You can eat healthy on a budget! You don’t have to give up eating a diet full of fresh, healthy foods to really start saving money on groceries. And you can do it without spending hours a day clipping and organizing binders full of coupons. Who has time for that?!
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Grocery shopping can be one of your biggest expenses. According to the USDA, a family of 2 can spend anywhere from $400 – $775 per month on groceries. I don’t know about you, but that number scares me!
Read through this guide for some awesome ideas on how to eat healthy on a budget (without coupons)!
Get organized to eat healthy on a budget
We’ve all been at the grocery store, hungry, with no plan or list. You end up tossing a bunch of random things into your cart, spending way too much money, then going back for forgotten items. Budget busted again!
You have to get organized before you run out to the grocery store if you really want to eat healthy on a budget:
1. Create a Master Pantry List.
Keep a list of all of the basics you want to keep in your pantry. Hang it on your fridge, in your pantry, or put it in your planner. Knowing what you already have (or don’t have) can prevent you from making unnecessary purchases or forgetting something. Have it handy when you make your grocery list.
2. You also need a Grocery Price Book.
How will you know when you’re getting a good deal if you have no idea what a good deal is? Keep track of both the regular price as well as the common sale prices. After a few weeks you will have a good Grocery Price Book with all the items you buy regularly. Now you’ll know for sure when you’re getting a good deal.
3. Sign up for your local stores rewards cards. Sign up for their email and text alerts too.
Many stores offer special sale prices, discounts, and coupons for their rewards card members. Some stores will email or text you coupons and special sale announcements, like in store specials. Some also give you other rewards like free gas that may not directly lower your grocery costs, but if you’re shopping there anyway, you might as well take advantage.
Buy in Bulk
The bulk section in the grocery store is great for saving money on groceries! For example, pantry staples like flour, rice, and dried beans can be cheaper from your store’s bulk bins. Spices are usually much cheaper too. Plus you’re not stuck buying that whole expensive jar if it’s something you don’t use often or only need a little bit for a special recipe.
Buying from the bulk bins is also better for the earth. There’s almost no packaging, therefore less waste. Think of all those boxes and bags you’ll save from a landfill. Bonus points if you bring your own reusable containers!
Look outside the grocery store
If you want to eat healthy on a budget, don’t be afraid to get out of the grocery store! You’ll find some of the best prices on fresh produce other places:
- farmers markets
- ethnic markets/grocery stores
- produce stands
- flea markets
- the pickin’ patch
You’ll find more variety, fresher/more local produce, and usually way better prices than a regular grocery store. This is where you can find seasonal produce at rock bottom prices if you want to buy in bulk to preserve.
Buy seasonally and preserve
Eating seasonally is key if you want to eat healthy on a budget. Seasonal produce is almost always less expensive, and often times local too. Especially if you shop at farmers markets or produce stands.
When it’s not in season where you live, produce is often flown in from half way around the world. That’s a lot of unnecessary energy burned and emissions released into the atmosphere to store and transport those veggies on their journey.
When you find great deals on seasonal produce, stock up! Eat some now, and preserve some for later when it’s not in season and super expensive. This will save you money on groceries in the winter when there isn’t as much fresh seasonal produce available.
Freeze blueberries for smoothies, muffins, or cereal topping. Get out your canning jars and make some pickles, applesauce, or strawberry jam.
Plant a garden
Growing some of your own food can be super cheap, even close to free. You can buy fruit and vegetable plants or a packet of seeds for a few dollars a piece. Some plants will even regrow from scraps. Free food is even better!
Even if you don’t have the space or time to start your own little farm (I wish!), maybe grow a few vegetable plants in containers on your patio. You can easily get 10-15 lbs. of tomatoes from one plant that only cost you a few dollars. A few cents if you start it from seed.
Or start a small herb garden in your kitchen. Fresh herbs can be expensive, while a whole plant is only a few dollars. Keep a few small pots in your window with the herbs you use most.
Don’t let all those delicious veggies go to waste if you end up growing more than you can eat. You can freeze, dehydrate, or can your harvest. Freeze some tomatoes for making sauce in the winter time. Use extra cucumbers to make some pickles or relish for canning.
Try Less Expensive Cuts of Meat
Meat is one of the most expensive items on your grocery list, but there are ways to save. Try some less expensive (but still delicious!) cuts.
Rather than buying boneless, skinless chicken breast, pick up a whole bird for a fraction of the cost. Or try some bone-in thighs or drumsticks. You can find these on sale for under $1.50 per pound. Sometimes even less.
You don’t have to stick to chicken if you’re on a budget. Pork is another great choice. Pork shoulder and pork chops are some very thrifty options!
While beef is generally a more expensive meat, there are cheaper options here too. Try a chuck roast or top sirloin steak.
Finally, a good tip for saving money on meat is to buy larger portions. Buy the whole pork loin and slice your own chops or roasts. You can do the same with beef. Or get together with friends or family and buy a whole cow. You get some premium cuts, along with the cheaper cuts, at a super price. Plus it’s local, and you may even be able to see where and how the cow was raised.
Shop the sale ads
Check your local store ads. Then make your grocery list around the good deals. But remember that just because something says it’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s actually a good price. This is where your Grocery Price Book comes in handy! If you find a really good deal, stock up! Base your meals for the week around what is on sale.
Take a look at the savings you can find if you shop around. A few weeks ago I needed some lemons, and here are some of the sale prices in 4 different local store ads that week:
- 2 lb bags 2/$6
- 2 lb bag for $2.49
- 2 lb bag for $1.79
- 2 lb bags 2/$3
All 4 stores had 2 lb. bags of lemons on sale for 4 different prices. It pays to compare ads when you want to eat healthy on a budget.
I always check the ads for sale prices on meat. Again, meat is one of the most expensive items on my grocery list. Keep an eye on the sales cycles. If you can’t find a good deal right now, don’t buy it. It will go on sale soon. Here’s where that grocery price book can come in handy yet again! When you find a really great deal, stock up so you have enough to last until the next big sale.
You may have to go to a few stores, but it can be worth it if you are really trying to stretch your grocery budget.
Make your grocery list and stick to it, mostly
Make a list based on great advertised prices, but be on the look out for better deals. Some stores, like farmers markets, might not have ads for you to price check. Separate your list by store, but be prepared to replace items if you do find a better deal.
While it helps to make a list and stick to it when you’re grocery shopping on a budget, it has to be flexible. If you find a great deal on strawberries, buy them and forget about another fruit on your list. Like that other not as great deal you saw on blueberries.
Often times you will find cheaper prices once you get to a store than some other store’s ad prices.
Now that you have your grocery list, go shopping!
I’ll let you in on my favorite tip for saving money on groceries one more time: You have to go shopping at more than one place if you really want to find all of the best prices.
Plan your shopping trip to start at the stores you know tend to have the lowest prices and/or best sales first. First, try a farmers market. There is a small local market I like to go to first. They often have the best prices on produce and some bulk goods. Better than most “sale” prices at the regular grocery store.
End your trip at the more expensive store, buying the last few sale items on your list or things you couldn’t find at the other stores.
Shop In-Store Sales
You may know of a certain store in your area that has great in-store (unadvertised) sales. Those are the stores I go to first.
Remember the lemon example? That day I decided to stop at a local grocery outlet first. They had 1 lb. bags of organic lemons for 50¢ each! Cheaper than the cheapest sale price I found. Plus they’re organic. Score!
Sometimes you can find produce that’s past its prime at huge discounts. Take that super cheap produce home and make some soup or freeze it for smoothies!
Towards the end of a sale cycle, stores sometimes have extra stock left from that weeks specials marked down even further. (Like an extra 30% off!) I find these deals in the meat department at my local grocery store a lot.
One grocery store has roasts on sale pretty often, buy one get one free. They’re normally $6.99/lb. Recently they had some marked down an extra 30% off on top of the BOGO deal. It brought them down to $2.45/lb if you bought two. Super cheap!
Usually these extra mark downs are for items nearing the sell by date, but don’t be afraid to stock up on some marked-down roasts or chicken breast to toss in the freezer.