5 Tips for Eating Well on a Budget
Heather and Mark from Hangry Pants have a new challenge. They are going to track and limit how much they spend on groceries, and I’d like to help them… and all of you too.
While I stopped posting my grocery lists and costs over the holidays for practical reasons (read: lots of holiday parties at my house) I am back to it this week. I have been tracking my grocery costs for the last several months, mostly out of necessity. I want to be saving money aggressively, and I realized how much money I was wasting on food by 1. not being prepared and 2. letting food go bad before using it.
Here are my tips from what I have learned over the last few months…
For the first few weeks don’t try to make any big changes, just log exactly what you do.
Why: You want to make sure that your changes are practical and work for you. For example, if I were to try and only shop 1 time per two weeks or only at farmer’s markets that wouldn’t work for me in a realistic way.
Once you evaluate what your spending habits and shopping schedule looks like…..
1. Plan ahead.
If I could give you only one tip, this would be it. Make your grocery list at home, looking in your fridge and pantry to see what you still have and what you need to buy. Make a skeleton meal plan with 4 or 5 different meals you will make with your list (for a weekly shopper like myself). As I shop only for myself during the week, I usually buy enough different items to make 3 different meals as I eat leftovers all week. It only takes me about 10 minutes to do the whole thing (menu and grocery lists).
2. Buy bulk items from a wholesale club like Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.
I buy my olive oil, toilet paper, paper towel and other large quantity items from those stores. 1 bottle of olive oil from there, while pricey, has lasted me more than half a year.
3. Focus on the outside perimeter of the market.
You CAN eat only organic, healthy foods on a budget, IF you focus only on the good stuff. As soon as I enter those middle aisles for bars or crackers or frozen meals my budget would be blown. For small quantities those items can be super expensive!
4. When something canned/frozen/freezable is on a ridiculous sale, stock up a bit, but ONLY if you are sure that you will use those items in time!
I buy canned diced tomatoes whenever they are on sale as PB loves them so much. Same thing with organic chicken broth and seltzer water. They don’t go bad for a lonnng time, and the savings can be incredible.
5. Stick to your preplanned shopping schedule whenever possible.
Vow only to go to the market X times per week/month. I go 1 time per week whenever possible. I find that if I run in for something like bananas, I end up buying other items I don’t really need. This goes hand in hand with Plan Ahead. If you make your list from the beginning, you shouldn’t run out of items before the week is up.
And two tips from my friends…
I am not a coupon gal as I don’t get the paper, but I know that people save lots of money that way.
2. Farmer’s Markets!
I usually do not have the time to make it to the markets before they close or when they have the best stuff, but I hear that the prices are often hard to be beat and the produce much better than in the market.
**For one person with sometimes a special guest around (Hi, PB!!!!) I usually spend between $30 and $75 a week at the market. It seems like a big range but it really isn’t. I find that I go through a pattern like this..**
Week 1: cheap
Week 2: cheap
Week 3: NOT CHEAP, as I have to restock pantry type items
Week 4: cheap
Find what works for you, and stick to it.
Good luck Heather and Mark!!!