People always ask me how I’ve been able to maintain a healthy food routine on a budget. It’s easier than you might think- and it doesn’t have to be something you stress about.
Today’s post encompasses some of my tried and true tips for staying on a weekly food budget averaging $40- without sacrificing quality. Check it out below:
1. Keep pantry staples
Though expensive to accumulate, spices, oils & vinegars, and dry goods last a long time and are used in nearly every recipe. If you have these things in your pantry ahead of time, you won’t have to take it out of your weekly budget.
2. Hit up the farmer’s market
The farmer’s market is the perfect place to source dirt cheap (get it, because it’s from farms) in-season produce. I brought $40 (my weekly food budget) to the Syracuse Regional Market when I went last weekend, and walked out after spending $18 with more fresh produce than I could carry! I had more money left over for the rest of my grocery shopping than I ever have.
3. Keep it simple
There’s no need to go all crazy with fancy ingredients or complex recipes. As long as you’re committing to eating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, you’re doing just fine. Whenever I source a new recipe, I ask myself if that garnish is necessary, or if I can sub that expensive specialty cooking oil for the vegetable oil I’ve got already in my pantry.
3. Stick to a list
It’s important to make lists. I talk about this a lot, but keeping to a strict grocery list equals sticking to a budget, which is like meal prep 101. Having a plan of attack gets you in and out of the store more efficiently, leaving you more time in the day to do you
4. Don’t be afraid of a sale
Food sale? Ew! Not so, inner voice! When produce or meat gets marked down, that doesn’t mean it’s expired, just that the expiry date is drawing relatively near. If you’re planning on eating something within the next few days, it’s definitely worth it to snag and save up to 50 percent or more. It’s still perfectly good, and the money back in your pocket makes it all the more worth it.
5. Buy Frozen
I love salmon. It’s so good for you, but so expensive to buy fresh. Enter the frozen foods aisle. It’s so much cheaper to buy more expensive meats frozen, and is especially great when it comes to fruits and veggies for smoothies. I always keep a prepackaged berry blend and a bag of kale in the freezer- when I need them, they’re still good!
6. Double up
I always buy with leftovers in mind. If I’m making a recipe, I want to make sure my dollars are stretching as far as possible, so ensuring that I can eat something for lunch AND dinner (and lunch again) is key. It helps that I have the mentality that comes with regular meal prep, but just tell yourself that it’s a waste of money to make a meal that you only eat once and that says it all! Remember, the freezer is your friend.
7. Stick to water
You never think about how expensive canned and bottled drinks are until you stop buying them regularly, which is what happened to me. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but there is literally nothing better than water- and you can always jazz it up with a fruit diffuser or zero calorie sweeteners.
8. Pack your lunch
I work in downtown Syracuse, which is home to a plethora of wonderful places to stop and eat. Not everything is comfort food, either- with the growing trend of food wellness, there are places nearby like Original Grain that cater to the Buddha Bowl lifestyle. But at nearly $10 for their cheapest menu item, that’s not really doable on a budget. So I make sure to bring a packed lunch as much as possible to avoid the creeping costs of eating out.
9. Buy store brand items
Even though it’s a subtly reinforced construct that “brand name” anything is best, it’s certainly not true of food. In fact, if you look at the ingredients on the box, they’re usually literally the same, for a significant markdown. Why pay more for the same thing?
10. Don’t shop hungry
I put this one last because it’s the most important (not kidding). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit up Walmart before lunch or after a workout and walked out seriously over budget. You’d be amazed how good that bag of sweet chili Doritos looks when you’re feeling that blood sugar fluctuate!
Eating right shouldn’t break the bank. If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them- always looking to fine-tune the process!