Time and time again I hear people say that eating healthy costs too much money. In fact, it’s often used as one of the top excuses people don’t change their eating habits – they can’t afford healthy food.
I’m here to say this is absolutely not true. You can spend as much or as little money as you want. In my experience, after putting in place different habits and strategies, my grocery bill went down. Yes, of course, there are ingredients more expensive than others but when you shop and cook smart your grocery bill doesn’t need to break the bank.
Also, I think it’s important to mention that I don’t use coupons. Not that I don’t want to – trust me, I like to save money just as much as the next person. However, I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to clip coupons. Tried it once, or twice, and failed miserably. Honestly, I don’t even check the weekend circulars. Yes, I should probably do that too, but I don’t. I shop once a week at my local grocery store and once every other month at my local warehouse store. Therefore, the money-saving tips I’m giving don’t include coupon cutting or going to 5 different stores to get the best deals. Of course, those things might save you a few more dollars but time equals money and personally I’d rather spend my time doing other things.
With that said, here are 8 habits I do to help me eat healthy without spending a ton of money or using coupons.
#1. Create a grocery budget and stick to it.
Do you have a weekly grocery budget? Can you say with 95% accuracy how much money you spend on groceries a week? Or would you just throw a number out there? The reason I ask is because many people will say eating healthier cost too much but then don’t know how much they spend each week on groceries or the actual cost of healthier items. It’s okay if you fall into this category, I was there too. But like I often say “You don’t know what you don’t know”. When you take time to create a budget, and stick to it ,then it’s easier to understand where your money is getting spent. **On a side note it’s kind of interesting to see the correlation between saving money and losing weight. They both follow the same basic principles. To save money you need to spend less. To lose weight you need to eat less. If you don’t know how much you eat everyday then most likely you’re eating too much. If you don’t pay attention to the different ways you spend money then most likely you’re spending too much. At the end of the day it all comes down to planning, discipline, and choices. Something to think about.
The first step to saving money on groceries is figuring out your grocery budget. Look at your bank statement and highlight the amount spent on groceries last month. Yes, I know this is painful to do. Also, look at take-out (we will talk more about this next). How much did you spend? If you’re good with that number then that’s what you’ll work with. If you’re shocked then decide on a grocery budget you’ll be comfortable with.
This budget is what you’ll use moving forward. All of your planning and shopping will revolve around that budget. Basically, what I’m saying is if you only want to spend $100 a week then that’s what you’ll spend. Keep in mind you need to be realistic. While not impossible, it’ll be a challenge to feed a family of 4 a well-balanced healthy meal plan on $50 a week.
My grocery budget is $125 – $150 a week for a family of 3 (my 2 girls and I). Not sure if this is considered high or low but over the years I find this is the amount that works for us. I also spend an extra $200 – $250 every two months at my local warehouse store. Keep in mind this budget includes cleaning supplies and toiletries too.
I also subscribe to Hello Fresh, which is $69 dollars a week. I’m not going to talk about Hello Fresh but you can see my review here. It works for some but not others. If you want to try it out here’s $40 off your first box.
Between Hello Fresh and my weekly grocery budget (that includes cleaning supplies and toiletries) I spend about $800 a month. That’s my maximum limit. Some months, when all my planning and cooking is on point, I can get it down to $500 or $600.
I feel comfortable saying that a family of 4-5 can plan to spend $600 a month on a healthy meal plan. Of course, the other habits I talk about below will help keep you at that budget.
Create a grocery budget you’re comfortable with. The first month or so might be a trial period but after a few months you’ll learn the best ways to eat healthy within your budget. The best thing about a budget is you control how the money is spent instead of letting money control you.
Okay now that your budget is put together let’s talk about some strategies to make the dollars stretch.
#2. Stop Going Out to Eat and Ordering Take-out
This is HUGE! When we think about our weekly grocery budget it’s likely we’re leaving out trips to Starbucks (guilty) or take-out pizza, salad from Panera, weekend wine or beer, or dinner with friends. Well I’m here to tell you those extras add up quick. I’m not implying that you shouldn’t go out with friends or treat yourself to a yummy coffee drink buuuuttttt if you’re using money as an excuse for skipping the kale then you need to take a hard look at these expenses. It’s quite possible you can free up $100+ just by controlling the extras.
As you work towards healthier eating habits you’ll need to cook and eat more at home anyway. Cooking homemade meals allows you to control ingredients and portions. This makes it easier to eat healthy and lose weight. Take-out, and dining at restaurants, will become something you do on special occasions instead of every day or week. This alone will save money that can be used for your grocery budget or saved for something special.
I often tell people if you want to see what’s important in your life then follow the money trail. Take a look at the things you spend money on and this will show what’s a priority in your life. #truth
#3. Only shop once a week.
This is one of my personal money-saving grocery shopping tips. I used to head to the grocery store every day, or every time, I was missing an ingredient. I would run in, grab what I needed along with a few other things and before I knew it I spent an extra $25 or more and had no clue what I bought. It’s too easy for me to lose track of my grocery budget when I head to the grocery store every time I forget something. Obviously, there are some ingredients I need to get but if I can leave it out, or substitute for something else, I will.
This habit took a little bit to master but once it became routine it definitely made a difference in keeping my grocery budget in check. The key is to plan out my meals, have a detailed grocery list, and keep my refrigerator and pantry cleaned and organized.
The more I stay out of the stores the less money I spend!
#4. Meal Planning
If you want to save money on your grocery bill, eat healthy, and lose weight, then meal planning is a must!
Back in the day I would head to the grocery store with no meal plan. All I knew was that I needed food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What would happen?
I would come home with boxes of frozen pizzas, frozen and boxed macaroni and cheese, tons of lunchmeat, bread, a couple lean cuisines, cereal, and many more boxes of processed crap. I would purchase bananas and vegetables only to throw them out by Saturday. I spent a fortune on junk and essentially garbage. My meal planning was pathetic.
Taking the time to FINALLY create a real meal plan was the first step in getting my life organized and healthy food on the table. I started by using basic recipes (tacos, clam sauce, grilled chicken, etc). At the time I was focused on creating the habit not necessarily learning new recipes – that would come later on.
A meal plan is your food road map for the week. Of course, you can meal plan any way you like but if you’re trying to lose weight and save money then I suggest planning out every meal and snack. This way you know exactly what to buy (saving money part) and exactly what to eat (losing weight part).
This brings me to the grocery list. There’s no point in having a meal plan filled with healthy meals if you don’t create a grocery list to go with it. A detailed grocery list is where you’ll find the savings. The key is to walk into the grocery store and only purchase the food you need. No “I think I need this” or “Maybe this is good”. Nope, you only purchase the food needed to prepare your meal plan. That’s it. Having a detailed grocery list will save you LOTS of moolah! I should also point out that once your grocery list is done you can look to see if anything on the list is on sale. This could save you money too.
I’m not going to lie, putting together a meal plan and grocery list can take time and can get overwhelming. I used to spend hours sitting down with cookbooks, post-it notes to mark recipes, and a pen and paper. It took forever and was not sustainable. Then Pinterest came around and that made life easier….kind of.
However, I didn’t master meal planning until I started using Plan to Eat. Up until then I would have meal planning spurts. I’d go strong for a couple weeks, get burnt out for a month, and then start back up again. It was hard for me to find balance and consistency. Plan to Eat changed that.
Plan to Eat is a meal planning websites that allows you to save recipes, drag them into a menu calendar, print out grocery lists, keep track of freezer meals, organize your pantry, and much more.
Planning out meals, along with generating a grocery list, takes about 15 minutes using Plan to Eat. I can either print out the grocery list or view it from my phone. I can easily plan a few weeks at a time and save menus for future use. Plan to Eat was a game changer for me.
Of course Plan to Eat is not a requirement to meal planning. I encourage you to find and use a system that works for you. However, if planning out your meal plan and writing a grocery list stresses you out then it might be worth your time to check out Plan to Eat. You can use my link to get a free 30-day trial.
#5. Food Prep
A meal plan is useless if you don’t prepare the meals. How many times did you write up a delicious wonderful meal plan, buy all the groceries, and then throw most out by Friday? Me too! Unfortunately, more times than I care to admit.
My solution – once a week meal prep.
There’s no shortage of meal prep advice on this blog. I’ll share links below to my best meal prep posts. But I want to mention a couple key points about meal prep as it pertains to healthy eating and saving money.
First, you’re more likely to eat healthy during the week when meals are prepared ahead of time and/or ingredients are recipe ready. Think about it. Who wants to trim raw chicken after work during the week? Yuck! Not me. But you can take the time to prep chicken breasts on Sunday so Tuesday all you need to do is throw it in a pan to make a quick stir-fry. The same goes with washing fruits and vegetables or portioning out snacks. Do it when you have the time (weekends) so you can enjoy it when you don’t (weekdays).
Second, it significantly reduces food waste. Preparing food ahead of time gets your meals and snacks ready to eat. This means you’re more likely to eat and not waste it. It also gives you the opportunity to freeze extra ingredients or meals you might not eat right away.
Using weekly food prep along side a meal plan is a powerful way to eat healthier, lose weight, and save money.
Meal prep resources:
These are just a few of the habits and strategies I use to eat healthy food without it costing me a fortune. Honestly, I feel like I can say so much more about this topic so look for more posts on this. I strongly feel money shouldn’t be an issue when choosing healthier food options so I look forward to talking more about this topic.
I want to hear from you. How do you eat a healthier diet within a budget? Do you have any questions?