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Eating healthy on a budget, it’s tough right?
You’ve got everyone’s different likes and dislikes to consider. You have to decide where convenience should be prioritized over cost. You have to adjust your ideals to your reality.
Maybe your kids will only eat one specific brand of one specific food (welcome to my world). Maybe you can’t afford to buy organic currently and that feels like failure.
No matter your situation, there’s a lot to consider. Add in staying on budget and it can quickly feel very overwhelming.
What if I told you my family of four is eating healthy on a budget of less than $100 per week?
Actually, most weeks we spend about $40-60 and about one week a month we do a bigger shop where we usually spend $80-100.
And it’s not crap food, y’all. I promise.
It’s solidly based on meals that consist of proteins, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and a healthy carb source.
Admittedly, in this season of our lives we are rarely purchasing organic. That’s something I had to really come to terms with.
Is that my favorite scenario? Of course not.
In my fantasy dream world we raise all of our own saintly food while the children frolic about barefoot in a flowered meadow.
Someday. Maybe. Hopefully.
Well at least a usable yard and a garden, folks. And barefoot happy kids.
We won’t be reaching that goal nearly as fast if we constantly break our budget with food purchases.
And so, for years, I have been mastering the art of controlling our food expenses.
There are some obvious ways we stick to eating healthy on a budget:
- We don’t eat out
- okay, yes, on the rare occasion we break this rule, but when you have celiac, corn allergy, and lactose intolerance all in one family it makes this much less likely to occur
- We drink water, coffee, tea, and milk
- buying other drinks is just a waste of money, you really only need water. And coffee. You definitely need coffee.
- We pack snacks and drinks to leave the house
- we have a PackIt lunchbox cooler, and it is my hero, no ice packs to deal with, no wet food from condensation, and it stays cold for ages. If you live in the South you know how hard it is to keep cold food safe in the heat.
- we also have 2 YumBox bento boxes for our girls, which actually have been shockingly helpful at home as well with my picky eater.
- all of us have our own LifeFactory water bottles to take on the go. My husband and I both also have Ozark Trail insulated cups for tea and coffee.
- We limit junk food purchases
- notice I said limit, not eliminate, when we are too stringent with money or diet we seem to be more likely to “binge”
- We buy store brands
- they’re almost always identical in quality, occasionally better!
- We make shopping lists before heading to the store
- this seems like such a no-brainer, but anytime I forget my list we end up spending more because we always have to go back to the store for some critical item that’s been forgotten.
Perhaps less common ways we are eating healthy on a budget include:
- Primarily shop sales
- every time we go to the store we make sure to grab a sales flyer on the way out. I go home and circle anything that’s a good price that we might need for our next shop and then add it to our shopping list.
- if any of our staples are on sale, we stock up (i.e. if blocks of cheese are $0.72 we are buying our weight in ’em)- which brings me to my next point
- We are very aware of our staples
- sure, you aren’t supposed to eat the same exact things everyday. And we don’t necessarily. But there is a lot of repetition and predictability in our lives. We know that we like to keep 3 gallons of milk in the refrigerator. Several blocks of cheese. Dozens of eggs. So when we shop, we replenish a bit of these things as needed so it’s never a mad dash to the store that ends up costing a fortune simply because we ran out of milk.
- Bonus tip: keep a similar inventory and replenishment system of things like toilet paper and paper towels
- We choose less expensive proteins most of the time
- think peanut butter, eggs, and chicken thighs bought when they’re on sale for $0.69/lb (again we stock up and freeze meat bought at good prices)
- When our kids are equally happy with bananas versus an out of season fruit we focus more on the bananas
- we generally keep bananas and apples stocked and fill in with one or two other special fruits for the week like grapes, melon, or strawberries depending on price.
- Unless we see an awesome price on fresh produce that we know we will eat within a day or two, we buy frozen vegetables
- Why? Because they don’t spoil before we eat them. Nothing stinks quite as much as tossing beautiful produce that went bad before it was eaten.
- We stock up on meat when it’s a good price
- I simply split the packs of things like chicken legs into one or two family meal sized portions in freezer bags which helps me be much less lazy when it comes to actually cooking it
- Bonus tip: throw some marinade in there, dinner basically makes itself when it’s time to cook it!
- We buy family packs of ground beef when they’re on sale
- Bonus tip: brown it when you get home and portion into freezer bags for quick meals like spaghetti or cheeseburger casserole- or prep burger patties ahead of time and freeze.
- We are picky about where we shop
- we’ve found that shopping primarily at Lidl or Aldi saves us money
- I keep a price list in my head and I’m aware of product sizes
- sometimes a good price isn’t actually a good price at all
- I don’t shop for a specific meal
- I keep a good stock of 1) proteins 2) vegetables 3) healthy carbs and then plan what to make with what was priced or that we already have at home
- Bonus tip: make it a habit to “shop” at home before venturing to the store for something, you might be surprised how many meals can be made with the ingredients you already have!
- Bonus tip: if a recipe needs a fancy ingredient that I don’t keep stocked I generally skip the recipe or sub the ingredient.
- I think about how to stretch meals a bit
- Things like brown rice, potatoes, soup (or potatoes and soup), salad, or even lentils can make a meal much more filling for very little money
- I plan to have leftovers
- I cook a little more food to purposely have enough for lunch or dinner tomorrow, the less often I have to cook the more likely we won’t have an “emergency there’s nothing to eat in the house” moment
- We are mostly a no snacks house
- It sounded kind of cruel to me when I first heard about it, but then I read The Obesity Code and decided to give it a try- the kids adjusted quickly and they are actually eating better overall. As a bonus I feel like I’m giving them a better chance at escaping some of the health problems they’re susceptible to such as my PCOS.
- We make breakfast for dinner a weekly or twice a week thing
- plain old eggs and bacon or omelets or sometimes we jazz it up a little with quiche or frittata
- I’ve also found only shopping one store saves us more money in the long run
- there are less impulse purchases even if prices aren’t the best available.
- I’ve learned to know our weaknesses
- our biggest budget killers tend to be “having nothing quick” to eat at home or, like I said previously, running out of a “staple” item like milk or coffee or trash bags. So if I stay ahead of those “emergencies” we do much better
- We shop with cash
- if you don’t have the money available, you can’t spend it!
- I make a general menu plan for a week or two at a time
- I tailor our menus to use up what we already have and simply add in odds and ends we are missing
There you have it folks, these are the main ways our family of four is eating healthy on a budget!
I would love to hear how you make eating healthy on a budget work for your family. Do you have any tips and tricks of your own?