It’s expensive eating healthy! I often hear from this family and friends alike. While I won’t disagree, I only need to remind myself that it is more expensive to deal with the diagnosis of chronic disease for the rest of my life.
While food budgets may have tightened down during the pandemic and regularly purchased items are missing from the store shelves, I thought I would share some tips I use while staying on a budget during my weekly shopping trip.
Preparing and Prepping Your Food Effectively
We are being forced to plan out our shopping trips due to the Stay at Home orders in place. Get great at this now and it will help you save money and become a savvy shopper when the quarantine ends.
Once a week, sit down and plan your meals out for the next week. Tough stuff but do it. Next, check your pantry and refrigerator for what you already have. Don’t buy what you really don’t need. Make a list of all items to purchase and stick to it. No impulse buying. Don’t shop hungry or you will be sorry.
It will always be more expensive to eat out than to cook at home. You will have more control over what goes into your food and how it is prepared. Cook in bulk so you will have leftovers to use for lunches and other recipes for the week. Invest in a good set of containers for storage of your food. Remember air and light causes food to spoil much faster.
Keep it simple. If you hate to cook use recipes with 3-5 ingredients and search for “easy” in the title.
Utilizing Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Unless you are fortunate enough to harvest vegetables right from the garden then it’s a matter of choice. All produce begins to lose nutrients after being harvested.
Fresh vegetables may have come from far off places. You can find their location on the little stickers or bands located on the item. The farther they have traveled the more nutrients they have lost. At least only purchase those from the good old USA.
Frozen or canned vegetables are typically processed shortly after harvest which could make these your better choice. Check the labels for added preservatives. Look for “no sodium added” and BPA free lining on canned vegetables.
In the end, fresh vegetables taste better but frozen or canned are good too keeping the above tips in mind. Frozen and canned could save you money and definitely keep longer than fresh.
Is it Necessary to Buy Organic?
Use the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 list published every year by the Environmental Working Group. Yes, there are certain foods that you would want to purchase organic such as apples. Apples are heavily sprayed, and their stems are porous leaching the pesticide into the meat of the apple. Get the list online and use it.
Keep in mind how much you eat a certain fruit or vegetable weekly which increases your exposure over time. Watch for sales on organic produce that you can purchase and freeze. Check for the PLU sticker on fruits and vegetables. If organic, the code will contain 5 digits and start with the number 9. On other products look for the USDA organic green and white label.
Thoughts on Buying in Bulk
This only works if you use all you purchase! Don’t waste money thinking you are getting a great deal when you throw out product. Stock up on non-perishables when they are on sale or on closeout. Buy basic ingredients that are versatile and can be utilized in several different recipes. Substitute where you can for those items you might only need for a specific recipe. The specialty grocer’s sell bulk spices allowing you to purchase in smaller amounts.
Block cheeses are cheaper than shredded. Processed boxes of rice mixes are more costly than bags of rice and seasonings you already own. Don’t be afraid to be creative and try your hand at whipping up your own version of Uncle Ben’s. Put the prep time in.
Use Coupons and Coupon Apps
Most grocery stores have a coupon saving app to download to access digital coupons. Plan your meals around the local sales when possible. Share bulk items with a friend or other family members as able.
Lastly, take an honest look at where your money is spent. Might you cut out or down on those $4 coffees to save a few bucks? I believe that there is no better investment than to invest in yourself. While you might not be able to purchase everything perfectly, doing what you can now will pay off down the road in your health and wellness.