Fitness Friday: Healthy Food on a Tight Budget (again!)
Just kidding. Not the end. Believe it or not, I’ve come up with even MORE tips on eating healthy for less.
But before I do, I must confess that I, Fitness Friday Girl, have not been very good about watching the food budget this summer. In the Cooper home, there has been very little cooking going on. Instead, we’ve graced the entrance of many restaurants, ordered lots of take-out, and eaten way too much ice cream. None of which is healthy or cheap. I cringe as I write the following tips, because I realize I have really fallen off the wagon big-time in the last several weeks. So, in my convicted, hypocritical and repentant state, I humbly bring you these cost-saving tips, vowing ever-so-sincerely to be more frugal and healthy in the coming weeks.
1.Plan your meals ahead of time and stick to your list. Check weekend fliers and coupon inserts and plan your meals around those so you can take advantage of grocery store specials and discounts. Don’t forget that seasonal produce is also the least expensive AND best tasting.
2.What items do you purchase every time you shop? It’s worth it to find the cheapest place for those items. For example, the granola bars we love are the most expensive at Kroger (where I do most of my grocery shopping) but very cheap at Target (where I never buy food). I try to remember to pick these up when I’m there and it saves me several dollars every week.
3.Don’t buy prepared or pre-cut foods. Prepared foods may be more convenient, but they can cost twice as much as the raw whole ingredients. Seriously, it isn’t that difficult to cut a melon or mince a clove of garlic.
4.Double batch homemade meals and freeze some for later. I do this all the time—or should I say, used to do this all the time before I fell off the wagon—with soups, chili and lasagna. This eliminates the inconvenience factor when you are in a pinch and are tempted to order take-out. It does not, however, eliminate the ice cream factor.
5.Use leftovers. This helps you stretch your food so you waste less. Sure you can eat leftovers for lunch the next day, but you can use your imagination, too. For example, when I grill peppers or asparagus for dinner, I use leftovers the next morning in an omelet. I made a big tossed salad for dinner on Monday. On Tuesday, I used the left over salad, added chicken and ranch dressing and stuffed it all in a whole wheat tortilla for a yummy wrap.
6.Buy whole poultry with the skin on and cut it up yourself. I know it’s disgusting (says the girl who is a borderline vegetarian!), but you can use the bones, the pieces you don’t cook, along with vegetable scraps to make stock for soup. You can actually save your vegetable scraps in a Ziploc throughout the week and freeze them as you go. That way they stay fresh until you’re ready to use them.
7.If you do buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, only buy them when they are on sale and stock up. Freeze whatever you will not use immediately.
8.Don’t buy soda or juice. Drink filtered water instead.
9.Speaking of water, don’t buy bottled water. Filter your water at home and put in reusable bottles. That’s better for the environment, too.
10.Buy tea bags and make your own ice tea instead of pre-made tea in cans or bottles.
11.Take snacks with you when you go out to run errands. Especially when you have kids. I can pop a giant batch of popcorn and divide it up between my kids in the car for just a few cents…or I can stop at the gas station and grab three individual-sized bags of popcorn for several dollars. Or worse, I can go through a drive through and spend $15—and feed my kids garbage.
12.Speaking of garbage, eat out as little as possible. At most places, you have no idea what is in the food you are eating (unless you’ve got some wonderful organic restaurants like we have in Louisville). We’ve eaten out a lot this summer (the little voice inside my head screams “hypocrite!”) and it is insanely expensive. Even in family-friendly restaurants, it’s so much more expensive to eat out than it is to cook at home.
Last week we went to a casual sit-down chain restaurant. The children ordered kids’ meals, which included buttered pasta or mac and cheese, a side salad, a drink and a small dessert for around $5. If I served that exact same thing at home, it would cost less than $5 to serve all three of them. Plus, I would have served them whole grain pasta instead of the white kind, real mac and cheese instead of Kraft, and a fresh organic romaine salad instead of iceberg with yucky tomatoes. Oh, and water instead of lemonade or soda. That is, if I hadn’t fallen off the wagon.
Remember, the cheapest foods are often the most highly processed–which means they are full of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, fillers, salt and sugar. You may feel like you’re getting a better value when you buy processed foods—it literally looks like you’ve purchased more food. But with all that stuff added to it, most cheap food is really not food at all. It’s just gross when you think about it.
Stick to whole ingredients, plan your meals ahead of time, and cook at home. And by all means, if you spotted me in a restaurant this summer with a mouth full of ice cream, please forgive me. I’m crawling back on the wagon right after I finish this post—hoping I’ll burn a few extra calories in the process.
For more tips on eating healthy on the cheap, visit these sites:
What cost saving tips can you share? Leave a comment and let me know.
sandy- i think it is awesome that you are sharing you heart with people. everything i've read is so YOU- & what needs to be shared-
God Bless you!
I have found that buying my fruits and veggies at a farmers market or a local produce stand is cheaper than buying them at the grocery store.
I laughed when I saw your frozed chicken breast statement. We eat a TON of chicken in our house and I like to only buy it when it's on sale. It was on sale this past week and I bought 5 huge bags for $5 a peice.
Thanks for the great tips!
Sandy, considering that I've fallen off the wagon – but fortunately have maintained some level of control in keeping things as organic and natural as possible (did you know they make delicious organic ice cream?) and my grocery bill also shows it. I am no one to throw stones!
I appreciate your honesty and humore — I can relate! BIG TIME.
I have found that Target does sell a lot of things much cheaper than at the local market. Also, if you have a farmer market, I hear that they are also very economical and you get fresh fresh fruits and veggies.
Thanks for the tips and for the encouragement. It's good to know that you are human and "real".
Awesome tips, thank you.
Just popping over to say hi! Did you know I am now ultra healthy? I've lost 13 lbs since May and running up to 8 miles now. 🙂 see, anyone can do it!
We don't really save a ton of money on groceries…i like convenience and our health is worth it! However, I am doubling and tripling coupons now so we'll see how that goes!
I should link to fitness friday and write about it all some time…
Cooking from scratch and using coupons has helped me stretch the food dollars. I never used to do this but with this economy, I need to do this. And I rediscovered my love for cooking. I tend to follow recipes but my husband can be very creative with food. He takes the leftovers and makes us the best meals. It's been fun to challenge each other too.
I've also been going through my freezer. When you clean it out and organize it, it's amazing what you find there. Often I would go grocery shopping and then find I already had lots of frozen chicken, etc. But it is good to stock up when things are on sale.
I also read lots of blogs about cooking on a budget. And I'm also learning to grow my own herbs. Trader Joe's sells basil plants for $2.99 and so now I have lots of basil available and it's so fresh and much cheaper than buying those small packages in the grocery.
I also buy fresh produce. I need to start checking out the farmer's market because I want to support local farmers.
It helps me to go food shopping with a list and sticking with it. This way I can check my coupons in advance and won't forget items. So, I end up saving gas money instead of running to the grocery so frequently.
This was very good Sandy and written in the very humorous Sandy style. I always enjoy your posts and I'm so thankful we connect on Fridays. Love you and your honesty and transparency. BTW, did you know I've been doing a series on being real and transparent on Heart Choices? This Monday will be another one so stay tuned.
E-mealz has helped us a lot. I spend a little more then what is on the plan since I try and replace processed stuff with real ingredients, but it saves me a lot of time and helps me not have to constantly come up with tons of meal ideas.
Hello Fitness Friday Girl 🙂
Awesome info! Ya know, I always struggle at the grocery store – trying to be healthy AND stay on a budget can be stressful!!! So your post is perfect 🙂
It REALLY helps me to PLAN AHEAD!!! If I plan all my meals and prep all the ingredients before hand, I'm MUCH more likely to actually cook rather than order out!
Thanks for the inspiration 🙂
Have a happy day,
Such good advice, if only I would FOLLOW it!!
Blessings to you!
Great tips – thanks so much for taking the time to share them….