Sunday, February 14, 2016

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

I am by no means perfect when it comes to healthy eating. Sweets are my downfall, especially chocolate and ice cream. But I have never sacrificed healthy eating due to budget shortfalls. As with anything else, it is all about prioritizing. Where are you not willing to budge and what is most important to you? I do not clip coupons, though I will use them when I see a good deal, but as a single parent I don't have time to be the coupon queen and most of the items I buy never seem to have coupon deals anyway.

Here are some of the things I do to cut grocery costs and still eat healthy:

  • Prioritize the foods I am not going to compromise on. Example, I prefer buying organic, but it's not always in my budget. However, I do stick to buying organic foods listed on the EWG's dirty dozen list. I figure at least that way I am reducing the amount of pesticide and herbicide exposure in my family.
  • Shop mainly from the perimeter. I forget where I read about this tip from, but most groceries are set up with the unprocessed food on the perimeter; dairy, meat, produce, etc. You will automatically be eating healthier with this tip alone.
  • Put a permanent ban on, or at least limit, items with little or no nutritional value. I don't buy soda or candy. You won't see Little Debbies in my cart. Much to my youngest son's dismay, I won't buy sugary cereals. I rarely buy cereal at all anymore. Like I said, I do give in to ice cream every now and then and I have convinced myself that the three pack of dark chocolate bars at Trader Joe's is a healthy treat. But if I am going to make the most of my grocery budget, then things that don't actually nourish us need to go.
  • Grow my own. Right now I have a little salad garden providing greens, tomatoes, and broccoli. Most of these can be grown in containers on a patio if you are tight on space. I am also fortunate enough to live in an area that I can have my two chickens, who provide plenty of eggs for me and the boy.
  • Don't buy things I normally wouldn't buy because they are on sale. On the other hand, if I see something I use regularly on sale or clearance, I stock up. The important thing here is to not play into the retail marketing game. You understand your needs more than a sale advertisement flyer. 
  • Plan, make a list, and stick to it. When I do this, I am more likely to stay within my budget. Of course, sometimes I will step outside of this when I see something that will reduce next week's budget because of an unexpected clearance sale. Again, it has to be something I truly need and will use up.
  • Reduced my meat consumption. We eat mostly vegetarian, some fish and chicken. Regardless of your political standings regarding the consumption of meat, a good quality steak is expensive. Plus, it really isn't healthy to make it the main focus of your diet. 

Recently, I am trying two new ways to cut cost, but since I have just started using both I have no idea on their long term benefit. The first is Amazon's subscribe and save for items like toothpaste, toilet paper, dog food, and other nonperishables. I got my first delivery at the beginning of this month and now I have six months worth (or a butt load, ha ha!) of toilet paper, among other things I regularly use. You can pick how often you want them to send an item and there is a bigger discount if you order several items in a month. 

I also just downloaded the Ibotta app to my phone and will be trying it out this week. This app refunds you for certain purchases simply by submitting photos of your grocery receipts using your smart phone. There are other similar apps out there as well. I am excited to give it a try. For military families, many of the rebates are good on purchases at the commissary so you might want to give it a try. If you already use Ibotta or a similar app, I'd love to hear your feedback. 

Here is to healthy eating!