You’ll have no trouble finding cheap junk food at your local supermarket. But those food items aren’t best choice when you’re doing your best to be healthy, especially if one of your resolutions this year is to lose weight.
Resist the urge to load up the cart with cookies and chips. You can still manage to make healthy choices while staying on a budget when you put these helpful tips into action.
Prep your meals
At the beginning of every week, establish a meal plan. Ask yourself these basic questions:
- What healthy meals will I eat throughout the week?
- What ingredients will I need to buy to make those meals?
- Do I already have any of those ingredients in my fridge, freezer or cabinets?
- Are there cheaper (but still healthy) substitutions I can make to my shopping list?
As you plan out your meals, keep your schedule in mind. If you have a busy Tuesday, you’ll want to plan for an easy-to-make recipe that day. Or, you might heat up Monday’s leftovers. If you don’t consider your schedule, you might be tempted to order fast food instead because it’s easy.
Some people prepare all their meals for the week on a Sunday. This helps them avoid the need to cook later. If you do this, make sure the food you prep won’t spoil too fast.
Before you leave the house, treat yourself to a healthy snack. Oatmeal, fresh fruit or yogurt can help satisfy your appetite. If you walk into the store with an empty stomach, you’ll have a harder time resisting the urge to make impulsive buys.
Stick to your list of needed ingredients as you shop. When possible, stay on the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll find whole foods. Most processed foods tend to appear in the middle aisles of the store. Many whole, fresh foods like veggies are healthier — and cheaper — than their processed counterparts.
When browsing shelves, start your search on the top or bottom rows. This is where you’ll find the least expensive options, such as store-brand alternatives to the costly name brands.
These tips can help you make smart decisions as you move along the aisles:
- When buying meat, buy family packs. Freeze the unused portions. Choose lean meats like chicken or turkey over red meat.
- Look for whole grain versions of bread, rice and pasta. These are less processed than their counterparts and are still fairly cheap.
- Stock up on canned or frozen fruits and veggies. Look for products without added sauces. Use these as quick, convenient sides to any meal.
- Consider cheap sources of protein. Some examples of these protein sources include beans, eggs and lentils. They almost always cost less than meat.
- Skip the soda and juice aisle entirely. These products feature large amounts of added sugar. Instead, stick with filtered tap water. This will save you money while keeping you healthy and hydrated.
- Look for in-season produce. These items tend to be cheaper than out-of-season items. The lower price is due to the decreased cost of transportation. Buying this produce is also better for the environment.
If an ingredient you often use is on sale at the store, stock up. Just make sure it won’t expire before you have a chance to use it all up.
The grocery store isn’t your only option for finding healthy ingredients. In warmer months, keep your eyes open for upcoming farmers’ markets. At these events, you can find locally grown, in-season products — often at lower prices than the grocery store. If you arrive late, you might find vendors who are willing to sell items at even more of a discount, rather than transporting their remaining items back home.
If you have space for a small garden, you can also learn how to grow your own food. You don’t need to grow a huge variety of fruits and veggies. A few home-grown peppers or tomatoes can save you money each year.
In the long run, eating healthy foods can improve your budget in many unexpected ways. A better diet can lead to less health issues, which can lead to fewer hospital bills and provider visits. And most important of all, you’ll feel great!