and freeze all but one of them and just pull out a pound at a time. I can't tell you how much money I've wasted on cheese in the past. . .
Cut up fruit or veggies before they go bad and freeze them raw or I like to cook vegetables in bulk too and freeze them in individual containers. Think about things like butternut squash that is kind of a pain to cook and takes a while but if you are like me and love it, just cook an oven full at once and freeze it in small containers and you can have it as a healthy side dish.
Refrigerate Bread, Rolls, Tortillas, etc. Mine often last up to two months in the fridge instead of a few days on the counter. They will last even longer in the freezer but I don't usually have that much room in the freezer and my children go through carbs fast enough that they last plenty long enough in the fridge.
#4 - Shop Your Home First
Before going to the store see what items you already have in your home before you go and spend money and plan meals and the items you already have go bad or just fill up your freezer.
#5 - Shop Around
There are so many parts to this but I used to always go to the same stores all the time because I liked them and thought they had good prices. Once I started actually comparing price I found out that it is totally worth it to know what a good price is on each item, find it on a good sale and buy a ton of it while I can.
I used to think that was way too much work but now that I only cook twice a week I generally go shopping once a week to the store that has the best sales of what I'm going to make that week and buy a bunch of only what is on sale. Then I go every week or two to a store that has good overall prices and buy the rest of my food.
#6 - Stock Up on Good Sales
Start keeping track of prices for items you regularly buy and know you will use for sure and there is a good deal, stock up on it and freeze it or stockpile it. If meat goes on sales for $2 a pound off the price you can get it anywhere else and you buy 10 pounds on it, you just saved $20. Before I would just buy a pound and save $2. That's not nearly as impressive. This also makes shopping your home first even more relevant.
#7 - Buy Huge Quantities then Split and Freeze
A good example of this is I buy the huge #10 cans of crushed tomatoes at Costco, blend them and then put them in 25 Ounce Freezer Containers and write on it what it is with a grease pen and freeze them to pull out later. This is probably ¼th the cost of buying the 15 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes. I do a similar thing with chicken broth because we used to rarely finish a box of it and then end up just throwing it away.
#8 - Go Longer Between Shopping Trips
We are slowly getting used to being out of items. It used to be that if we ran out of certain items we would run to the store to get it (and a "few" other things). We've found we can almost always live a few days without the item and it actually helps us to waste less food because we tend to eat the less desirable items when our favorite items aren't around. It also saves lots of time to do fewer trips.
#9 - Drink Water
You can save so much money and calories by only drinking water. And it is potentially way healthier for you.
#10 - Shop at Clearance Stores
Try seeing if you can find a clearance store near you. We have two of them near our house and one of them gets all the damaged non-refrigerated food from Costco and sells it for 20% off. You have to get lucky but I've gotten some great deals on things we regularly buy so it's worth it to me to stop by for a few minutes and see if there happens to be anything good.
#9 - Buy Gift Cards Instead of Using a Debit Card
Some grocery stores will only take cash or debit cards, like Winco near me. They do this to keep costs down but it always kept me from shopping there because I've always used credit cards. So I FINALLY figured out the way around this is to buy a gift card online with a credit card then refill it online with a credit card. It's totally legit and I get the 2% cash back from my credit card.
#10 - Save on Produce
Large carrots cost half as much as the mini carrots. I can understand eating mini carrots when you are eating them plain and raw but when you are just chopping them up to put in soup, as a side dish, etc. save money and buy the big ones. Chop your own produce and save tons. Those pre-cut containers of produce cost way more than cutting it yourself and it usually tastes better to cut it yourself anyway.
#11 - Don't Buy Unhealthy Food
If it isn't in your house you can't eat it. Plus, all those little indulgences really add to your bill. So much "junk" food is so unhealthy for you and so expensive. Stop buying desserts, chips, crackers and sugary foods. Only buy things that fill you up and are nutritious. You will feel so much better and save so much money and won't feel the need to snack all the time.
If you have too hard of a time resisting unhealthy food at the store yourself send a spouse or use a grocery shopping service.
#12 - Don't Buy Pre-cut Meat
We love stew meat at our home but the least expensive regularly price in our town is $4.99 at Costco. Instead, round or eye roast is regularly on sale for $2.99 or less. Then we just use an electric knife - and cut it up ourselves. If you are buying 10 pounds of meat, that's $20 in savings right there.
#13 - Don't Buy Fresh Berries
Fresh berries can be really expensive, especially in the winter. Frozen berries are much more affordable if you buy them somewhere like Costco and work great in smoothies.
#14 - Sub Applesauce for Half the Oil When Baking
It's much less expensive, especially if you use your semi-bad apples from your fridge and make the applesauce in the Instant Pot .
#15 - Eat less
Not only will your pocketbook be slimmer but so will your waistline.
#16 - Cut Down Your Eating out Budget
If you're not already tracking how much you spend on eating out every month you may be surprised. It really starts adding up. Ever since I started doing pre-made freezer meals I haven't felt the need to eat out. It has saved us an amazing amount of money and helped us eat healthier. But there are other ways to keep your eating out bill down. Simply drinking water, bringing your lunch to work or only eating out for special occasions can help.
#17 - Eat Less Meat
meat is expensive so try adding zucchini or black beans to your ground beef to give it more bulk, have some Vegan meals a few times a week, and generally try to fill up on healthy inexpensive items such as legumes. A good example is my crockpot black beans recipe. Dried beans are super cheap and make a huge batch that you can freeze in individual containers and pull out to add to dishes for weeks to come.
Or eat meals that meat isn't a big part in naturally, such as soup, pizza, casseroles, etc.
#18 - Try Fasting
I'm a big fan of several different types of fasting and love reading the research about the health benefits of it. I do intermittent fasting most days, which basically means I skip breakfast, at least once a month I do a 24-hour fast and I've done a five-day block fast a few times. I always feel great after fasting. It seems to "restart my battery" but it also saves me a lot of money.
#19 - Keep it Simple
Eat like your grandparents. What I mean is they didn't have Pinterest. They just had a meat, a vegetable, and a carb.