A salad at a fast food chain probably costs five dollars while a cheeseburger is only a dollar. Maybe that’s why it seems as though America would rather see its citizens devour fatty junk food than invest in their health. Eating healthy is difficult when you’re living paycheck to paycheck as most Americans are, and it doesn’t help that most grocery stores and restaurants offer unhealthy meals at cheaper prices.
However, eating healthy when you’re on a tight budget is possible, no matter how difficult it may seem. The trick is knowing where and how to spend your money at the store. Today, we’re talking about the five big tips that will stretch your food budget without breaking your healthy eating habits.
A big part of savvy grocery shopping is learning when to buy certain items. For instance, picking up a big package of juicy strawberries in the summer won’t cost more than a couple of dollars, but doing the same thing in mid-February may cost more than five bucks. Do yourself a favor and learn to shop seasonally so that you’re always buying products when they’re at their most reasonable prices.
Before you plan your weekly grocery shopping list, check out this link from the United States Department of Agriculture. It’ll let you know what kinds of produce are in season so that you can plan your meals around the cheapest, freshest ingredients.
Stores want you to think that off-brand items are low in quality or somehow different from their brand name competitors, but in reality, they’re probably not. Research has shown that you can save up to 30 percent on your grocery bill by purchasing generic products instead of the more popular brand name options.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that more expensive meats, cheeses, produce, and snacks are better quality. Although that may be the case sometimes, it’s usually just a ploy to make you think you’re buying a better product.
If you think that eating healthy means only shopping at Whole Foods, then there’s no way you’ll keep your grocery store spending low. Sure, their foods are all eco-friendly, but they're certainly not budget-friendly.
Instead, try sticking to Trader Joe’s, which sources 80 percent of its food directly from the producer and therefore cuts out the expensive middleman. Aldi is another great option because it avoids brand names and keeps its selection small but fresh. Both of these stores offer similar options to those presented at Whole Foods, but you’ll walk away with a much more reasonable receipt.
Eating leftovers may sound boring, but if you play your cards right, it doesn’t have to be. Plan your meals in advance and find ways to stretch them over multiple days. Healthy pasta dishes, slow cooker meals and casseroles are especially easy options. The longer you try to make your groceries last, the less often you’ll spend money restocking your pantry. Plus, leftovers are typically healthier than any restaurant or fast food option you could find, so you’ll save money and stick to your diet goals.
» Read More: 59 Healthy Slow Cooker Meals Under 400 Calories
When you spot a great deal on ground turkey or find chicken breasts at an amazing price, don’t just buy one package. Instead, stock up and freeze the ones you can’t use immediately. It’ll be nice to have the meat on hand, and you’ll save money in the long run by not just buying meat when it's convenient. Just remember to freeze and thaw your food safely, according to the USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service.
Many people will tell you that eating fast food is simply more affordable than cooking your own healthy meals at home. That’s not true, especially if you know how to game the grocery stores. Steer clear of over-priced health foods, shop seasonally at the right stores, and make your food last.
Before you know it, you’ll be in the habit of eating healthy at home without racking up a huge credit card bill.
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