Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget
If money is tight or you’re just worried about your money expenses, then finding healthy food can be quite a challenge. Most people turn to instant or junk foods because they seem very cheap and can help stretch the worth of a dollar. You can always see typical jokes about people (especially students) who live off instant noodles for weeks on end until they get their next allowance or paycheck. We don’t need to remind you about the ill effects of junk food as a staple food. Just remember that medical bills are more costly in the long run. The savings you get from eating cheap, unhealthy food can’t even cover them.
If you’re thinking about saving money in terms of food expenses, there are some options that will help you make the most out of your money without sacrificing your health. Regarding budgeting, here are three P’s that you should remember.
Making a meal plan for the whole week should be one of your first steps. This way, you’ll know what to buy beforehand, how much these meals will cost you, and if you can modify it to save money. For example, if you’re planning to make a turkey sandwich for your lunch or dinner, try to see if you can substitute it for something cheaper. Instead of turkey meat you could probably swap it out for ham or chicken instead. Planning prevents buying on impulse and wasting money on expensive food products when cheaper alternatives are available.
When you’re planning your meals, you should also consider the food supplies you have on hand. A lot of food products go to waste and end up in the rubbish bin because they became spoiled. Don’t let these go to waste just because you forgot they existed. Checking your pantry or refrigerator might turn up some valuable find. You could use these food products, resulting in a shorter grocery list for the weekly meals. Speaking of grocery lists, make sure that you carry one whenever you buy food. Of course, grocery lists won’t be useful if you don’t stick to them. In short: make a list of what you need and buy only from the list.
As you’re buying food supplies, be vigilant when it comes to prices. Always consider store brands – they offer the same product quality as their expensive, branded counterparts at a cheaper price. Some store brand produce even offer discounts when you buy them in family packs or in bulks. It’s also a good idea to check the unit prices displayed on shelves and compare them with similar products so that you’ll be able to find the best value for your money.
Before you head out to the grocery, it’s also important that you go there when you’re not hungry and you have a lot of time on your hands. If you’re rushed, you won’t have time to think about a purchase or compare them. You end up buying expensive products when there were cheaper alternatives nearby. Also, if you go to a grocery when you’re hungry, everything looks good and impulse buying becomes very easy. Once you go home though, you’ll find out that some of the foodstuffs you bought were useless and just unnecessary expenses.
If you plan your meals well, some food types like casseroles or soups can be cooked in big batches and reheated over the week. This will help you save on ingredients and also on time. If you store them in individual containers, you can even bring them to work. Considering meals that can be pre-cooked and reheated saves time for you. You can cook these on days when you’re not busy, and simply reheat them when you have no time.
It’s even possible to reuse your leftovers. If it’s still edible, you can change the dish’s appearance and taste. For example, you can reuse pork and add it to soups or stews. You won’t have to buy new ingredients and it will also prolong the lifespan of a certain dish. Again, just make sure that it’s edible before you reuse it.
Eating at restaurants is one of the major expenses when it comes to food. You pay a lot for food which tastes good, but sometimes the servings are just not to your liking. You end up hungry and go for a snack a few hours after. It doesn’t also mean that you should just avoid restaurants like the plague. It’s still possible to eat at restaurants and save money – you just have to do it smartly.
An example strategy is to eat there at lunch time. It’s not that crowded, but you’ll still get the same service and quality of food. Some restaurants even have specials on lunch time since there are few patrons at that time. A small tip is to order service water when you dine out. Beverages are way overpriced in restaurants and can crank the bill way up high.
One thing to consider when you’re planning to buy food supplies is the store or market. Some groceries are cheaper than others, but the food quality is still the same or even better. A good example of this is the farmer’s market. This is where the local farmers gather and sell their produce. You know that their produce is fresh and you can personally inspect its quality. It’s also very cheap compared to groceries or supermarkets because they don’t have to cover packaging or marketing costs. Since it’s an informal market, you can even haggle if you want.
Use Small Discounts
Coupons might seem to provide only small discounts for your purchases. Once you add them up though, they can save you big amounts of money. It’s important to think long term when you’re planning or using coupons already. A lot of people consider it as a waste of time and energy to look for coupons in newspapers, magazines, or even in the internet. Don’t let their small discounts fool you; it’ll pay off in the long run.
Another way to avail of small discounts is through membership cards. A lot of stores including supermarkets and groceries have this. To avail of this promotion, you just sign a membership form and submit it (for free). The perks include gaining points every time you use it or earn a percentage of the points from your total purchase. For this method though, you don’t need to spend a lot of time and effort. Just fill out the application form and present your card each time you make a purchase.
Sacrificing your health is never an option for you to save money on food expenses. As our guide to eating healthy on a budget showed you, there are a lot of options for you to try out. It takes a bit of practice, trial and error to get things right. Once you do get the basic skills down, it’ll be second nature to you and staying healthy will be easy.