The holiday season has come and gone again. Likely your waistline is feeling a bit full while your wallet is feeling a bit empty. We resolve in the new year to eat healthy and exercise more because, well, we know that is what we should do.
New Years Day and you find yourself at the grocery store ready to tackle your new-found drive to eat healthier. And then you are stopped dead in your tracks once you hit the produce section and see asparagus is $4.99/lb. Or maybe you check out with your cart filled like a rainbow and realized you have spent twice what you thought you would. The reason I hear most often for why people do not eat healthy is it is expensive. Now, I suspect the reason is deeper than this for the bad eating habits but I’ll play along and see your expensive excuse and raise you 3 tips to make eating healthy affordable.
“The reason I hear most often for why people do not eat healthy is: it is expensive.”
Tip 1: Plan ahead AND stay flexible.
I usually spend about 10-20 minutes planning out my meals for the week. I think about my schedule and nights where I am going to feel like cooking and nights where I will not (pro-tip: you will never feel like cooking after a happy hour drink).
I plan to cook about 3 times a week and I make the most of that time. Hey, if you are going to dirty the kitchen, might as well make it worth your while. While preparing Sunday’s dinner, I prepare my lunches for the week – often I just double what I am making for Sunday’s dinner and that is lunch for the majority of the week. Ok, I have gotten a bit off track and that tip is really about saving time.
So to save money, I coordinate my meals around similar proteins as I find meat is often cheaper in bulk. Example: I will get 3lbs of ground beef when it is on sale and make chili and tacos that week. If you are making chili, you should also make tacos. Think about it, they are basically the same base with similar spices
If I get to the store and they are out of ground beef, no problem as likely chicken is on sale and I can still make chili and tacos. So have a plan but also stay flexible so you can utilize what is on sale at the store and save on meat which is likely the most expensive part of your cart. Fail to plan and plan to fail.
Tip 2: Shop Seasonally.
Yes, asparagus is 4.99 in January because it’s season is the Spring. Download a guide on when certain fruits and vegetables are in season and use this to build your meal plan. If you are like me, you do not love winter vegetables. Try as I might I cannot fall in love with winter squashes. But I find I do not mind them in soups and stews so I add kale to my chili and butternut squash to my chicken soup.
I allow myself to buy a couple of items that might be more expensive because they are out of season and then push myself to find cheaper in-season items and get creative. Most vegetables are better roasted and with spices. And don’t forget about frozen vegetables which are frozen at their peak. Frozen vegetables are great for stirfrys and stews and really cost-effective. Google how to make frozen vegetables taste good and the world will open up to you!
Tip 3: Only buy what you will use.
Your first couple of trips to the grocery store to find healthier food should be done with a great amount of restraint. Again, planning ahead will save you here. Do not get too aspirational and let yourself only buy what you need for the next 3 days.
Yes, you may have to shop more often while you get the hang of this but it will save you in food waste. You will be surprised at how far some vegetables can stretch so it is best to start with less and adjust up versus buying too much and having to throw out spoiled food.
My hope is these tips will inspire you to take on the challenge of healthy eating without fear of draining your bank account — take it slow making small changes over time. I believe you will find a real payoff here.
Add your suggestions in the comment box, and let me know your own tips and suggestions.
For some budget-friendly recipes check out this post: