Buying Healthy Food on a Budget
It can be a challenge to feed your family with healthy foods when you’re on a tight budget. A lot of the super deals and extreme couponing tends to be on packaged, often over-processed food.
Our family of four has been purchasing nearly all organic food since our girls were born. We didn’t switch overnight, but at this point, we spend approximately the USDA “thrifty plan” cost of food (download the cost of food reports here), with buying approximately 95% of our food as organic, non-GMO, etc. Those labels don’t necessarily mean healthy, but the way we shop for food can apply to those looking for non-organic healthy food too.
First of all, rethink what you buy. Focus on in-season, on-sale produce. You might love strawberries, but wait until summer instead of paying the winter prices. Frozen produce is a great way to save as well, and can easily be added to meals. I add frozen veggies to many dishes, and frozen fruit is a great way to have a healthy dessert. Just a little bit of ice cream or yogurt topped with thawed fruit is delicious.
If you have time, making your own food is a great way to save. Flour and oatmeal are very inexpensive, and it doesn’t take long to make snack bars, cookies, and crackers. It does take a little practice, but the finished product tastes much better and is generally cheaper and better for you than the alternatives. If you have the space, gardening can save a huge amount of money once you have a garden established.
When you shop, shop the perimeter. Then you aren’t tempted by the shelf tags that make the more packaged foods seem like a great deal, even if they aren’t as cheap per serving.
Find out if/when your local store marks down cheese and meat. We typically buy meat close to its expiration date that has a store coupon on it, meaning we pay the same price for our organic/grass-fed meat as non-sale prices for conventional meat. We are also flexible about the type of meat and cheese we eat. Less-expensive cuts and types of cheese can be substituted for fancier kinds.
Finally, be willing to try new things. Sometimes great deals are available on healthy brands and foods that are unfamiliar, but with a little bit of internet searching, you can find great ways to serve them!