Last week I was at the grocery store. I saw the pickles and thought, “Yum! I want a pickle!” So I picked up the jars and started reading the back. Because I’m physically incapable of buying food without reading the label. It’s almost like a nervous tick at this point. One jar of pickles was $2.99 and contained Yellow 5. REALLY??? We have to add artificial coloring to our pickles? I was ticked! So then I picked up the organic pickles, which were $4.99 a jar. They had no artificial colors or strange ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I stood there for several minutes contemplating the pickle jars as though they held all the secrets of life and finally replaced the $2.99 jar of pickles on the shelf and added the $4.99 jar of pickles to my cart. It was painful and it made me angry. I paid an extra $2 to get pickles without artificial coloring.
And this doesn’t just happen with pickles. Oh no. I pay more for nut butters (apparently making it without sugar costs more??), cereal for my kids, granola bars, etc. I’m sure you guys feel my pain. Eating healthy is so expensive! It’s much cheaper to buy a Hungry Man dinner than to buy a pound of organic apples. It’s lame, that’s what it is. L-A-M-E! Sorry for my expressive language. Hopefully you kept the kids away for that.
Because I still want to have enough money to send my kids to college on day, we’ve had to figure out ways to eat this way and save money.
1. Get Yourself a Heifer!
Rather than buy meat a pound at a time, we buy our meat from a local rancher in massive amounts. For the last two years we’ve bought half a cow from a ranch here in Colorado. This year, we’re buying a pig. The meat is raised humanely, fed the right way and butchered the way we want it. Not only do we pay a lot less than in stores, but it’s so convenient to always have meat in the freezer. We named our cow Heffe and our pig Porky. Isn’t that sweet?
2. Spend a Day at Costco
No, I don’t just mean because you’ll fill up on samples and won’t need dinner, though that’s certainly a good thought… It really is often cheaper to buy in bulk. We buy our almond butter, almond flour, sausages, cheese and a good deal of our produce at Costco. If you’re as geeky as I am, go to Costco with a pad of paper and write the prices per pound of everything. Then compare it to grocery store prices. Be careful because while buying in bulk is usually cheaper, it’s not always cheaper. For example, we buy Adams Natural Peanut Butter at our regular grocery store. I compared the price to the cost of the Costco brand of natural peanut butter and found the Adams was cheaper.
3. Check out Amazon Subscribe and Save
Amazon Subscribe and Save allows you to buy things on a monthly basis from Amazon with a discount and free shipping. I buy jerky sticks, Epic bars, protein powder and cocoa powder from Amazon for cheaper than I find them elsewhere. Again, be sure to compare prices as I’m sometimes shocked by the prices on Amazon (and not in a good way). By the way, you can also get toilet paper cheaper this way. Not that this makes you healthier, but lack of chafing from bad toilet paper makes me a generally happier person.
4. Swap Out Meats in Recipes
I often change up meat in a recipe because the prices differ so much. Four times now I’ve been intrigued by a recipe I have for lamb stew. I always plan to cook it, get to the grocery store, stare at the price of lamb for about 5 minutes and then convince myself to swap out the lamb for beef. I’ve saved money and still have the great flavors. Use pork chops instead of steak, and chicken instead of beef.
5. Stock Up On Sale Items
A few weeks ago, organic beef broth was on sale. I skipped adding the individual cans to my cart and just picked up the entire cardboard flat. The bagger asked me if I was making dinner for a large group. Nope. Anytime something goes on sale, I stock up.
6. Check the Manager’s Specials
In the corner of the meat section of the grocery store there’s always a small section of meat about to reach the sell-by date. Because they have to sale the meat quickly, it’s always discounted. When we first got married and I was putting my husband through college while making $8 an hour, this was the only way we bought meat. The meat is still fine, but has to be sold quickly. In fact, it was much better than the Bar S hot dogs we bought for weekends. Yep. Life got that gross.
7. Know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15
We all know buying organic produce is better but holy cow (see cow above) is it expensive!!!! Rather than buy everything organic, know what you need to buy organic and what doesn’t make much difference. Check out the guide on Fullyraw.com (click here for link). The dirty dozen refers to produce that is most likely to be affected by pesticides, meaning you should splurge for the organic. The clean 15 are the fruits and veggies that aren’t really affected by pesticides and therefore don’t need to be purchased organic.
8. Make Double, Freeze Half
We used to eat out every Saturday. Eating out is crazy expensive if you’re not willing to hit up the drive through at McDonald’s (which I’m not). Now I cook nightly to save us money and keep us healthy, but some nights, I’d rather sit on the couch watching reruns of Dick Van Dyke than making a dinner (I really am that exciting of a peron). This usually happens on the weekend when I’m totally burned out from school and driving the kids all over the county. On nights like this, rather than go out, I pull a dinner out of the freezer and pretend someone else cooked it for me.
9. Egg Your House
Eggs are fairly cheap and are AMAZINGLY nutritious. And I just don’t mean the white. That theory is lame. Think about an egg yolk. It’s the basic building blocks to create a chicken. Therefore, it’s FULL of nutrients and healthy fat. If you’ve been eating egg whites all your life, knock that crap off and eat a yolk. Plus eggs are versatile. Boil them and eat them whole for a snack or chopped up on a salad. Have scrambled eggs for breakfast or make a frittata (click here for recipe) or a stir fry (click here for recipe). Plus, when I forget to thaw meat for dinner, eggs are a great substitute.
10. Meal Plan
Meal planning is seriously one of my favorite things to do. I spread out all my cookbooks and ads, turn on my favorite TV show and come up with dinner plans for the week. If I go to the grocery store armed with a plan and a thorough list, I’m less likely to impulse buy.
A Few Things to Remember
So now I’m going to give it to you straightt. Yes, these 10 tips are great ways to save money and eat healthy, but it does cost more to eat healthy. That’s just fact. Meat, fresh produce and canned food without artificial crap costs a lot more than Totinos frozen pizza. But even if your grocery bill goes up, there are important money-saving facts to remember about eating healthy.
- You’re going to save money on medical bills. We rarely get sick since we’ve improved our eating. None of us have been to the doctor for illness in at least a year (I had to go because I slammed my finger in the car because apparently healthy food doesn’t change my inability do to things like walk without running into walls, etc). And no matter how good your insurance is, those co-pays and antibiotics add up. And that’s just basic illness. A healthy lifestyle can save you from expensive, miserable medical conditions later in life.
- Eating healthy usually cuts down on, if not completely eliminates your eating-out budget. Even “cheap” restaurants cost way more than making food on your own.
- All good things require sacrifice. You may have to cut back in other areas to eat healthy.
Good luck on your healthy eating goals. This really can be done at any budget. If you have any tips of how to eat healthy on a budget, please share them in the comments.
Extremely well-written! I like all of your tips.