Eating "better" can look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some it might mean scrapping the frozen dinners and replacing them with white meats and veggies. To others it might mean going for all organic, or cutting out processed sugars. Then others might be changing their diet for health reasons or to try meal plans suggested by doctors. Whatever your lifestyle or health, eating better entails a unique menu but it still holds one common fact: It's going to cost you some.
If you've been putting off changing your meal plan because of your wallet, I'm here to share that you don't have to break the bank in order to clean up your fridge. While it's true that places like Whole Foods can give a person sticker shock, eating veggies and nutritious dinners won't force you to take on a roommate to pay the bills. Below are tips on how to eat better when you're on a budget.
Plan Meals That Use What's On Sale...
This will take a little bit of research, but if you get grocery store fliers or have store coupon apps like Target's Cartwheel, you can easily scan what's on sale that week and score some big savings by planning your meals around those discounts. Whip together meal plans with the vegetables, fruits, and grains that are on sale and you can eat better without breaking the bank.
...Then Stock Up
Whether it's fruits and veggies or canned beans and boxed goods, if you see one of your favorite meal items on sale, load up on it. Clean out the aisle when it comes to that brown rice and garbanzo beans, and if your strawberries or pomegranates are half priced grab five boxes and freeze the rest for later. You obviously won't eat everything that week, but you'll have it in stock for later, at a fraction of the price.
Try To Create Dishes That Use The Same Ingredients
Do you find yourself throwing away veggies at the end of the week because you didn't have the time to eat them all? Instead of preparing five to six different meals with wildly varying ingredients and expensive one-time-needed spices, try to find recipes that share similar ingredients, ensuring you'll waste less. And bonus points if those particular ingredients are on sale or have coupons, too.
Buy Generic Brands
Feel like that Greek yogurt or box of quinoa is out of your budget? If you buy it generic it will be significantly cheaper, shaving off money from your grocery bill. Instead of going for the brand name, skim the aisle and see if its cheaper cousin is tucked somewhere on the shelf.
Eat Less Meat
Instead of spending your food budget on meat, add weight to your meals by being heavy handed with grains, beans and vegetables. Instead of eating two chicken breasts in one sitting—you can just eat one, and fill up on brown rice, pinto beans, and a salad to feel like you've had your fill.
Branch Out To Ethnic Markets
Rather than buying curry or rice at your local grocery store, visit your local Indian or Asian market to see what you can scope out there instead. There's a reason why the neighborhood markets cater to their particular communities — customers know what the price should be and refuse to get ripped off. For example, I grew up in a Slavic neighborhood and when my mom went to the Polish deli we'd get a pound of sliced ham for around two dollars. Buying eight slices of pre-packaged deli meat in a chain grocery store costs around four dollars. If you know of any ethnic markets or delis nearby, go to them for some staples instead.
Plan Meals That Stretch Your Ingredients
If you feel like some of the better ingredients cost a prettier penny, then you should create meals that will stretch into a couple days of leftovers—that way you might buy pricier ingredients, but spend less. For example, you can create healthy crock-pot meals, casseroles, stews, or curries that can stretch out for days thanks to their use of grains and liquids.
Try these tips and see if they'll help you shave down your bill. Eating well doesn't always have to cost an arm and a leg.