A few years ago, I began cooking the majority of my food at home. During that time, I also began studying nutrition and learning about the importance of food quality. I was eating well and feeling great, but I quickly realized that I was spending a crazy amount of money on my food and it was unsustainable. I was buying all of the things! Kombucha, probiotic coconut yogurt, protein bars, supplements, fancy sauerkraut, all the paleo baking flours, nut butters, grain-free chips, sprouted hummus and 100% organic produce. I had to transition away from these specialty products, shop smarter and simplify my life.
My commitment to healthy food did not change, but the way I shopped changed dramatically. Today, I stick to buying whole foods and stay away from packaged foods (even if they are healthy) the majority of the time. I shop at the farmers market for my meat, eggs and produce and pick up anything else throughout the week at a local co-op. However, each week I have room in my budget for one or two of these “speciality items”. Last week it was a Simple Mills almond flour pizza crust, and it was totally worth it! But I try to limit those purchases because they definitely add up over time. When I stick to just vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts and seeds my weekly bill is so much more manageable!
I’ve learned a lot of money-saving tips throughout the past year. Here are the best ways I’ve learned to save money when grocery shopping, from always bringing a list to always buying certain items in bulk or even frozen!
MY TOP TIPS FOR EATING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET:
- Scope out the grocery stores in your area.
- Certain grocery stores will be better for certain things. Visit the stores in your area and find what makes the most economical sense. Create a game plan. For example, I like Trader Joe’s for oils, spices, nut butters, canned goods and frozen produce. Costco is great for large quantities of things like coconut oil or avocado oil. Whole Foods is best for specialty items, fresh produce and quality meat. If you are lucky enough to have options in your area, you may have to make a few stops at different stores to find the best deals! Thrive Market is also a great option!
- Stay away from the inner aisles.
- The inner aisles of grocery stores are not only where all the more expensive packaged foods are, but it’s also where all the processed food is found. Even in the healthiest of grocery stores like Whole Foods, I try to just shop around the perimeter of the grocery store (fresh produce + meat) and avoid the center aisles for the most part.
- Plan ahead and take a list with you.
- Spontaneous grocery trips usually result in a bunch of items you don’t actually need. Create a plan of what you need before heading into the store! Even if my list just has a few items, it helps keep me stay on track and not wander aimlessly around the grocery store. Also, an important aspect of bringing a list with you is so that you don’t forget any items you do actually need!
- Visit your Farmers Market.
- Do a quick google search and find the farmers market in your area. When you shop at the Farmer’s market you are getting what is in season, local and abundant. These items will be less expensive, fresh and extremely nutrient-dense! Pro tip: become friends with your farmers! They always cut the regulars a deal and throw an extra zucchini in your bag for being a great customer. Or, go to the farmers market right before closing time- most farmers are trying to get rid of the produce at that point in the day. If the farmers are close enough, it’s worth visiting their actual farm. It’s a great experience to understand where your food comes from and the farmers will definitely appreciate it!
- Stay away from pre-packaged, plastic vegetables.
- Buy the head of kale instead of the packaged kale, the whole cauliflower rather than the pre-riced one. Grocery stores understand that people are busy and stressed, so they carry a lot of pre-cut fruits and veggies for convenience purposes. While convenient, this is definitely not the most price-friendly option. You’re paying for the prep work and packaging and it’s usually almost double the price. Yes, it takes more time to do it yourself at home but you’ll save money and the process of washing, cutting and drying your kale can be quite rewarding!
- Avoid food waste and use the entire food.
- Have you ever chopped broccoli into florets and tossed out the stems and scraps? I love to save the stems and scraps, throw them into the food processor and make riced broccoli to toss in a salad, stir fry, or store and freeze for those nights I have no fresh produce in the fridge for dinner. Every few weeks I love to roast an entire chicken, and I always save the bones and scraps to make a bone broth! When I cook lamb meatballs, I always save the drippings, store it in a mini mason jar and use it as a cooking oil! All of these little things avoid food waste and save money over time. It’s also just a great habit to use the entire plant or animal when cooking it!
- Don’t eat 100% organic produce.
- Yup, I said it! We can only do our best, and organic produce is much more expensive. Maybe one day we’ll be able to afford all organic produce, but for now I am content being mindful about what I choose to buy organic and what I buy conventional. For example, produce like bananas, avocado, lemons, melon, onion, mango and pineapple have a thick outer layer of skin and require much less pesticides, so I don’t buy them organic. Produce like berries, spinach, apples, tomatoes and peppers require much more pesticides, so I always buy organic. Since it can get expensive to buy organic blueberries at Whole Foods in the winter time (when they’re out of season), I usually only buy blueberries in the summertime when they are in season, organic and abundant. Or, I opt for frozen organic blueberries in the wintertime. There’s no way i’m spending $6 on out of season, sour blueberries in January! If you want to learn more about what to buy organic, and what to buy conventional check out the 2018 “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15”.
- Buy in Bulk.
- It always pays off to buy pantry staples in bulk If you know that you are going to end up buying it again in the future. A few things I buy in bulk are oils, nuts, seeds, grains, dried beans (instead of canned), frozen meats and even frozen organic fruits and vegetables. This is where Costco, and other online marketplaces come in handy!
- Buy Frozen seafood.
- Most “fresh” seafood at grocery stores is previously frozen anyway. To save some money, buy frozen unless you have a connection to fresh fish through a fisherman, or live in a fishing community. It will be less expensive and be there for you for a random weeknight when there’s nothing in the fridge. I buy all of my seafood from a company called Sizzlefish, and absolutely love it. Another great delivery service for seafood is Vital Choice.
- Make things yourself you’d normally buy made.
- Sauerkraut, ghee, pickled vegetables and bone broth are a few of my favorite items to make myself. A jar of sauerkraut at the store can cost up to $15, and I can create the same thing at home for $2. Youtube is an amazing resource and I’ve taught myself so much through watching cooking tutorials. Don’t be intimidated to experiment and make some of these pricey items yourself!
- Stay away from paleo baking.
- I love baking and I definitely still do it from time to time. But, almond flour, maple syrup, honey and cacao powder are not cheap items. Keep baking to a minimum or watch your grocery bill skyrocket!
I hope this list was helpful for you, and feel free to share some of your own tips below!