It is true that eating healthy can be expensive.
It’s also true that junk food is among the most costly ways to spend your grocery dollars.
Actually, you can spend a fortune on chips, pastries and exotic flavored coffee. Without adding anything nutritional to your diet.
In terms of health, junk food is extremely expensive. It can lead to obesity and also puts you at higher risk for developing diabetes.
Researchers at US San Francisco have found that excess sugar consumption may directly lead to Type 2 diabetes, even if it doesn’t cause obesity.
In the long run, eating sugary junk food may take an even bigger bite out of your wallet, as well as your health.
So, you may wonder, “Can I afford to eat healthy food on a budget?”
Maybe look at it another way. You can’t afford not to.
Also, it is possible to eat well even if you have a Spartan grocery budget. You just have to prioritize. You need to be creative. You need to shop smart.
Here’s how to do it.
Can You Eat Healthy On A Budget?
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At one time, money was tight. I wanted to put healthy food on the table. I spent about $400 a week to do it. Even though we have a family of four.
This was way too much for two adults and two children.
So I went on a radical spending diet. To see if it could be done.
Yes it could. But I found myself running around to different grocery stores and discount outlets. I wasn’t working at the time. So saving $200 to $250 a week on groceries was my “job.”
I managed to spend only $150 to $200 a week on mostly organic food, plus non-toxic cleaning and laundry supplies.
This included my husband’s impulse purchases at the most expensive grocery store in the area.
Our financial situation has improved. I don’t have to be as careful with what I load into the grocery cart.
But I do know it’s possible to eat real food without spending a fortune.
How To Eat Healthy On A Budget
I don’t like to use coupons. Especially the ones that come in the Sunday flier. Most of the discounts are for highly processed foods anyway.
These foods typically contain a lot of sugar and genetically processed ingredients.
There’s growing evidence that GMO’s are bad for you. One French study found that animals given genetically modified feed developed enormous tumors on their mammary glands.
Obviously, followup studies are needed. But seeing pictures of these poor lab rats has led me to stop buying foods that contain GMO’s.
For me, healthy eating means trying to avoid GMO’s. You can do this fairly easily by buying organic versions of the 5 Foods Most likely to contain GMO’s.
How To Eat Healthy On A Tight Budget
I’m not a coupon queen. Or even that particularly money savvy. Some bloggers are particularly money savvy. I don’t think I am.
Not everyone has the gift of stretching a dollar until it snaps. I don’t. I’m not even sure an extreme frugality mentality is healthy, anyway.
Actually, I think it can turn into a sickness if saving money becomes your sole reason for being.
We need to live. We need to enjoy life. We need to splurge occasionally.
That’s why I want to offer a few simple tips on how to eat well. So the average person can eat well. Even if you don’t have the time or the aptitude for extreme frugality.
Ironically, extreme frugality can be expensive. Because it takes a lot of work. And time is money.
Most of us have much better ways to spend our time, anyway.
Eating Clean On A Tight Budget
Anyway, here’s how to get creative with your food budget. So you can afford a clean eating lifestyle.
- If possible eat USDA Certified Organic food. This ensures it’s free of toxic pesticides and wasn’t grown with chemical fertilizers. If you can’t eat organic food, look for the Non GMO Project label. At least you’ll avoid genetically modified ingredients. In general, GMO-free food is less expensive than USDA Certified Organic items. At the very least, strive to eat real food instead of heavily processed food.
- Stay away from grocery stores. I know this sounds crazy. But you can often find good food (organic and non GMO) in discount stores, such as Ocean State Job Lot if you live in the New England area. Other parts of the country have similar venues. Farmers markets may also have inexpensive produce in season.
- Shop at Aldi. Not all of the offerings at Aldi are healthy. But it has a growing selection of real food at deep discounts. You can also save time by shopping at Aldi because the stores are small and easy to navigate. Shopping at Aldi will eliminate the need for clipping coupons, as the store doesn’t accept them anyway.
- Cook more from scratch. This takes some getting used to. But it soon becomes second nature. Remember that included in the price of processed food is the cost of labor and the packaging.
- Make your own toothpaste. Natural toothpaste is expensive. But you can easily make your own. Here’s an easy to follow recipe.
- Make your own deodorant. Aluminum free deodorant is also pricey. But here’s how easy it is to make your own.
- Learn to drink water. Did you know that 1/3 of the average grocery budget is spent on beverages? Cutting out sugary drinks is an easy way to save. (I realize convincing your family to drink water instead of juice or soda may not be easy.)
- Rice and beans. Rice and beans are a complete protein and this combination will stretch your food dollar farther than anything else I can think of.
- Stir fry dishes. Use a relatively small amount of meat for flavoring. Then throw in your leftovers.
- Boxes of soup. It is less expensive to make your own soup stock. But sometimes this isn’t always an option. You may be busy. Or you may not have stock ingredients available. But you can make an inexpensive meal from boxed soup, rice and leftovers. Buy these boxes when they’re on sale. Discount stores often carry organic soup stock.
- Use a credit card. If you’re disciplined you can earn as much as 2 percent back on grocery purchases.
- Shop online. I get a lot of my healthy items at Vitacost.
- Plan well so you reduce or eliminate food waste. Here’s the shocking statistic. The average American family tosses $2,200 worth of food every year. Broken down, this amounts to $42.30 a week. (More than enough to add some healthy items to your diet.)
Budget Meal Planning Service
Some people might benefit from a healthy meal planning service designed to reduce food waste. There is small a monthly outlay. But the idea is to recoup this cost (and more) with strategic shopping.
Each week Real Plans gives you a shopping list that corresponds to a week’s worth of recipes. Everything you need for the week is on that list. This also eliminates multiple trips to the grocery store, because you forgot something.
If you think Real Plans would work for you, click on the image below. (This planner works well with special diets.)