Eating Healthy on a Budget
With the new year just weeks away (that's crazy to even say), most people are already talking about how this is the year that they are going to take action on taking charge of their health.
If that's you .. good for you!
I'm here to say it’s time to start putting your money where your mouth is .. literally.
Let me explain ..
.. Most people look at me like I have three heads when I ask them what their grocery budget is. Sometimes it’s because they have no clue how much they should be spending or how to calculate it.
Having a number to work with is key.
If you do not have a set budget, I recommend the following steps:
• Look at all of your bank statements from the last three months.
• Add all of your grocery expenses and out-to-eat spending for each month.
• Divide by three.
The result should be a good average of how much you are spending on food.
Your number may seem high to you. Look at all of your expenditures and your income and take into consideration how many people you are feeding.
Crown Financial Ministries suggests food should be on average 12% of your net income. This should help you come up with a figure that seems reasonable.
Remember that your number can always be adjusted, but having a place to start is essential.
Be sure to include all food and drink expenditures. That includes coffee, snacks, trips to vending machines, fast food, and even gas station snacks and drinks. You will be surprised by how quickly the dollars add up for “dollar menu” items and quick coffee beverages.
You may have just found a gold mine for your grocery budget!
Remember to do this for each member of your family, especially if it all comes out of the same account.
I think you will be surprised by your true cost of food, and you will quickly see what you can afford to spend and how much you can save.
I am often asked the question, “Why do I spend so much money at the grocery store?”
First of all, the cost of food is on the rise, especially for clean, whole foods. There are a few ways that we can work around this.
When we remove items such as boxed foods, sodas, and frozen dinners from our diets, we have just created money to buy fresh food.
If you’re trying to buy fresh food but still keep your “safety net” of packaged items, you are adding money to your bill. If you have two people in your home eating two different styles of diet, that also can add to your bill.
Trying to please everyone’s food desires can get expensive. If you have a home with different food plans, try to find a compromise. Create a menu that blends both meal plans together.
For instance, create a stir-fry. For those who want no carbohydrates, omit the rice. For those that don’t mind the carbohydrates, add the rice. That rice can also be used for leftovers for the folks who are eating carbohydrates. That keeps you from having to prepare two completely separate meals.
The same entree can be done with pasta and bread meals.
I also often hear the statement, “Eating healthy is so expensive”.
I agree that it certainly can be if you get everything from the health food store. I enjoy going to the specialty shops; however, I am fully aware of my budget, and I only get things I cannot find elsewhere.
I prefer shopping at farmers’ markets, where I get the biggest bang for my buck.
Another trick I have is to use the Dirty Dozen application on my smartphone.
The Environmental Working Group puts out a new study every year on the twelve “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables being sold in the grocery store. By “dirtiest”, they mean those most loaded with chemicals and pesticides. You may download the most current version of this list using the link in the resource section.
If any Dirty Dozen items show up on my list, I know to by those organic. If I need a fruit or vegetable that is not on the Dirty Dozen list, I am okay with purchasing the conventional (not organic) option.
I highly recommend that you go into the store or farmers’ market knowing this list. This will remove the temptation to buy everything organic.
But note: this tip is only to help you save money.
There are concerns about genetically modified ingredients in conventional fruits and vegetables that I am not covering in this blog. I encourage you to research this topic further and decide for yourself whether there are additional items that should be on your organic list.
Money Saving Tip: I get most of my herbs and produce at our farmers’ market instead of at major grocery stores. Cutting out the retail markup is a huge way for me to save cash on these items.
I'd love to know your ways of saving money and eating healthy. If you want 12 weeks of meal plans, grocery shopping lists and 175 recipes already created for you, then The Fortified Meal Plan is a perfect resource. I tell you exactly what to buy at the grocery store, so it's a perfect way to stay on budget every time!