If you're in the dark about how to start eating healthy on a budget, there's good news. It's not that hard if you plan ahead and actually can be a lot of fun. I'm sure you've all seen those coupon ladies that leave the grocery store with shopping carts full of groceries (emphasis on the word carts) and only pay a few dollars, if that. Eating on a budget won't be that cheap, but it actually could lower your grocery bill if you plan right. You may even find it's not only challenging, but a fun type of challenge where you try to improve constantly---just like those couponers do.
Plan meals ahead and use the weekly ads to do it.
If you're like most people, you often shop with only a few items planned and the rest of them in your cart are simply inspiration. That can lead to tons of items you don't need for healthy meals. Lots of them have to do with snacking! Create a menu ahead of time and try to use many of the same fresh ingredients in them. For instance, if you make a cauliflower salad on Monday, you're bound to have some left over. Try using it up in soup, steamed cauliflower or other dish in your weekly planning to avoid waste. Use sale items to guide you in your planning and coupons if you have them.
Use in-season fruits and vegetables.
When you're buying fresh, don't buy asparagus in the middle of summer and sweet corn in the middle of winter. You'll spend more than you need to spend. The summer is the best time for most fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are exceptions, like asparagus and citrus fruits. You can use a seasonal food guide to help, but just watching the prices in ads will do a better job. Find a local grower or look for a roadside stand that you can frequent without driving too far. In many cases, the price is far better at these and You-Pick places.
Buy in bulk and freeze or can.
I remember growing up knowing that if all the food ran out in the grocery, my mother would still have loads of it in the freezer. Right along with buying in-season is storing those in-season treasures. You can freeze about everything and if you're up to the job, can it too. I'm a fan of freezing tomatoes, since we have a small garden with a few plants that tend to produce more than we can eat. Wash them, core them and freeze them whole, then just run warm water over the skin to remove it when you're ready to use the tomatoes. It comes off easily. Frozen vegetables need to be cooked after thawing, as freezing leaves them limp and not good to eat uncooked.
- Stretch your budget with filling bean recipes and whole grains.
- Save time and money by cooking in bulk and freezing meals for another time. Don't forget, you can freeze nuts also! It's a huge savings when you get them on sale or in bulk.
- Create savory soups from the leftovers at least once every two weeks. If you don't have enough leftover produce in the refrigerator, prepare for freezing what you have and keep it in the freezer until you do have enough. Those leftover cooked veggies can also go into soup.
- Use less expensive cuts of meat or alternate protein sources. I have vegetarian clients that continuously amaze me with some of the sources of protein they use. Those portabella grilled burgers are delicious.