Being on maternity leave, I need to watch my spending closely, including my grocery bill. I no longer splurge on expensive teas and gourmet jams but aside from that, I’m still able to shop healthy, after all, you are as healthy as what you put in your shopping trolley. Truth is, whether you’re a full-time student strapped for cash or a pensioner looking to save money, grocery shopping on a budget is a great skill to have. Unfortunately, while junk foods are notorious for being cheap, healthy food often gets a bad rap when it comes to affordability.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s definitely possible to shop healthy and make healthy and delicious food on a budget even if you run short of time. Of course, this will take a bit of forward planning but if follow these steps, you will set yourself up for success.
1. Plan your meals
Planning your meals is a key part of staying on budget. Spend an hour a week planning your meals for the following week and then write up a shopping list. Ensure you check your kitchen to see what foods you currently have – don’t let a bag of rice or piece of garlic go to waste. Try to incorporate ingredients you already have in your pantry in your meal plan. Only buy what you will definitely use, so you won’t end up throwing things away.
2. Steer clear of snacks
Once you’re in the grocery store, make sure you stick to your shopping list! Don’t let yourself give in to the temptation of biscuits and potato chips (pro tip: don’t go shopping on an empty stomach). Not only that snacks tend to be quite expensive for what they are, and even the so called ‘healthy snacks’ tend to be borderline junk food. Snacking can easily become an unhealthy habit and is an easy way to spend a lot of money without getting any solid nutrition.
3. Eat at home
Cooking at home is far cheaper than eating out (take it from someone who knows!). You can typically feed a family of four at home for the same price as you can get a takeout meal for one or two. If cooking is a hassle for you, make a double batch every time you cook or make your meals in bulk on a Sunday and freeze them so that you can simply pop portions in the microwave for dinner throughout the week. Eating at home also comes with the benefit of knowing exactly what’s in your meal.
4. Buy generic brands
I’m a big fan of buying home brand or generic brands for pantry staples. They offer a cheaper alternative to national brands and are often just as good. All food manufacturers are required to uphold strict food safety standards which means that you can be assured that the products you buy are of good quality, regardless of the brand.
5. Buy on sale
This one is thanks to a colleague of mine who always check the weekly catalogues to see what’s on specials, before she does her groceries. Stock up on your favourite products when they go on sale, especially things that has extended shelf life, like sugar, detergent, canned food tend to last for months or years. Canned beans, for example, can last for months (even years) and can be used as the base of a HelloFresh dinner.
6. Buy wholesome, less processed foods
Less processed foods tend to be cheaper, healthier and more filling than processed foods – for instance, rolled oats are cheaper than instant oats, and dried beans are cheaper than canned ones. Wholesome foods like whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables are a great way to eat healthy without breaking the bank.
7. Buy frozen fruit and veggies
Given that fresh fruit and vegetables only really stay in season for a few months each year, buying fresh can end up being pretty costly. And just like how you can buy fresh to freeze, you can also buy frozen, instead of fresh. Frozen produce gives you taste and nutrition without the hefty price tag – and you can store them for months at a time without worrying about them wilting or going mouldy! Frozen fruit works great in baking, smoothies and as toppings for cakes or muesli, while frozen veggies are an easy way to liven up soups and stir-fries.
Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle. And if you’re up for it, growing your own fruit and veg at home can help you save money, too!
Hope this post inspires you to start shopping healthily, no matter how tight your budget is. If you have any other tips, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.