We know eating healthy is important for everyone. Not only will it help you focus at work, it can improve your overall health which means less money spent on medical bills. You should think about healthy eating as a three-step process: Planning, Purchasing, Preparing. Following these three "p's" you too can find healthy ways to approach your meals while keeping within your budget.
Planning for Healthy Meals
While some of us are faithful about making a list, if you're going to save money at the grocery store, a list is a necessity. Planning for healthy meals begins before making shopping lists however, it starts with developing a menu. Whether you shop once a month, once a week, or every two weeks, the first step you should take is creating a menu.
Your menu can be created on note cards, online in the cloud, or you can use a meal planner app. Whatever method you choose, you should include breakfast, lunch and dinner menus initially. If it's something new for you, consider starting off with only a single week until you get into the habit of planning a menu. Don't forget to account for leftovers when creating your menu: Even if you use leftovers to make an omelet, or for lunch, it will reduce your grocery budget.
Once you've created your menus, check your cupboards for staples which can be eliminated from your shopping list. If you are short on spices, or other necessities, consider traveling to your local dollar store to stock up at a cheap price. If there are specific items on sale which you can make a healthy meal from, you may want to tweak your menu a bit.
Purchasing Items for Healthy Meals
From your menus, develop your shopping list. Arrange the list by "type" of foods, for example, list all the meats together, list all dairy products together, etc. This will help you stay focused while shopping and may help curb impulse buying. Remember, the fewer aisles you must visit, the less likely you are to give into impulses. Before heading to the market, make sure you have something to eat: A hungry shopper is more likely to overspend on items not on their list.
Just because you've been going to the same grocery store for years doesn't mean you're getting the best deal. Scour your local advertisements for items on sale, check online for grocery coupons, and identify the store where you can save the most money. Once you're there, verify unit pricing of items — just because it has a name brand on it does not automatically mean it's a better product. Generic or store brand items often cost far less than their name brand counterparts and can save you tons of money.
Bulk purchases can also save you a lot of money. For example, even if your menu only calls for rice one night, you may save more money purchasing a five-pound bag than a one-pound box. This means you must be aware of "use by" dates so use your best judgment.
Preparing Healthy Meals
One of the biggest challenges most of us face is time — you can save time if you prepare meals on a day like Saturday or Sunday when you can spend time cooking the "major" items like roasting a chicken or cooking a roast. This will save you time during the week and help you avoid last-minute takeout orders because you don't feel like cooking. The other option is to make the most of a slow-cooker — you can put your meal into the cooker before you leave for work in the morning and let it cook while you're away.
These are just a few tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget. As you grow more accustomed to planning ahead for meals, chances are high you will spend less. Remember to use extenders like frozen vegetables, store your leftovers properly so they can be reused and take advantage of sales and coupons.