One of the biggest pushbacks I get from people when I try to help them live a healthier lifestyle is the cost of food. It's true, healthy food does cost more. It's unfortunate that people need to be so worried about food prices, but they are. I see it all the time. They cringe at a $150 grocery bill but don't think twice when their cell phone company charges them that same amount.
Eating healthy doesn't have to cause your grocery bill to skyrocket. You can still make healthy eating work in the favor of your budget. Here are a few things you can do that can help keep your grocery bills low while still allowing you to make better food choices.
Shop the Sales
I shop at health food stores often. And I see sales on items all the time. For example, my local co-op grocer has weekly produce deals. I stock up on the fresh vegetables and fruits that are on sale. They also sometimes have weekend flash sales on meat, bulk items, and other healthy items that I purchase often. Plus, they have a biweekly sales ad that features seasonal deals. Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Spouts, and even your generic big box grocery stores have similar deals. So go onto their sites and search what's on sale before you make your grocery list or plan your meals for the week. A lot of these stores now have phone apps that you can download to your smartphone so you can save even more money at the register.
Plan Out Your Meals - And Stick to the Plan
Meal planning is one way to save money on your grocery bill. Take inventory of the items you already have in your kitchen. Then plan to use some of those items in meals. Determine what else you'll need. Consult sales ads to help with this step. Write down your grocery list and stick to it. Don't let those impulse items near the registers tempt you. And definitely don't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.
Check Out the Managers Special Deals
Sometimes when perishable items are close to their expiration date, they will end up in the "manager's special" area. If you've ever shopped at Natural Grocers then you've most likely seen the deals case for meat. There's also a clearance section in their fridge and a clearance rack for packaged goods. Only purchase these items if you can use them. The meat is usually frozen so it could be a good idea to stock up and save it for a different week of meal plans. Whole Foods has a clearance rack as well. To be honest, I've never found anything I need on it. But that doesn't mean you won't. Kroger and Albertsons put flashy orange sales stickers on meat and refrigerator items that are close to expiration. So keep an eye out for those.
Purchase Frozen Vegetables and Fruits
I like to purchase organic produce as much as possible. I was planning to make broccoli beef one week since I had found stir fry beef nearly half off. But to my shock, the organic broccoli was $3.99/lb. I measured the smallest bunch I could find, which still would put it at around a total of $8. No way! So I went to the frozen aisle to look for frozen broccoli. Again to my surprise, I found bags of organic frozen florets on sale 2/$6. So I got more broccoli for less money. Winning! I also found frozen mixed berries on sale for the same deal. I tend to stock up on frozen veggies when they're on sale so I can save them for future meals.
Know the Clean Fifteen
Not every produce item I purchase is organic. I definitely make sure to get the dirty dozen produce items organic. But the Environmental Working Group also puts out a list of produce items that don't need to be purchased organically. Conventional produce is almost always less expensive than its organic counterpart. So if you can get away with conventional, do it. The current list of Clean Fifteen foods is avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, sweet peas (frozen), onions, papaya (as long as they are certified non-GMO), eggplant, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melon. Another rule I sometimes follow is if the skin is thick and I don't eat it (think: citrus fruits), then it can be okay to skip the organic version. Some people argue that the pesticides and other chemicals can get inside into the juices. And yeah, that may be true. But I don't usually sweat it.
Stick to Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Steak is delicious, there's no denying that. But it's also very pricy. Especially if you're getting the prime cuts that are marbled with delicious fat. I save those for very special occasions. Instead, I opt for ground meat. It's usually cheaper. Stew meat tends to be cheaper as well. And I see ground and stew meat on sale a lot. Chicken breast is another more expensive cut of poultry. I've started opting for wings and drumsticks instead. Plus, they're so much more fun to eat than dried out chicken breast. And they have so much more flavor as well.
The bottom line is that making healthier food choices doesn't have to break the bank. You can eat healthy and save money. Just follow these tips and you'll be good to go.