REAL, FRUGAL, HEALTHY, and FUN!!!
Let’s continue on in this effort to keep as much money in your pocket as possible as we talk about how to grocery shop on a budget for a healthy diet. Breaking the bank is not the way to go. I’m a military spouse/stay at home mom, so I’m always trying to cut my grocery bill while buying foods I know are good for my family and I. It’s definitely doable, and I find it continues to get easier with practice.
I’ve done the hardcore coupon thing. The majority of food coupons are for packaged foods, filled with preservatives, sugar, and a serious lack of nutritional value. This doesn’t mean you can’t save any money with coupons. You can usually find coupons for paper products, such as facial tissue, toilet paper and paper towels. You can also find coupons for cleaning and personal hygiene products. Saving in any area helps with the overall bill. As you search through your ads looking for these non-food items, pay attention. Even though the majority of the food coupons are for “junk,” I have found coupons for nuts, dried fruit, canned fruit, Greek yogurt, and other things worthy of a place in my grocery cart.
Shop The Deals
I have a Costco membership, which I love. I find it more affordable to buy my dried fruit, maple syrup, honey, oatmeal and chicken or other meat there. They also rotate through some really neat healthy snacks. This is kind of fun because it gives you the chance to try something new whenever you go. I’ve had some gourmet apple chips, bars, probiotic drinks, all fruit popsicles, and even seaweed chips. Buying your food in bulk from a store like this can save you a lot of money. I’ve had better luck saving money at Costco than at any health food store, or even Walmart. Being a military family, we also score some great deals at our local commisary. They’re incorporating more and more health foods. They also have great prices on meat.
Prep Your Own Food
You can pay a lot for convenience. There are some really neat pre-made delicious and nutritious foods out there. They can satisfy a craving, and help you stay on track when you’re busy or on-the-go. You will pay quite a bit more than it would actually cost you to make these same types of foods. You have to decide what matters to you more, the convenience, or the lower price. If you said convenience, then grab the pre-made food and be on your way. If you said lower price, buy the basics and spend a little time cooking, baking, and putting things together each week. Think of it as an exciting opportunity to create delicious foods that will satisfy your tastebuds and nourish your body. For me, I find that getting a lot of basic foods that are versatile and can be made into so many different things, and just a few convenience foods works best.
We’re all different. We weren’t produced in a production line. What works for me may not work for you. I’m going to share some really basic things I might buy while shopping on a budget. Chicken quarters, eggs, and tuna are great, inexpensive sources of protein. Don’t be afraid of the saturated fat in chicken quarters and whole eggs. Saturated fat is essential for good health. Your heart, bones, liver, lungs, and brain will all benefit. You’re metabolism will benefit from the proper release of insulin, and you’ll even be supporting your immune system. Tuna is a great source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and can protect against heart disease and stroke, but because of the Mercury content, you need to watch your intake. There is a chart provided by the Natural Resource Defense Council with recommended allowances based on body weight at http://www.nrdc/health/effects/Mercury/tuna.asp which can be very helpful.
I buy oatmeal in bulk. It’s a great source of insoluble fiber, helps lower bad cholesterol, and supports healthy weight. I use it in my blueberry-smothered protein and oat pancakes almost every morning. I also keep a large bag of rice on hand. It’s not a huge source of nutrition, but it fits in a frugal budget, and it does provide fast energy and stable blood-sugar. Be mindful that they are finding most rice contains arsenic. Oats and rice are good carbs, but if you can afford it, get colorful and flavorful with bananas, broccoli, apples, pears, leafy veggies, carrots, sweet potatoes, dried fruit, berries and squash. The produce section is where you will find carbs with the most nutritional bang. A good mix of fruit and veggies can provide so many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Consider this part of the store the powerhouse for your whole body. It’s also very versatile. You can, steam, roast, stir-fry, and bake your produce. In fact, there’s so much more you can do with it! It doesn’t have to be expensive. Watch for what is on sale. You can also check in the frozen food section. I buy a lot of my berries frozen because a lot of times it works out cheaper.
Im allergic to peanut butter, but I always buy it for my family. Peanut butter, along with all the nut butters out there are loaded with healthy fats and serve as sources of protein and carbs, as well. Peanut butter is definitely the least expensive. If you’re like me, and cannot eat peanut butter, sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds) is fairly inexpensive, too. Check the prices on whole nuts, seeds, and nut flours. You might be able to find coupons or catch a sale. Olive oil and coconut oil are a little pricier than your basic vegetable oils, but they’re so much better for you, they’re worth the splurge. Healthy fats benefit every cell in your body! They are also very useful in turning all those proteins and carbs into really yummy food.
Make It Flavorful
At this point, you have what you need. You’re grocery cart has your macro-nutrients (protein, carbs, fats) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) covered. If you’ve got a few dollars left in your pocket, you can splurge on healthy convenience treats, seasonings, maple syrup or honey, etc. Think of how you want to prepare your chicken. Maybe you want some rosemary or thyme. Maybe you want to bake with some of that produce and nuts. You might want to grab some vanilla, cinnamon, or dark chocolate chips. If you want to roast your veggies or bake them into chips, you might want some sea salt, garlic, or other spices.
Prep Your Own Food
There’s so much you can do if you just buy the basics. It will save you so much money. You probably don’t have a lot of time everyday for food prep. Most people don’t, but time is money. I used to work full-time and had to meal prep a lot on the weekends. Now, I’m a stay at home mom which makes it easier, but we still meal prep due to our busy schedule. Designate time each week to do all your food prep. Seperate things into tupperwares. It’ll make it easier to grab-and-go throughout the week. As with anything else, it gets easier as you keep on doing it.