A Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget All Year Long

Written by Maricris Lapaix | February 3, 2021

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You’ve decided that this is the year for making healthier choices, and now’s the time! But the big question is, how can you seamlessly make more health-conscious choices without breaking the bank? You need to restock the fridge and pantry, but where do you start? What items are crucial to buy, and where can you make shopping swaps? Essentially, you need to consider items that are organic, whole foods, and fruits and vegetables. Our ultimate guide to savings and eating healthy all year long is here to save your waistline and wallet!

How to Save Money on Groceries

The Golden Rule: Make a Grocery List

If there is one tip you should follow from this list, let it be this one. The biggest key to saving money with healthy items is a grocery list. For example, if you have no idea where to start, figure out what protein you’d like to have for a lunch meal. If chicken was your choice, you can quickly search the Internet for “healthy chicken recipes." Boom, those are the starting items on your grocery list!

Once you get better at this shopping routine, you can save time and money by writing your list in sections at the grocery store. This way, as you look at your list, you’ll flow through the aisles, only picking up the items you need. It’s a great accomplishment to stick to the list, and also be in and out of the grocery store within 15 to 20 minutes.

Shop for Multipurpose Items

One of the reasons why we break our budget buying healthy groceries is because we buy an excess of random items. You should think about your staple grocery buys and then figure out how they can be used in multiple ways. This will create less of a likelihood that items will spoil in your fridge or sit in your pantry without another use. For example, if you plan to purchase a large tub of plain Greek yogurt for your snacks, it can also be used as a healthy substitute for sour cream in your healthy Mexican rice bowl. Another example is purchasing broccoli, onions, and mushrooms as a dinner side, and also using them for breakfast omelettes.

Skip Family Sizes and Satisfy Cravings With Individual Treats

This may seem a little backwards, but it’s supposed to benefit your pockets and your health! When making an effort to eat healthier, we have to make the effort to cut down on sweet and salty treats. But, with moderation in mind, you can satisfy your cravings. This can be done by buying items in individual sizes.

Say you are craving your favorite bag of chips. Initially, you would think you should purchase the family size bag to get more bang for your buck. The issue: now you have access to more and the added temptation of larger servings. Your best bet is to purchase an individual bag. While you don’t technically save more money in terms of ratio of quantity to price, you still save in price and calories because it’s technically cheaper for the individual size and you only have access to a smaller serving that won’t throw you off your fitness goals.

Shop for Items Using Your Current Kitchen Stock

It can take a while to get your kitchen set up to healthier standards. Rather than throwing out what you currently have and being wasteful, integrate what you have in moderation to create health-conscious meals. For example, if you have leftover teriyaki sauce, use that to inspire your meal and create a healthy teriyaki chicken bowl. In this scenario, you have a sauce at home and your efforts to eat healthier will come from purchasing organic chicken and sprouted brown rice. The next time you purchase your next sauce you can replace it with a healthier selection once you use up that teriyaki sauce.

Healthy Cooking Tip: Batch cook the “base" of your meals. Save time in the kitchen by cooking large batches of your grains that may take a while to prepare like sprouted brown rice. Then, all you need to do is decide on your choice of proteins and veggies!

Don’t Shop Hungry

Think about the last time you were hungry — you wanted everything in sight! Now imagine being hungry in a grocery store where you have every option possible. It’s important to shop in the right frame of mind. This will keep you from purchasing items with empty calories for that quick satisfaction and also from spending those extra dollars. If you’re hungry before heading to the grocery store, you should eat a quick snack or meal.

Purchase Whole Fruits and Veggies

While we all want the convenience of having ready-to-eat food at our disposal, the fact of the matter is that you can get more bang for your buck when buying them whole. Not only do you save money, but you also get more! This is definitely the way you want to go if you have a family to feed. A prime example from Ralphs is purchasing a whole seedless watermelon for $3.99 versus a smaller pre-cut serving of watermelon for $5. A couple extra minutes in the kitchen will save you a couple bucks that adds up to large savings over time!

Healthy Cooking Tip: Prep your fruits and vegetables! Make eating at home more convenient by prepping them the way you like to eat them as soon as you come back from your shopping trip. Cut a whole watermelon and have it ready to eat in a large container. You can also chop your veggies to your liking to have them ready to cook when it’s meal time!

Shop Weekly and Cash in on Savings

Shopping weekly at your grocery store for deals has its perks! Aside from the savings, it keeps your meals and snacks varied. You can use weekly deals to help you decide on meals to prep and build a healthy grocery list with tons of savings. By shopping regularly, you have a better idea of the inventory in your kitchen. As a result, you have a better chance of consuming what’s in your fridge and pantry before your next trip to the store, helping you save.

Don’t Buy Everything Organic

While purchasing everything organic would be amazing, it’s not necessary. By making some swaps with your fresh produce, you can find some big savings. Sometimes you’ll find that the price difference between non-organic and organic produce can be pretty significant. Non-organic fruits and vegetables like watermelon, pineapples, and avocado are fine to purchase. Due to their thick skin, they have a layer of protection from pesticides. Plus, we don’t consume their skins. Other produce you can purchase with confidence are kiwi, mangos, onions, and corn.

Give Store Brand Items the Greenlight

Many of the ingredients and products we buy from major grocery stores, including organic items, have a variety of brands to choose from. One brand that you should consider regularly are store brands. For instance, Walmart’s store brand is Great Value. Unless you’re looking for an item that delivers a very specific flavor that you can’t imagine substituting, you can save money by swapping to store brand staple items. Another example: you can switch your brand of olive oil. At Walmart, a 51oz bottle of Great Value Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil costs $9.86 whereas a 32oz Pompeian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil will run you $8.24. These are easy grocery switches that will help you rack up your savings.

Substitute or Skip Items in Your Recipe

It’s always fun trying new recipes, but one of the things that can keep you from making that recipe is buying a bunch of random ingredients that you don't use on the daily. For example, a recipe may call for brown sugar, but you don’t want to purchase an entire bag. But when you search the pantry, you notice the one sweetener you do have is honey. At this point, you should look over the recipe and determine if you can make that ingredient swap. You’ll find that the flavors can still mesh for your own personal creation.

A great technique when researching new recipes is to find one you like and then Google a couple more examples of the dish. You might realize you have some of the items and you can also omit some ingredients. This will help you come up with unique recipes and only store items in your kitchen that you’ll put to use regularly.

Healthy Cooking Tip: Cut back on sodium by using seasonings like garlic and onion powder. Typically, your seasonings will provide plenty of flavor. If you’d still like some salt once it’s cooked, you can add it as a final seasoning topping instead of during cooking and after.

Buy Individual Frozen Meals for Emergencies

Why would I buy individual meals if they’re typically more expensive than buying all the required ingredients? This tip works when time becomes a priority over money. But I promise, you still have savings here — let me explain!

You can have every intention to cook all your meals, but the reality is that last-minute errands or meetings can pop up, putting you in a bind. For that reason, this leaves you with the option to seek out a quick meal. If you’re eyeing fast food, you’re consuming food that takes you further away from your goals and makes you feel lethargic.

If you want a healthier meal like Waba Grill or Chipotle, you can pay close to $8-$10 for your meal, on average. Depending on the frequency of your shopping trips, if you keep one to two frozen meals in your fridge, you have control over the nutritional value and you can buy an individual meal like Amy’s Light and Lean Sweet & Sour Asian Noodle Bowl from Walmart for $3.98.

Check the Frozen Aisle for Protein Steals

While we all enjoy variety in our meals, we also have some of our favorite staple choices for protein. For example, chicken might be one of your regular go-tos. Next time you’re at the store, see if your grocer has a healthy selection of your choice protein in the frozen aisle. It can save you some bucks! At Ralphs, the Smart Chicken Organic Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast costs about $9.53 for a one pound serving. If you head over to the frozen aisle and pick up Ralphs' store brand, Simple Truth Organic Thin Sliced Chicken Breast that has two pounds in a bag, you can get that for $9.99! That’s basically double the amount of protein for the same price.

Healthy Cooking Tip: Air fry your protein! If you’re always worried about under or over-cooking your chicken or salmon, this cooking method is pretty much fool-proof.

My Favorite Grocery Stores to Shop and Save At

  1. Walmart is your one-stop shop for savings and health. They carry popular health brand products and consistently offer the best savings for all your health and wellness needs. I love that you can check off your grocery list and conveniently pick up other general items. One of my favorite items to purchase is the Quest Chocolate Protein Shakes .
  2. Not only does Trader Joe's have insanely affordable prices, but there are also so many tasty treats to discover! While I’m a fan of fresh foods, they have an endless amount of healthy frozen selections and delicious pre-cooked foods. Two of my favorite buys to create a quick and health conscious meal is Trader Joe’s Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken and Trader Joe’s Frozen Peruvian Style Chimichurri Rice.
  3. Ralphs is a great general market that you can trust to carry all of your shopping needs. You don’t have to worry about going to another grocery store. One of the major ways I save at Ralphs is by shopping weekly to buy organic protein reduced in price because its “sell by" date is fast-approaching. It’s quite the steal for a healthy meal!
  4. Due to their affordable prices and health-conscious selections, I consider Sprouts a happy medium of shopping at Ralphs and Whole Foods in one stop. You can be confident that you’re saving with all of your selections. My favorite plant-based item to pick up is Gardein’s Seven Grain Crispy Tenders!
  5. If you’re looking for endless options of quality, health-conscious food, and trending health products and supplements, Whole Foods is the place to start. You can win big in savings with Amazon Prime member deals! Plus, they say time is money, so I love to conveniently shop online for home delivery. Whole Foods saves all of your previous purchases to your account, making shopping selections a breeze.

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