Hopefully this article will help many of you dealing with trying to cut back this year while also eating healthy. I’m committed to doing both, because eating healthy foods does not and should not be expensive. I have actually saved money by not eating out and by following the tips I’m going to share with you today. I’ve come up with a brief list of ways you can save money while still being healthy.
- Brew your own coffee, don’t buy coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Buying a can of coffee can cost about the same as one large specialty coffee drink, but it can last weeks to a month (depending on your frequency). Plus you can relax at home while making breakfast, rather than getting in your car early and waiting in line, which is a waste of time. You still save even if you buy a more gourmet type of coffee, but I usually stick to the cheapest on-sale brand. Make sure to look at the unit price/ounces too, a $3 can is not a deal if it is only half the size of the $4 can.
- Better yet, drink tea. A box of simple black or green tea has about 100 packets and is a couple of dollars. That makes tea about as cheap as rice when you look at the unit price. Also, tea is easier to drink plain (without added sugar or cream) because it is not bitter like black coffee, saving even more money.
- Eat the same breakfast everyday.It is easier to stick to healthy habits if the meal preparation doesn’t take much thought. What easier way to do that than having the same breakfast everyday? Wake up. Coffee or tea. Oatmeal. Banana. It’s easy, and requires no thought, no rushing around seeing what you have and what to make. A box of oatmeal is a couple of dollars and has 8-10 packets, a box of cereal is $3-4 and lasts weeks.
- Getting bored? Write down 2-3 breakfast choices that are easy to make, quick and balanced. Keep them handy such as on the fridge so you can look at it and decide which one you want each morning, and get to work half-asleep. You can reap the benefits while also have more than one simple choices to vary it up. For example: day one: oatmeal, fruit, coffee. Day two: cereal, fruit, coffee. Day three: 2 egg whites, fruit, coffee. Shopping will be a breeze since you’ll know exactly which items to purchase.
- Buy in bulk and do the work yourself. People pay more for convenient foods: individual packets of oatmeal, prewashed salad mix, pre-cut fruit pieces, canned beans. Usually buying in bulk will mean bigger savings for you. Look at the unit price of the items when shopping, and you will notice a savings of say, about 50% just for buying the canister of steel cut oats than the 10 packets of oatmeal in a box, plus you’ll be getting more for your money so it will last longer. And don’t even think about buying those “express” versions of single servings in a bowl. That can be over 50% MORE expensive than buying the box of packets. Same goes for buying meat — buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself, buy lettuce heads and wash and cut it up yourself. It really won’t take up much of your time, but it sure will make a difference in your wallet.
- Eat meat less. While we’re sticking to the grocery bill, try to cut out 1 or 2 nights a week where you and your family do not eat meat. Instead, have a dinner focused on protein alternatives. Try a mexican style night with beans. You can also do pasta night or pizza night without any meat/meat alternatives. With most meats running at least $1/lb (for chicken on sale) to over $10 (for good quality steak), you could shave off a good percent of your food bill if you focus on say, the vegetables one or two nights, than the meat. This is a great time to experiment with recipes from other countries where meat is not a staple or even present in most meals. Asian countries have rice as a staple, which is extremely cheap. Remember to follow tip #3 and buy the rice in bulk, where it can run as cheap as a mere few cents per ounce (for example, a 20 lb bag of rice is less than $10.)
- Eat more salad.Ever notice most of the packaged/processed food basics we buy are carbs? Mashed potato flakes. Pasta. Bread and bread products. This means that the food is generally more expensive. I say generally because pasta is a serious go-to staple to keep for cheap dinners, especially ramen. At least a couple times per week to start, have a meal that lets veggies be the star, not carbs or protein, and by that I mean, eat a salad. Fill a bowl or plate with various vegetables (doesn’t have to be fancy — most of my salads are just lettuce and tomatoes), pick a light salad dressing, maybe sprinkle some cheese on there (I love my cheese…sadly dairy products are also pretty expensive).
- Another cheap food item many people don’t take advantage of are eggs. Don’t save eggs for breakfast. These are a great way for getting in lots of protein and vitamins. Simply hardboil them and cut them into slices and top off your salad with filling protein.
I hope you found these ideas useful and show that you can eat pretty healthy while saving money off your grocery bill. If you take away one thing from this article, it’s this: pay attention to the Unit Price of items, and watch your bill shrink.