4 Steps to Eating Healthy on a Budget
Any young adult, whether they’re in college or not, can testify to how incredibly expensive groceries, or food in general, are compared to when they were younger. Now, of course nothing has changed, but suddenly your meager income is paying for things much more expensive than doughnuts every day. Because of how pricey groceries seem, most of us, at some point or another, fall into the energy drink and 50 cent cup of noodles pit, and the double digit number in your bank account makes you think you have to stay there.
I have good news: You don’t.
I’m going to show you four simple steps to shopping healthy on a budget. Ready? Let’s go.
Set your weekly/bi-weekly budget.
This is a pretty simple step. A good amount is between $20-35 per week, but if you can afford more, by all means - enjoy the extra groceries! Once you’ve set your budget, stick to it! Sure, sometimes you’ll need spices or basic kitchen supplies, so make sure you keep some spare money in the bank, but your meals need to stay in the range you set for yourself.
Identify what kinds of foods you’ll be purchasing, and consider cheaper alternatives.
For example: vegetables. Everyone knows fresh produce adds up fast in your shopping cart. Luckily you do have another option here! Frozen. Now, some people might say, "but frozen foods have fewer nutrients!" And to that I say, "Sure they do. But they have more than the Ramen you were eating yesterday." Not to mention, vegetables are an incredible source of fiber and protein! If you’re on a standard omnivorous diet I would strongly recommend fillers like rice, or pasta. If you’re paleo, like me, remember that the money you aren’t spending on grains is a great fund for meat! And more veggies. And if you’re vegan/vegetarian, remember this: bulk shopping; it’s a true life saver. And for everyone who consumes dairy: EGGS. Buy them. Eat them. Enjoy the cheap food you can cook 100 different ways.
Once you know what kinds of foods you’ll be eating, do yourself a huge favor and plan out your meals.
This will save you a lot of money, simply because when you’re shopping you’ll actually have everything you need, and won’t have to make any random grocery runs that could result in pricey impulse buys.
Okay, now this may be the most crucial step in this article: shop smart.
No matter what you decide to buy there’s generally a way to get it cheap. Use coupons wherever you can, and watch for sales at stores you frequent. With frozen veggies you can usually find deals where you can get 3 bags for 5 dollars or, on store brand, sometimes even 10 for 10! Deals like these almost always only happen with store brand items, but lucky for you, name brand items aren’t too much better. The 5 dollar difference is one you’ll love when you hit checkout. If you’re shopping for meat, I recommend chicken if the option is available to you, as it generally runs about a dollar less per pound than other meats. And for fruits and other fresh items, buy in season, and look for sales.
So at this point, you have a general idea of the steps you can take to have a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Learning how to cut costs and shop healthy when you’re young is crucial. Not only are those nutrients essential to your diet anyway, but they’ll help you focus, be more energized, and even sleep better! Considering all of that, I’d say $25 a week is a pretty good deal!
Related: 4 Healthy Dining Hall Hacks