Now that we’ve already squashed your qualms about exercise being expensive, it’s time to dive into nutrition. I know, dollar menu meals aren’t healthy, and Whole Foods didn’t get the nickname “whole paycheck” for nothing, so how are you going to convince me eating healthy can be affordable? It’s definitely possible. Yes, it takes a bit more effort than just hitting the store, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not out of the question. I spend around $30 per week at the grocery store, sometimes spending as much as $40-50 if I need to stock on certain pricey essentials, like natural peanut butter or nutritional yeast. However, here are my best tips for getting the most out of your shopping trips.
All of the food above (not pictured are 3 avocado and a bunch of 6 bananas) totaled $32. I shopped the sales (buy one get one protein pasta and sales on strawbs) and are the staples to my week of eating. I didn’t have to purchase sweet potatoes or cereal this week.
Figure Out What You Need
Yeah, I guess you could call this “making a list,” but I’m talking about what we need to figure out before we make the list. “Figure out what you need” means figure out your macros, plan out your meals, and actually put thought into what you are going to be eating for the week. This helps save you some dough by making sure you buy only what you need, and that you don’t miss anything while you’re there. If you miss something, that gives you another chance to go to the store and buy something you don’t need. Make sure you don’t only buy food for meals and don’t forget about snacks!
Peep the Weekly Ad
Every grocery store has a weekly ad. Even if you don’t receive a paper newspaper, you can still receive the weekly ads, either online or when you get to the store. I would definitely look it up online for your regular grocery store, and see what’s on sale. I tend to get quite a few essentials, such as rice, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen veggies, and other non perishables, on a buy one get one from my local grocery. As well, stores tend to rotate sales on meats and poultry, and certain brands of yogurts and other foods, so check what’s on sale to plan your week around. Another great tip: shop the season. In season foods tend to be local, not only tending to use less pesticides because it’s a shorter travel distance, but also tasting better because the food is in prime season.
Make a list.
Now, we make the list. Make a list of everything you need for the week, including snacks and ingredients for dinners. After you’ve made the list, go through the fridge and pantry and see what you already have, so you can cross that off the list (there’s nothing worse than buying something you already have when you’re on a budget). Now that you’ve made this list, stick to it! When you hit the store, don’t buy anything that isn’t on the list. This helps you stick to the budget you’ve set for yourself, as well as stopping you from buying food you might not need in the house.
Buy in Bulk
Depending on your household, and the amount of people you’re feeding, you may benefit from buying foods in bulk. Membership services such as Costco and Sam’s Club allow you to buy larger amounts of food at a savings, which can get you large quantities of meats or non perishables for not much more than you would spend at a grocery store. I used to frequent Sam’s Club solely for their chicken breast and ground turkey, which I would portion and freeze, bulk containers of egg whites, and the larger containers of coffee and cereal. The membership, to me, was worth it for the savings in these common foods for me.
Veggies and fruits are some of the best foods you can add to your shopping cart, giving your diet plenty of nutrients that you need. However, constantly buying fresh fruits and veggies can add up, especially during winter months or when food is not in season anymore. Buying frozen fruits and veggies can help with your budget, tending to be cheaper than their fresh counterparts. These foods are flash frozen at peak freshness, and staying that way until you reheat them, keeping their nutrients even better than fresh foods sometimes. However, make sure you don’t just boil the shenanigans out of the veggies, as this will break down the nutrients that were preserved when frozen. Frozen veggies are best cooked steamed lightly, or even thawed and then roasted or sautéed.
I’ll be honest with you, I tend to eat the same things every day. I’ve learned what I enjoy to eat, and what fits my macros, and it makes my life easier to eat know what I’m going to eat without really planning. However, I do vary it sometimes and like to experiment further with my foods that I typically eat in a day. Below, I’ve included a sample shopping list for me, someone who eats meat free at home now, and a sample shopping list for someone I meal prep for, who eats meat.
Here’s a sample shopping trip for me when I need all the essentials:
(things I don’t buy weekly are marked with a *)
Bakery Italian Bread *
3 Avocado (in season!)
1 bunch bananas
1 package strawberries (in season!)
2-3 sweet potatoes
2 18 count eggs
1-2 containers plain Greek yogurt
1 box Pasta *
1 container Pasta Sauce *
1 box Cereal *
1 package Beyond Beef crumbles or other meat alternative*
1 bag frozen blueberries *
1 bag frozen broccoli
Everything totaled up would be about $45, but weekly, I tend to spend around $30.
Sample Shopping Trip (meat included):
1 bunch of bananas
1 bag of apples
1 bag cheese sticks
10 Chobani blended yogurts (when on sale, only $10)
1 box pasta
1 container sauce *
1 bag dry rice *
1-2 boxes cereal (depending on BoGo sales)
1-2 pounds lean ground turkey
1-2 pounds chicken thighs (less money and slightly more fat than breasts)
2 bags frozen veggies
This usually adds up to $45-$55 depending on the sales of the week.