Friday, February 22, 2013

Eating well on a budget

For the past several years we have prioritized eating well while living within a budget.  “How do you afford to eat well?” is a question I hear quite frequently.  What works for us might not be a one size fits all answer, but I’m happy to share what we do here.

Prioritize your health.
This is not going to be a “How to Feed a Family of Four on Ten Dollars a Day” kind of a blog post.  We all have our spots where we are willing to spend a little money.  We are pretty frugal in most areas and eating well is a priority for us therefore we are willing to spend a little more than some.  But, we are still living within a budget so below you’ll see how. 
* I read a quote the other day that said, “If you are what you eat, I don’t want to be fast, cheap, and easy.”  I like it!

We save a lot of money when I go into the store with a plan.  When I don’t plan, I will grab random things that don’t necessarily go together to make a meal.  By sitting with my cookbooks and writing out a grocery list, we end up using the food we buy.  There’s nothing worse than investing in good food and throwing it in the garbage can. 

Put in some leg work.
There are some things you can do easily at home to cut costs and still eat just as well.  Simple things such as soaking your own beans rather than buying canned or cutting up your romaine rather than buying it precut can save you quite a bit.  I suggest taking a little time right when you get home from the grocery store to do the next step, prep. 

Some people I know set a few hours aside one day a week to prep meals.  This can be a great idea for the busy cook.  I also think it’s a great idea to take a little time to prep right after the grocery store.  I can only speak for myself but I've gone to the store many times with great healthy intentions and purchased a ton of produce only to find myself throwing out untouched moldy food the next week.  BUT, when I take the time after I get home from the store to cut up a good share of the veggies, we all find ourselves gobbling them up.  When they are ready for you to eat, you will eat them. 

Stock up on staples.
You have to be careful at those bulk stores.  I think when we first got our membership we went a little crazy on some items that no one needs in bulk.  But there are things we go through a lot of in this house and I’m thankful to save money on those items when I can.  Some of the things I grabbed in bulk today include:  organic spinach (hello!?!), organic mixed greens, organic frozen berries, and Greek yogurt.  Some other items we like to buy include:  oats, quinoa, and organic dairy.

Double batch it.
Have you ever looked through your kitchen at 5:00PM and realized there’s nothing in the house for dinner?  And what do you do?  Go out to eat?  Grab something on the go that’s expensive and pretty void in nutrition?  To avoid that last minute crunch, I like to sometimes make a double batch for dinner – we eat one and freeze one.  It’s also a special treat when I’m able to just pull something out of the freezer like a batch of chili and I don’t need to make it on the spot.  I've already done the work once, so why do it twice?

Learn when the sales are.
I’m not a huge coupon girl.  Yes, you can totally get a bunch of cheap “food” if you want to be an extreme couponer but most likely you’re going to find yourself buying Pop Tarts instead of green beans.  No, thank you.  (*Yes, I do use some coupons, but I’m selective.  I only buy an item if it is something I would buy anyway.)  What I do look for is when and where the sales are.  There’s pretty much always a store in town that has great sales on their produce for the week.  I also will walk through the aisles to see which items that I would buy anyway that happen to be on sale.  I learned a while back that it’s no bargain to buy something on sale that you wouldn’t buy at regular price.  One local store here releases an ad for the week and they switch over to the new ad on Wednesday.  But a cool thing happens on Wednesdays, you can get the deals from both weeks.  Yep, you’ll find me at that store most Wednesdays. 

As I write this, I realize this post could go on and on.  There’s probably a lot more I could talk about:  clean 15 and the dirty dozen, meatless protein options, gardening, buying in season etc.  But I’ll stop with this.  I believe that if you start:  planning, putting in some leg work, prepping, using bulk wisely, make extra food to have on hand, and keep an eye on the sales – you’ll discover that you can afford to eat better on your current budget too! 

What are some of your favorite ways to eat well and save money?  
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