The other day, I was surfing the web and came across an argument that eating healthy was impossible for lower income families. I take serious issue with this statement because I strongly believe it is untrue. Yes, some lower income families live in food deserts, making it incredibly difficult, but for the majority of middle class to lower middle class Americans, eating healthy is simply a matter of choice.
My last post on eating healthy on a budget offered several ideas and today I am going to add a few more that I use on a daily basis. My household of 2 people and 3 pets makes about $30,000 annually. I am self-employed so this number can swing by around $5,000 in any given year, which can make things easier or more difficult depending on the direction of the swing. I budget $300 a month for food and am usually spot on but there are some months I am a little over and some that I am a little under. Right now, I am making CSA payments so I am paying double that amount but for 20 weeks this summer my grocery budget should only be around $25 a week to supplement my CSA box with meat and bulk grains.
Eating Healthy On $300 A Month
Make Food a Priority
Life is about choices. I believe that we are what we eat. If I put whole healthy foods into my body, it will re-pay by having the energy I need to enjoy my life. If I put lots of nutrient deficient, pre-packaged, processed food into it, it will be sluggish and tired.
I remember a time when I used to complain that I simply couldn’t afford to pay $6 for organic milk. When I sat down and looked at my spending, I discovered that I went to Starbucks at least 4 times a week. Soon, I realized that if I simply cut one latte a week, I could easily afford the organic milk. Now, I rarely go out to eat. I will spend $30 on average on dinner for two in a restaurant. With that same $30 I can buy the groceries to make three healthy meals (with left overs) and the great thing about cooking at home is you get better with practice. Often, the food I prepare at home is better than the food I would get at a chain restaurant!
Plan Your Weekly Meals Using The Sales Flyer
I sit down every Saturday morning with the grocery sales flyer open on my iPad. I plan my meals using a combination of what is on sale, what is in my pantry, and what is in my freezer. This takes a little time and planning but if whole chickens are on sale we are having chicken that week. If eggplant is 99 cents a pound, veggie lasagna it is.
Buy In Bulk
I’m not talking a Costco membership (although there is nothing wrong with that either) but if something is on sale that you use on a regular basis is on sale, buy a couple of extras. Last week, pork shoulder was on sale for $1.99 a pound. The smallest one I could find was 8 pounds so I took it over the the meat counter and asked them to cut it into three pieces (something Kroger does for free). I then took it home and cooked it in the crock pot. We pulled the pork and divided it up into 5 portions. Monday we had pork tacos. Wednesday we had pork stuffed baked potatoes. The other three portions are in freezer bags in the freezer to be used another week and for the bonus, it is already cooked!
Freeze Extra When Its In Season
Unless you live in an extremely mild climate, you do not have access to fresh local produce year round. I buy things like beans, corn, and tomatoes in bulk in the summer when they are super cheap at the farmers market and freeze it for use in the winter. It is now February and we just used the last of the field peas from June. Canning is a little over my head so for now its the freezer for me but if you want to be ambitious, go for it!
Shop Bulk Produce
A bag of pre-packaged salad is around $3. A head of Romaine lettuce is $0.99. A head of lettuce is the same amount as 2-3 bags of salad. You do the math! Does it take a little more time to wash and cut up the lettuce? Yes, it does, but if eating healthy is a priority for you, it is totally worth it. I nearly jumped up and down in the grocery store the day I realized that I could buy 5 times the amount of broccoli for the same price by buying the loose broccoli crowns instead of the packaged broccoli florets! And yes, I am a total geek.
Sub Soup For Salad
I eat tons of salad in the summer when lettuce is abundant in my back garden. I have also learned, soup is a much cheaper option in the winter when the price of lettuce and other fresh produce starts to climb. You can make a nutritious pot of soup or chili filled with frozen vegetables for around $10 a pot (which can easily be broken into 8-10 servings). Not to mention, with the unseasonably cold winter the southeast is getting, a bowl of hot soup sounds pretty darn good.
Can you eat healthy on a budget? Yes!
Do you have to make sacrifices? Probably
Is it worth it? It is to me!
How do you eat healthy on a budget?