One of the most common barriers to healthy eating is the stigma that health foods are expensive. Specialty stores like Whole Foods aren’t helping this argument, since they do tend to be more expensive than other grocery stores– but there are other options out there that can give you healthy options on a budget! Aldi, for example, is one discount store that used to not be seen as “healthy” but the store has really come around recently and you will find organic, fresh produce and meat– along with many gluten free, GMO free, dye free food in the aisles at 40-50% of the cost.
No matter where you shop, buying in bulk, planning meals and snacks, and knowing your best local options will keep your wallet happy.
Here’s how to keep the tab low, kitchen stocked and body healthy:
1. Keep it simple.
I’m a huge fan of the five-ingredient meal, give or take a few items. Recipes don’t have to be followed to a T—and aren’t even totally necessary to make a healthy meal. Most of my home-cooked meals simply consist of one or two vegetables, one protein, and a healthy, gluten free starch of sorts (brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes usually– or sometimes just double veggies~!) . Having a few staple fruits and vegetables on hand at all times means you have what you need to make a meal– I ALWAYS keep frozen chopped peppers/onions, spinach and fresh zucchini and sweet potatoes in the house because this ensures I can always toss something together quickly!
2. Shop fruits and vegetables seasonally.
Look for items on sale, as they’re likely what the store has in abundance and needs to get rid of before they spoil. There are many items available inexpensively all year, such as bananas, carrots, cucumbers and salad greens, while others are more expensive when they’re not in season. Go to your local farmers market as well. There are a few things I like to have year round, such as spaghetti squash and zucchini, which can be harder to find in the spring and summer, but we use them so much!
3. Frozen fruits and vegetables.
Frozen items can be just as healthy as their fresh counterparts. This is a great way to include fruits and vegetables out of their peak season because they’re harvested in-season and frozen when they’re ripe. Check ingredient lists and only buy pure fruits/vegetables, avoiding sugar or other unnecessary additives.
4. Buy in bulk.
Some grocery stores have buy-in-bulk bins for dry grains, legumes, and nuts, which is a great way to shop for everything in one place. Costco is also one of my favorite places for meat especially if you have extra space in your freezer. But if that’s not the case, you can always buy from Amazon. More bulk options on Amazon are things like oils, snack bars, and even spices and extracts.
5. Plan at least three meals each week.
Knowing what you plan to cook ahead of time is not only a great way to keep costs down, but also a good way to prevent mid-week trips to the store (which usually results in buying more than what’s needed). Depending on the week’s schedule, try to plan at least three meals that will leave leftovers for lunches, dinner and/or a snack.
6. Know the staples that work for you.
Here are some items (in no particular order) that make it into my basket every week because they’re versatile in meals and snacks, healthy, and/or relatively inexpensive.
- Greens (spinach, kale, mixed salad greens, collards) on sale or frozen
- Frozen Chicken Breast
- Lean Ground Turkey
- gluten Free Oats
- Frozen vegetables and fruit (favorites are tri-color peppers/onions), spinach, broccoli, frozen berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Plain Green Yogurt
- Unsweetened Almond/Cashew Milk
- Grapes (like to keep in freezer for frozen grapes!)
- Crushed/Diced/Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Other staples I always have in my house: cinnamon, coffee, vanilla extract, nut butter, raw almonds, Shakeology, PB2 (powdered peanut butter I buy in bulk when I find a good sale on it!), Cilantro, Oregano, Garlic, Chili Powder, Liquid Aminos, Coconut Oil
Another great place to find healthier options cheaper is THRIVE MARKET.
Obviously my grocery list changes as I plan my meals but I keep our budget for a family of 4 to about $150/week. This is about half of what it used to be when I went in free without any planning involved and our health has not been sacrificed. I also have to buy gluten free bread etc. for my daughter so if I didn’t have to buy those, it would be less–since they do raise the prices of gluten free items considerably.
I hope this is helpful!