One of the main reasons a lot of people don’t eat healthier is because they believe that healthy food is too expensive. There are few of us who don’t have to stick to a tight budget every month, yet it’s entirely possible to feed your family healthier meals without breaking the bank. In my household we eat a pretty healthy diet, despite the fact that I spend about 1/3 of what the national average is on groceries. According to the USDA, as of January 2014, the cost of food at home for a family of four just in one week is over $240!
I’m not an extreme couponer, nor do I grow my own food, and I don’t particularly like making everything from scratch. Instead, I’ve found simple ways to cut back on the grocery budget while still providing my family with healthy meals. One of my favorite places to shop is the 99 Cent Only Store. Although they now have many items that are over 99 cents, they can still be a good bargain. However, I stick solely to items that are a dollar or less. This makes it much easier to stick to my budget. This store even has pet supplies, makeup, toiletries and more.
Though the 99 Cent Only Store is only in the Western part of the US, there are still many discount stores you can shop at. You can get much, if not all of, your food at these places for much less than you’d spend at a typical grocery store. A few discount and dollar stores are:
– Dollar General
– Family Dollar
– Dollar Tree (everything here is a dollar or less!)
When I talk to people about these discount stores they tend to wrinkle their nose thinking that somehow the quality is lower than what they get at the supermarket. While there are a lot of off-brands, you’d be surprised at how many name brand items these stores have. On my last shopping trip I picked up name brand products like Colgate toothpaste, Betty Crocker potatoes, Rosarita beans, Breyer’s low fat ice cream, and Chicken Of The Sea tuna, just to name a few.
Currently, I feed my family of four on around $300 a month. Some months I have a bit more money so I try to stock up for leaner months. And, yes, this budget includes toiletries and hygiene items. We eat three meals a day, snacks, and occasionally desserts.
Here are a few things I did right away when cutting the grocery budget and focusing more on healthful eating:
1. I stopped buying sodas and juice. Instead, we have water with our meals and nobody’s complained yet. Instead of fruit juices I buy whole fruits. Think about it, what will fill you up more, eating an orange or apple, or drinking a glass of juice? With the whole fruit you get vitamins and fiber and it’s cheaper!
2. I started packing my kids’ school lunches. This way I knew they were getting a balanced meal that would fill them up, help them focus, and give them energy.
3. I stopped buying junk food. Everything I bought had to have a healthful purpose. When you have to cut back on your food budget you need to make every penny count. By focusing on healthy foods you’ll feel better knowing your family is getting the vitamins and nutrients they need.
4. We started eating more simply. I planned meals around beans, lentils, whole grains, and vegetables. Meat was no longer the center of the meal, but instead added to casseroles, stews, soups, stir-frys, and the like. We also had one or two nights a week that were meat-free.
5. Each week I read the sales papers to see what stores have the best deals. I only shop at one or two stores. Whatever foods are cheapest I plan my meals accordingly and I only shop once a week. I try to make as many one-pot meals as possible. These stretch the food a lot more and they’re easy.
When I started cutting back on how much I spent on groceries my original goal was to give me a little more financial breathing room. Over a short period of time I noticed we all felt a lot healthier, had more energy, and got sick less often.
Although no two households are the same, this is what I did when I needed to save money. The bottom line is: yes, you truly can eat healthier, no matter your budget!