I have been asked this question many times – how can one afford healthy, or even organic food, when they have a tight budget? It is something many people seem to struggle with, and often times they give up on the idea they can eat healthy all the time, because they already are convinced it is not sustainable. If you are also struggling with similar thoughts, let me stop you right here! Eating healthy food can be cheap and reasonable, and there are a few things you can do to up your intake on healthy food, and save some money along the way too.
Below I will share with you what I do to make sure my food doesn’t eat up too much of my money.
1. Buy seasonal food
The price of fresh fruits and vegetable varies depending on their availability. Making sure you get seasonal food will save you some money, as they cost less when in season, and will also allow you to enjoy local foods. Seasonal and local fruits and vegetables can contain more nutrients, as they are not picked too early and had time to ripen naturally. Go to the farmers market often, or just educate yourself about which fruits and veggies are in season, and stock up on them. I have started a monthly series on my blog called “Fruits and Veggies of the Month” for this reason – to help you choose foods that are in season and try new foods as well.
2. Make a shopping list and stick to it
This one is really important. If you go to the shop without a clear idea of what you need to get you will most certainly end up getting a lot more things than you have initially planned. What I do is I give myself a few minutes before I leave the house to go through what I already have in my house. You would be surprised how often you forget how much food you actually already have! I then kind of plan how I can use what I have in a meal and what else I would need to get. I write a shopping list and I stick to it. This has helped me tremendously to save money, because I do not get too distracted by other products when I am in the shop.
3. Avoid wasting food
This is kind of a continuation to my previous point. Make sure you eat all the food you buy. If you haven’t started already, then I urge you to start paying attention to how much food you throw away and why this happens. Ask yourself the following questions: Is my food going bad because I am not storing it properly? Do I buy food that I end up not eating? Why does it happen? It could be that you are getting a lot of fresh produce that you can’t manage eating and it goes bad. In this case, maybe it is a better idea to go more often to the shop and buy smaller quantities? You will eat more fresh produce if it is truly “fresh”.
4. Don’t go shopping if you are hungry
Ok, I admit it. I have done this. Countless times! And every time I would regret it! Why? Going shopping while hungry increases the chances of you making unhealthy choices. It also most certainly will make you spend more money, because you will buy more things (especially if you don’t have a shopping list!). Eat first then go and do your shopping. 😉
5. Cook at home
How many times in a week do you eat take out? Or how many times do you eat out? Make a rough calculation of how much money you spend on this. I am not saying you should stop going out, and enjoy restaurant food. But maybe there are a few times where you can go without. Cutting them out will save you money, because you guessed it – preparing your own food is much cheaper! Not only that, it is healthier too. I don’t know about you, but I do like to know what goes in my food. And yes, I also like to cook (something that hasn’t always been the case). Cooking can actually be a very social and relaxing event. Just make time for it, and try to make it fun for you. You might actually end up loving it too!
6. Buy in bulk
So this is where I have noticed I actually can save money. I try to buy a lot of things in bulk. Things like nuts, seeds and grains. I store them in jars in my pantry and this way I always have a base for a dish. I then go twice a week to buy fresh produce and things that have a short shelf life. Trust me, this has been not only a money saver, but it also opens up the opportunity to always have something in the house, and never say again “We’ve got nothing to eat”.
7. Don’t go for the fancy brands
Some brands have a huge markup on products that are actually cheap. So pay attention. Don’t be led by the smart marketing of a certain product, but by what’s inside it. This means – read the labels. You will notice there are other products, that are cheaper than the best known ones, and have just as clean ingredients.
8. Compare prices
Compare the prices in different shops. Compare the prices of various products too. If you buy pre-chopped veggies are they cheaper than the whole ones? Doing these kind of calculations will allow you to be in better control of your spendings.
9. Keep track of your monthly spendings
Take a month in which you track how much you actually spend on food. Which items are the most expensive? How much do you think you should be spending monthly on food? Try and stick to your budget for another month to see if it is reasonable. Being aware of where your money goes to will make a huge difference to your spending habit, and I urge to do this exercise for all areas in your life. It can be a life changing one.
10. Making healthy choices is an investment in the future
And finally I will give you my take on buying healthy and organic food. It is an investment in your future. By eating fresh, seasonal, and organic produce you will become healthier and more energised. I personally do not think it is an area where we need to cut costs, but there are many ways we can be smart about our spendings. I hope the ones I shared with you were helpful!
I’d like to hear from you! What do you do to eat healthy on a budget?