15 CalorieKing Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
Between rising gas prices, interest rates and paying all the monthly debts it can be hard to make ends meet when you are thinking about planning your healthy diet. Life is meant for living and the added stress of worrying about putting a healthy meal on the table shouldn’t be an added pressure. I’ve taken up the challenge of putting together the top 15 CalorieKing Tips for keeping your grocery bill low – some of which have come from our CalorieKing community.
- Stock up on nutritious items you can buy in bulk. These include beans/legumes, whole wheat pastas, lentils, brown rice and canned goods. Surprised to see canned goods on this list? Don’t discount soups or vegetables you can buy in a can – provided they are low salt. The same goes for frozen items – you can store and use them when needed. These can be a cheap way to create a meal base and adding in fresh items.
- Don’t forget the condiments and spices! By investing in a good range of these items you will have plenty to create flavor in your meal without adding fat. Plus, because your spices are dried and concentrated you can use less than you might if you were buying fresh. Experiment with a wide range of flavors – the new taste combinations and depth they can bring might make dramatic changes to an ordinary casserole.
- Seek out generic brands where you can. These items can have a much lower unit price and therefore net price than brand names. You can find generic or “store” brands in almost every food category. Next time you are shopping have a look at the labels and see how their ingredients compare with that expensive brand name.
- Use lower cost cuts of meat and use fillers when appropriate. If you have a crock pot or having a slow cooked stew or casserole, the lower cost meats will become tender and juicy. Just trim any excess fat before using. The same goes for ground meats – look at the fat content and remember to drain the fat after browning. Consider adding fillers like bread crumbs (a good use for day old bread) or oats in meatloaves and meatballs to increase your yield.
- Add in lots of fruits and veggies. We know how important fruits and veggies are to a healthy diet… but by adding more of these nutritious items into your meal plan you can also increase the size of your portions without adding to your waistline.
- Buy in season and local. When looking at your fruits and veggies list choose options that are in season locally. You won’t be paying for expensive costs involved in shipping those strawberries from the Southern Hemisphere in the middle of winter. They’ll taste better too. Take the time to research whether you have a local farmers market, co-op or specialty butcher. Not only will you be getting the freshest fruits, vegetable and meats possible but you will be helping support a local enterprise. Plus, often these sources will have bulk amounts and lower prices for items in season.
- Shop fresh at least once a week, but more often if you can. This will prevent you from buying large amounts of fresh items that might spoil in your refrigerator before you can use them. Remember that some meats, fruits and vegetables just don’t store well.
- Compare fresh costs against processed foods. Often you will find that an entire bag of potatoes might cost the same or close to one bag of potato chips. The cost of processing a product is passed on to the consumer. Think about making your own chips, and likely you’ll still have leftover potatoes for soups and stews. That stretches your options farther.
- Use all your trimmings. Scraps from your meats and vegetables can be used to make nutritious stocks that can be frozen, dropped into sauces or blended into smoothies. Remember, when juicing or creating smoothies, the peel or skin can often be one of the most nutritious parts of the produce.
- Embrace casseroles, crock pot meals and soups. All of these “one dish” meals can be created in bulk, portioned out and frozen for later use. It’s inexpensive and easy for those of us who get home and have to think about creating a meal. They also make great leftovers or brown bag lunches for the next day – killing two birds with one stone.
- Shop at the big discount warehouses such as Sam’s Club or Costco. These can be great places to stock up, allowing you to either store in bulk or cook sizable portions and freeze some for later use.
- Cut coupons, read the sale flyers in your Sunday paper, and join your store’s loyalty programs. It may sound silly but it works for many, with special prices or cash back rewards. Just be wary of certain practices – like offering a two for one deal for a product that might be more expensive than a generic product in the first place. Always look at your unit prices to make sure your coupon is really offering you the best deal.
- Take a regular inventory of what you have on hand and use it while you can still recognize it. How many times have you had to throw out an item from the freezer because it was in there so long you couldn’t tell what it was due the layers of ice? That’s a few dollars lost each week. Or, have you ended up buying an item that was already hiding at the back of the pantry already gone stale? We’ve all done it.
- Make a list and bring a calculator when you shop. This may sound like navel gazing but if you create a list and stick to it without caving in to those impulse buys you can get in and out with less damage to the wallet. A calculator (your mobile phone is likely to have that function) will help you compare unit pricing and whether those special deals really add up. You can also set a price limit for each shopping trip and use your calculator to make sure you don’t go over your planned budget.
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach. If you shop hungry or without a plan you might end up with those sodas and salty/sugary items in your cart – these are often high ticket items, not to mention a blow to your weight loss and health goals.
Hopefully, these handy CalorieKing Tips will jump start your thinking when it comes to the big shop each week. We know there are a ton of ways to save money and CalorieKing members are a creative bunch so tell us your favorite tip so we can add it to the list!