We’ve all been there – the post-work grocery store rush. The music is loud, the atmosphere is crowded, the lights are blaring. The list that you spent hours meticulously crafting is buried somewhere in your iPhone notes, and you have to crane your neck to survey the towering shelves. A few minutes pass, and perhaps you toss your favorite packaged, processed snacks into your cart and call it a day. Anything to get out of there, right?
Grocery shopping can be challenging, especially when on a tight budget. And shopping to sustain a healthy diet with a budget in mind? Forget about it. Especially during a pandemic, routine trips to the grocery store have become increasingly anxiety-inducing for many folks. Sometimes it feels like moving our bodies and exercising are the easiest aspects of a healthy lifestyle – eating (seems easy enough, right?) can be the hard part. But, don’t worry! We’re here to help.
Shopping healthy is becoming more and more accessible for the average shopper. It may not feel like bargain deals and healthy recipes are at your fingertips, but with small lifestyle and habit changes, it’s easy to shop healthy without breaking the bank. And just wait until you hear that you can be rewarded for purchasing food that’s good for you and the environment. Keep reading to learn 10 tricks for shopping healthy on a budget.
Try Meal Planning!
All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper, and a bit of creative thinking to master the art of meal planning. Instead of asking yourself, “What’s for dinner?” at 4:30 PM each night, meal planning asks the question on Saturday or Sunday, allowing you to buy in advance and even cook in advance.
Meal planning is primarily broken down into three simple steps: creating the menu for the week, shopping for the right ingredients, and, lastly, preparing those ingredients. With such a variety of options, we think the hardest part about meal planning is creating your week’s menu, so the tedious, exhausting process of shopping is instantly made easier.
You may be wondering, “That’s great and all – but how can meal planning allow me to stretch my budget?” We’re glad you asked. Meal planning saves you money by turning you into a grocery store king or queen – no more perusing unnecessary ingredients or over-indulging in fast food or takeout. Your body, mind, and wallet will thank you. So will the environment – with meal planning, you’re both purchasing and wasting less food with one lifestyle choice.
Stick to Seasonal
By nature, shopping for produce that’s in season automatically saves you money. Blueberries in January come at a high cost – one dangerous to your wallet and to the environment. That’s because growing blueberries in January or pineapples in September may require more greenhouses, pesticides, herbicides, and transportation that’ll drive up the costs.
Shopping seasonally is better for the environment, your wallet, and your nutrition, since in-season produce is typically richer in the nutrients that we crave. There’s even a word for it – ritucharya, which holds deep significance in the ancient Indian practice of ayurveda. Ritucharya, also known as eating-in-season, helps us live according to the changes of the seasons and is known for boosting immunity.
Get Creative with Leftovers
With an open mind and whatever’s already in your kitchen, it’s simple to transform your leftovers into delicious, fresh meals. Opting for creative leftovers allows you to purchase less ingredients, waste less food, and continue eating good, whole foods for longer amounts of time. Trying meal planning, while embracing leftovers, is an ideal combination and choice for the healthy, frugal shopper.
There are many ways to incorporate leftovers into your family’s meals. Whether it’s dedicating a leftover night, turning dinner into tomorrow’s lunch, or getting inventive with pasta bakes, burritos, stuffings, or soups, the possibilities are endless. So, don’t throw it away just yet!
Produce can certainly be expensive, but, luckily, you don’t have to compromise those important nutrients to save. According to the USDA, the freezing process does not destroy, but actually preserves nutrients in our produce. And, when frozen fruits and veggies go on sale, they can cost up to 75% less than fresh produce.
Going frozen is also more convenient; many come chopped and ready to incorporate into your next lunch or dinner. In addition, they have a much longer shelf life – allowing you to enjoy them longer, and worry less about when they’ll go stale.
Pro tip: Think outside of the box, especially with frozen fruit. Use them in smoothies, to top off your cereal, or use in place of ice cubes to both cool and flavor your drink!
Organize your Kitchen
You don’t need to be the next Martha Stewart to keep an organized, optimized, and beautiful kitchen, but you may be surprised at how an efficient pantry system can actually help you save money and the environment. So, for your next “Sunday Reset,” dedicate a few hours to starting a new organization system for your own kitchen.
Reusable containers, running grocery lists, and scrap bins are just a few ways that you can maintain an organized pantry and fridge. Knowing exactly what’s in your kitchen can allow you to – once again – cut back on unnecessary food waste and optimize your trips to the grocery store.
Shop Versatile Ingredients
It certainly takes a lot of trial-and-error to find recipes that we love, but choosing the right ingredients that are versatile and accessible is one way to get there. Versatile ingredients like the ones listed below can allow us to make more meals with fewer ingredients, thus stretching our buck even more.
We love avocados! Packed with potassium, fiber, and folate, avocados are a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Enjoy them on your toast, in your soup, or stir them into brownies for a mouthwatering dessert.
Greek yogurt, a great source of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, and potassium, is another essentially versatile ingredient. Swap it with sour cream in your go-to recipes, use it to marinate your meat, or top your baked goods like muffins and pancakes.
Chickpeas are another superfood that we adore – and they’re inexpensive and totally accessible. These legumes are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and research suggests that they can even aid in digestion and reduce your risk of disease. Plus, there are a myriad of ways to use them: in curries, salads, lettuce wraps, soups, and even in a healthier, edible cookie dough alternative.
Chicken broth, rich in iron and essential fatty acids and protein, is an ultimate pantry staple. Use it for a variety of soups, stews, and meat dishes to really get a bang for your buck!
Do you Have a Green Thumb?
Get in the garden and be amazed at how it helps you save! The numbers certainly don’t lie – the NGA states that a 600-square-foot garden, the American average on which households spend $70 per year, could churn out 300 pounds of fresh produce worth about $600 annually.
Buying vegetables and fruits that you enjoy, that can be easily preserved, and that are usually in the higher price range at your supermarket, can positively impact your life, the environment, and your wallet!
Pack a Nutritious Lunch
We know how tempting it is to hit the drive-thru on your lunch break, but try packing your lunches for just a week! When incorporated with meal planning, this simple lifestyle change will allow you to save money and continue making healthy food choices.
And the possibilities are endless. Fall in love with packing your own lunch by investing in functional bento boxes, packing fun salads in mason jars, or reusing colorful and eye-catching containers for sauces or condiments.
Use Unit Pricing
Sure, the grocery store is overwhelming enough and it’s tempting to take one glance at a price tag and make a quick decision. But, taking an extra minute to compare unit prices can save you tons.
It’s easy to overlook, but unit pricing is so important because it’s a simple way to understand the price you’re paying per serving, or per item. Unit pricing gives you a consistent tool by which to determine which package of the same good is cheaper – so take that second glance because it’s worth it!
Shop with Makeena
All it takes is a simple trip to your smartphone’s application store and you’re all set! Makeena exists to help you shop healthy and find ingredients, products, and items that are good for you and the environment – and you’ll receive cash back bonuses and rewards for doing so.
If you’re worried about sustaining your healthy lifestyle while sticking to a budget, Makeena is here for you. Not only will you save (and earn!) money while you shop, but you’ll become a part of something bigger: the movement toward building better businesses and empowering shoppers to steer their shopping carts in the direction of well-being and environmental conservation – one grocery store trip at a time.