Living a healthy lifestyle. This sentence scares some people because they think "not only do I have to give up junk food and sweets but I also have to spend a fortune!" Whilst there are a lot of fancy health foods out there nowadays, most of the time these foods are super expensive because you are paying for the tons of costly ingredients used to make them, and their pretty packaging. People have this misconception that eating healthy means your shopping list has to be full of foods you can barely pronounce and you need at least ten different ingredients to make one meal. Trust me you aren't the only one intimidated by those recipes where you can only recognise one ingredient, and that is oats! What a lot of people forget is that eating healthy and on a budget really comes back to basics, eat wholesome, clean, natural foods. These are things such as fruit and vegetables in their natural form, lean meats, legumes and healthy fats. It can be so fun to experiment with new recipes every once in a while that require a few more unusual ingredients, but if you are on a budget it is good to recognise the difference between a splurge and necessity. Here are some of my favourite tips to eating on a budget:
Always Meal Plan
I bet you are getting sick of hearing this! I honestly cannot stress enough just how important it is to meal plan when you are trying to eat healthy and stick to a budget. Meal planning allows you to recognise what you can afford to eat weekly, and it also takes the hassle out of wondering what to cook every night. You are more likely to fall off the wagon if you don't meal plan because if you are hungry and caught off guard, I bet you the first place you will look is your refrigerator for a quick frozen meal or the nearby takeaway shop. My tip is to write down all your favourite recipes on cards and quickly calculate how much the meal will roughly cost, each week you can pick out your favourite meals and use the prices to guide your budget. Meal planning also gives you more time to do other things you wouldn't normally have time for such as getting in that 30 minute walk or catching up with family and friends. There is nothing better than sticking the slow cooker on before you leave for work and coming home to a ready made meal!
Buy Foods That Are In Season
We should be doing this all the time, it makes so much more sense to buy fruits and veggies that are in season because they are usually so much cheaper! I love to print out a list of all the fruits and veggies that are in season each month in Australia and stick it on my fridge so that I don't forget. Buying in season will also mean your meals taste better as the foods are at their peak. With things such as fruits I love to buy more when they are in season and then freeze them so I can use later on in smoothies. I love to freeze strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, peaches, mangos and similar.
Buy In Bulk
This is another handy tip, if you think about it spending money every few days on foods can really add up! It is a great idea to buy non-perishable foods in bulk such as all different kinds of flours, coconut and olive oils, teas etc. Another great tip is to buy your meat in bulk - you can portion this out and freeze until you are ready to use it. I recommend to write a list down of the foods that are recurring on your grocery list every single week and see if you can find ways to buy in bulk. It may cost you a bit more up front but it will definitely save you money in the long run!
Shop At Your Local Markets
Hop onto the internet and Google a farmer's market near you, you may be surprised at how many there are! Shopping at farmer's markets helps you to save money because you are paying direct to the grower meaning you miss the middleman and the food is usually fresher. Keep in mind that the produce is not always organic and you might have to pay a little more to buy organic if that is important to you, however it still usually works out a lot cheaper than a big chain supermarket. The best thing about going to a farmer's market is that it is a great day out and you can usually score some fresh treats while you are there!
Use Your Leftovers
I always tend to make a bit more than I need for dinner, that way I can use it the next day for lunch. This usually is a piece of protein with some good carbs and tons of veggies. For instance I love grilling salmon and will make more than I need so I can use it the next day, usually switching up what I serve it with for added variety. Eating proteins for lunch will also help to keep you fuller for longer. The moral of the story is be creative with your leftovers! Throwing food in the bin is unnecessary and just wastes money from your budget.
When at the supermarket my number one rule is to never shop when you are hungry! Seriously, the amount of times I have walked into the grocery store on an empty stomach and literally had to stop myself devouring that chocolate bar then and there. We all know shopping hungry will lead to unnecessary purchases and choosing tempting unhealthy options. My tip is to shop when you are satisfied and only go into the aisles you need to. That means don't even think about wandering into that chips and soft drink only aisle. Nope, don't even go there! Even small things such as picking the checkout line that doesn't have a chocolate or lolly display can help you shop smart.
Stop Eating Out
This is a no brainer if you are trying to eat healthy, but especially when you are sticking to a budget! Even small things like buying a coffee here or there or purchasing a sandwich for lunch a couple of times a week can make a huge difference to your budget. Instead think ahead and plan ahead, make your lunches a couple of days in advance and buy a really good travel mug that keeps its contents hot for hours so you don't have to keep purchasing hot drinks. If you have room in your budget allow yourself one purchased meal per week, however make sure it is also healthy for you.
I hope these tips have helped you, once you start planning ahead and falling into a routine you will be a budgeting pro!