Healthy food and exercise are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. We all know that we should eat healthy food, but it can be intimidating when we go to the store and see that the prices of unhealthy convenience foods are generally cheaper than the healthier options. There are many ways to fit healthy food into your diet and make your dollars stretch as far as possible. The following tips are ones I use personally to ensure myself and my family are able to get the most from our grocery budget, eat healthily, and maybe allow us to put a little more away for our home buying fund.
Before you go to the store, plan out your meals for the week so you know what you need to buy to make those meals. The Harvard School of Health has a wonderful resource you can find here to help with planning your meals in advance. Doing this can also save those headaches of trying to figure out what to eat when you get home from a stressful day of work.
Bonus Tip: Surveying your kitchen for the ingredients you already have will stop you from making unnecessary purchases, keeping a little extra money in your pocket.
Make a List
This goes hand-in-hand with planning ahead, but it is so helpful when you go to the store. As you are planning out your meals you can write down what ingredients you need so you can get everything in one trip. Sticking to your list is key. It is definitely okay to grab extra staple items if you see a good sale, but try your hardest to avoid the impulse buys that the displays and marketing tactics at the store try to entice you into purchasing.
Bonus Tip: Don’t go to the store while hungry. It is so easy to grab extras that you don’t need (and may not be on your healthy eating wish list) when you walk around the store with your stomach growling.
I’m sure not all the reactions were positive to this one immediately, but hear me out. Swap out your one or two meat-based meals per week for lower-cost plant protein-based meals using foods such as legumes (like beans, peas, or lentils), tofu, or tempeh.
Lentils are a wonderful option as one cup provides 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, this will really help to keep you satiated. Even better, when lentils are cooked up, they somewhat resemble ground beef. Add seasonings and chopped vegetables such as mushrooms, celery, carrots, and onions, and they become even more like the ground beef you’ve substituted out. You can then use the lentil mixture in any way you would use ground beef; think tacos, meatloaf, meatballs, or burgers.
Bonus tip: When you are preparing ground meat of any kind, you can use the same tip of adding chopped vegetables to stretch the meat a bit further (and sneak in some extra veggies, that’s a win-win).
Check Ads for Sales
This is a tip I have to credit to my parents (shout out mom and dad!). When I was younger, they would spend hours every Sunday looking through the newspaper flyers to see which store had the best sales on food items we ate on a consistent basis and make lists based on the store. It may have made the shopping trips a bit longer, but we were always eating good whole foods, and my parents have made it to an expert level when it comes to stretching a dollar.
Times are different now so most of us don’t grab the Sunday paper but apps like Flipp (available for Apple and Android devices) make it easy to see the current flyers from your local stores. I use Flipp personally and recommend checking it out. It is one of my favorite apps to use to get the best bang for my buck when I go to the grocery store. You can also find the weekly flyers for other stores as well, in case you’re looking for clothing, electronics, or other purchases.
Bonus Tip: Go through the sales ads before planning your meals for the week and base your meals on what is on sale to make the most of your grocery budget.
Opt for Whole Options
It may be tempting to purchase pre-sliced veggies and fruits, pre-shredded cheese, and other convenience items, but you are likely paying a higher price. If you’re trying to lower your grocery bill, buying the whole options for these items is a great idea. Mitch Lipka, from CBS News, wrote a great article showing the price markup of common precut foods compared to their whole counterparts that you can check out here if you would like to see how much you can save.
You can also do this with meat, by purchasing larger cuts like whole pork loins, beef brisket, or chicken, and cut down into the chops, steaks, and breasts you would normally buy at a markup. This takes a little more skill but there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can show you how to do it properly.
These are just five of the many tips and tricks that you can use to save money on your trips to the grocery store, while still sticking to your healthy eating goals. If you have additional tips and tricks that you use, or that you know you should use, I’d love to hear them.
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