Top Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
You’ve made the switch to a real food, paleo diet, but that initial trip to buy paleo approved foods was a shock to the system by the time you reached the check out! If you’re used to purchasing budget friendly products like breads, pasta, conventional dairy products, or low quality meats, attempting to buy paleo can cost a pretty penny!
Don’t allow this to deter you from maintaining your new healthier way of living. With a little forethought and some smart shopping, a real food, paleo diet doesn’t have be beyond your reach. Indeed, a slightly higher food budget is often associated with healthy eating — isn’t your health worth it? — but there are ways to keep costs down for you and your family. Here are my top tips for eating healthy on a budget.
Buy ingredients, not products
Purchasing the raw ingredients and cooking your own meals is more cost effective than buying pre-packaged meals, drinks and snacks. Paleo friendly foods like nut milks, kale chips and beef jerky are simple to make at home and much more economical than the store bought alternatives. People who are new to paleo can be suckered into buying pre-made paleo meals that can cost an arm and a leg, but if you cook and eat at home, the more money you can save. The internet is a veritable goldmine for real food recipes, including paleo approved replacements for foods you used to eat, minus the additives and other mystery ingredients!
Buy the basics
Avoid buying unnecessary, exotic ingredients used for a one-time-only special dishes. You use them once and they end up taking up space in your pantry. Instead, stock your kitchen with the go-to basics that can be used in a variety of ways in a variety of dishes, like fresh garlic, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and other pantry staples. Be open to using frozen vegetables. They’re just as nutritious as fresh veggies, and just as versatile, and have a much longer shelf-life the fresh sort. Also, sweet potatoes are inexpensive and are a great addition to any real food meal. Don’t buy ingredients like gluten-free flours. Coconut or almond flours are less expensive when bought in bulk, and are much healthier!
Preparing large batches of meals that you can freeze or eat as leftovers saves you both time and money! By cooking multiple servings of an all-in-one meal like soups or casseroles, not only will you save time with cooking later in the week, you’ll also be able to use the ingredients you’ve bought in bulk and not have to worry about wasting all the fresh meat or vegetables you’ve just purchased.
Buying organic is not always necessary as you proceed on your healthy eating journey. There are many items that you can buy at your regular grocery story that are safe to consume. The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are lists published by the Environmental Working Group that outline the fruits and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated. By following these guidelines, you can know when to buy organic and when it is safe to buy conventionally grown produce. When buying meat, poultry and eggs, it is best to avoid conventionally raised animals, but buying organic and grass-fed can break the bank. Always choose the highest quality animal products you can afford, but access to ideal sources of meat are not always available. Do your homework and figure out which items are worth the splurge, and which might be safe to spend less money on.
The bare necessities
Instead of complaining about the high cost of pastured eggs, question whether you really need that $4 coffee, bottled water or other luxury food items. Re-evaluate your food spending and identify any unnecessary extravagances that are putting a strain on your budget. Cut these non-essentials off your shopping list and find a way to make them from scratch at home. Invest in a high quality water bottle, fill it frequently and take it wherever you go. Replace pricey supplements and protein powders with eating a wide range of nutrient dense foods. Avoid wasting money on foods that you can just as easily make your self or live without altogether!
A community effort
Buying food for yourself or your family can get pretty pricey pretty fast! This is where sharing food purchases with other families or friends can make a huge difference to your food budget. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program allows you to share the produce grown at local farms with other members of your community. You can also spread the cost of grass-fed meat by trying a cow share, where you and a group of health-minded friends go in together on buying a whole cow worth of meat. Plan regular paleo potluck dinners with your friends rather than going out to eat. It’s a great way to save money, eat healthy, and keep your social life intact. Remember, the more food you share with others, the more money you’ll save!
Those are my best money saving tips when eating a healthy, real food diet. How do you save money when shopping for you and your family? Share your ideas in the comments!