Cheap ways to eat on a budget –
People often use cost as an excuse for not eating healthy. The reality is that the high cost of healthy food can be a real obstacle for those struggling just to survive. However, there are are some cheap ways to make healthy eating easier.
1. Buy In-Season – Most fruit and vegetables only grow during a certain time of the year. During the time when these food items are out-of-season, they are either shipped long distances or chemically ripened after being prematurely picked and stored. Both these processes drive-up the cost of produce. Foods are likely to be on sale when they are in-season because it is cheaper to get them to store shelves. A good plan is to look at the store circular before getting to the store so you know of all the good sales and can make the most of the savings.
2. Purchase Frozen Fruit and Vegetables – I’ve talked many times about frozen vegetables being a cheap healthy option. Frozen vegetables are picked in season and immediately frozen while they are still fresh and nutrient rich. Frozen vegetables are usually much more economical than fresh vegetables. So don’t overlook the frozen section when trying to eat healthier. Just make sure to check the ingredients on the package. There are many frozen vegetables that are sold with cheese sauces or other added ingredients. The healthiest option is to buy pure vegetables and then add your own sauces or mix-ins if desired.
3. Freeze Leftover Fresh Vegetables – It happens to the best of us. You have a recipe that calls for a small amount of an ingredient, leaving lots of leftovers. Or you buy more produce than you can eat before it goes bad. The solution is to freeze your vegetables at home to preserve them! First clean the vegetables and remove all stems. The next step it to blanch them. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the vegetables. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for one to two minutes. Remove the vegetables from the water and add to ice water until they are completely cooled. Then drain the vegetables, and put them in freezer safe containers for storage. You can also purchase cheap vegetables on sale in bulk and preserve them this way.
4. Stay Away from Gimmicks – A major grocer recently caused an uproar by selling Asparagus Water for $6. The product was quickly taken off the shelves. Yet, there are tons of products currently on the shelves that are almost as ridiculous. Manufacturers have discovered that they can get well-meaning consumers to buy almost anything if it is advertised as health promoting. People are buying bean pasta, lentil chips, artisan granolas and other high-end items that don’t really offer more nutrients over the lower-end options. Just a few weeks ago my husband bought me a decaf iced coffee from a trendy coffee shop. When he came back with the drinks, he told me my coffee cost $8. Really?? $8 for a black iced coffee. The establishment claimed the high price was because of their special decaffeination process. However, I’ve gone to other high-end, organic coffee establishments in the past, and never paid anything close to that. This place had a line out the door despite being anything but cheap. Don’t fall for the hype!
5. Go to a Farmer’s Market. – Farmer’s markets essentially cut out the middle-man. When you purchase food items in store, both the manufacturer and the store must profit from your sale. At a Farmer’s Market, you are paying the grower directly which can make costs a little bit lower. Lenie of frugalforeveryone.ca has made an additional great point about shopping at Farmer’s Markets in her blog. The really cheap deals at farmer’s markets are in the last hour to half hour. Items are often very reduced during that time to get rid of unsold items. Vendors can also be more responsive to bargaining at that time, so if you want to try asking for a special deal, the very end of the farmer’s market is when to do it.
6. Cook from Scratch – Ok, I get it. Buying items that are pre-made can be a timesaver. Generations ago, women had the entire day to spend cooking for their families. Now, most people are over-scheduled and under-rested. However, if you substitute only one or two items a week with homemade recipes, you can save significant money over the course of a year. For instance, I see many healthier versions of pasta sauces on the shelf for $5 to $9. You can quickly make your own cheap version of those sauces with tomatoes, onions, garlic spices for half the price. Cook it on the weekend, throw it in a recycled bottle and enjoy during the hectic week. Again, you don’t have to do this with everything. Pick a couple of items and watch the savings add up.
7. Purchase from an Online Discount Store – We have more options than ever before for finding cheap healthy food. Amazon.com now sells packaged higher-end goods online that can at times be priced better than retail. In the U.S., Thrive Market is a discount retailer catering to those who buy healthier food in bulk. They do have a $59 yearly fee, but frequent shoppers can really save over the course of a year. I’m personally loving a new option called Grub Market. This retailer offers free delivery with a $39 purchase of discount healthier packaged goods, fruit, vegetables, and meat. Some of their items are cheaper than others, but given that they don’t have a yearly fee, you can really save if you are lucky enough to live in one of the cities they service. Additionally, the will deliver discounted non-perishable goods anywhere in The U.S. for a flat $7 delivery fee. I will say that I just found this market, so I haven’t personally tried it yet. But I’m hopeful that it will grow and appear in more and more cities as time passes.
So those are my suggestions for cheap healthy eating. Have a favorite cheap healthy eating tip. Share it in the comments below!