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Has anyone ever told you “it’s too expensive to eat well, you can’t find healthy food to eat on a budget?”
I’m here to tell you something big: that’s a myth.
It is possible – if not easy – to find (and create!) cheap healthy food to eat on a budget.
When I first moved out on my own, my food budget was $27 every two weeks. This did not include money for milk and eggs purchased from a farmer, but did include everything else. My grocery budget has increased over the past two years, but I did learn a significant amount about how to save money on healthy food.
I am often asked where I buy my food. When preparing this post, I realized while I used to do basically all of my shopping online with immediate needs purchased at Whole Foods or the local farmer’s market, I’m now spending most of my budget at Aldi. Here are a few tips for a buying groceries on a budget:
When shopping at a store, shop with cash.
Once cash is gone, it’s gone. I find it much easier to shop for groceries using cash because it limits my spending and ensures that I get what I absolutely need and will get the most benefit from purchasing. For instance, shopping with cash means I will think twice about stocking up on a year’s supply of peanut butter if I’m about to run out of eggs and fruit.
When shopping online, have a budget.
Whether you choose to pre-load a Visa gift card as your “cash” or you are very well self-controlled when you purchase online, having a budget will help keep impulse spending under control.
Shop with a calculator
so you don’t go over budget. What’s the point of a budget if you won’t keep track?
Eat mostly produce.
I have found that the more produce I eat, the more energy I have and the better I feel, so I aim for 8 servings of vegetables a day and 1-3 servings of fruit (to help limit my sugar intake). I then add in my proteins for the day, along with plenty of healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, salmon, and the occasional handful of cashews). Most of my non-perishables are purchased organic online, but especially during the summer I like to visit the local farmer’s market. I love supporting local businesses so occasionally I’ll order straight from a farmer (but only if it’s within my budget!).
Stock up on favorites.
This may go without saying, but you save money when you buy things you know you love and will use. Experiment occasionally, but do so in small quantities until you know you really love a certain product. For instance, I got a great deal on a 5 gallon tub of organic coconut oil. I know that I will use that 5 gallon tub of coconut oil, so that was a good purchase. But if I had purchased a 5 gallon tub of pickles because it was a great deal…well, I hate pickles so it wouldn’t be great deal.
Limit processed purchases.
The ingredients I buy are basics that I use to make my food staples (coconut flour/oil, olive oil, raw honey, etc). I drink water, coffee, tea, kombucha, bone broth, and the occasional mug of hot chocolate or tea. I make most of my basics, including kombucha and bone broth.
I don’t eat my fridge and pantry empty every week, so I don’t purchase all of these things every week. This is one huge way I can make my budget work for me. I generally use about a quart of coconut oil every other week or so. I could spend $17 on a quart every other week, but that would cut into a lot of the purchases. I made my big 5 gallon purchase when the price was $11 a quart on sale. Now I don’t have to buy coconut oil for a long time, and have that savings freed up to spend on other things, like eggs (I eat about 2 dozen a week, on average).
Order online and order in bulk.
I signed up for a local organic produce delivery service. This significantly limits my personal impulse spending, and also saves on shipping costs.
I used to be quite the coupon queen, but because I now buy mostly online or at discount stores like Aldi, (and make just about everything from scratch), I don’t use a lot of coupons anymore. I do, however, take advantage of sales and specials, so I am easily able to save money on healthy food.
One of my favorite places to shop online is Thrive Market. Thrive Market is an online store best described as “Whole Foods with Aldi prices and Amazon convenience.” For every membership sold, Thrive Market donates a membership to a family in need. It’s a great program and it’s how I save hundreds of dollars every year, without sacrificing quality of food! Click here to get 20% off your first three orders!
Brandless (aka “that $3 store) has all sorts of organic/non-GMO/vegan options as well. You can read my full review to see the highlights of the healthiest and most cost-effective purchases available. For every order, a meal is donated to Feeding America, which is a network of food pantries across the country. If you choose the $36 annual membership (for the free shipping, of course!), an extra meal is donated per order. I love supporting companies who support great causes – especially when I’m still getting high-quality, healthy foods at a steal.
Ready for even more tips, including a sample grocery list, menu plan, and cooking guide? Download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!
How do you save money on healthy food?