Eating healthy can be expensive. Go to any restaurant or fast food chain and it is more expensive to order the salad than almost any other option. High-end grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes can run your grocery bill close to $200-$300 if you’re not careful. Even worse, most of those perishable $200 groceries will likely go to waste because you got too overzealous and couldn’t keep up with how much you purchased.
This took me years to master… but I’ve gotten pretty dang good at it AND I still get to shop at my favorite Whole Foods.
I can guarantee most of you eat less than I do. I eat 2600 calories/day, and I fit my groceries in my $100/week budget, while also buying organic vegetables and fruits and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats.
It can be done. Trust me.
These helpful tips will help you eat healthy and lose weight without breaking the bank.
This is the key for anything you do. If you go in with a plan, you’re way more likely to be successful. You have to plan what you’re eating for the week. Print or save the recipes you’re going to try for the week. Make sure you’re including ENOUGH food so you don’t run out halfway through the week. Plan realistically. I know I need a ton of protein so I get 3-4 lbs protein/week.
Once you’ve decided your meals, write your grocery list. Stick to that list when you go to the store. Don’t deviate.
2. Don’t shop hungry
Self-explained. Don’t do it. That’s not only how you go way over budget, but also how those pesky little treats get in the house.
3. Buy in bulk
If it’s non-perishable, you’re going to eat it… so if it’s cheaper buying 2lbs rice versus the 1/2lb bag, then do it. Then you’re not buying rice every week and you’re saving money. Buy proteins in bulk, as well, and just put half in the freezer when you get home. I bought 3lbs of chicken for $15. That will last me 2 weeks easily! You should be able to get those non-perishables down to 1 purchase/month, proteins to twice/month, then buying the perishable fruits and veggies each week.
4. Nix the pre-prepped and processed meals and options.
The closer you are to the main source, the cheaper it is going to be. Those premade meals seem cheap. One frozen meal for $7-$8? Nice!! Well you could buy the ingredients for that meal.
Let’s say it’s frozen lasagna. 1 lb. ground beef is about $8-10, 1 can of sauce is about $3-4, and lasagna sheets are about $5-6. That totals to about $20 for a WHOLE pan of lasagna that easily has 6-8 servings in there, making each meal $3-4.
Buying food closer to the source DOES require more effort… but what’s better: more effort or saving money? I mentioned this on a Weekly Q&A 02, but I purchased 2 lbs. of chicken thighs for $10… usually 1 lb. of meat goes for $10. I found an organic, hormone-free option for literally half that and was SO confused. When I got home, I realized they weren’t boneless, so for a 50% reduction, I had to deal with some bones… big whoop!
5. You don’t need to buy organic, grass-fed, or pasture-raised
If you have the financial means to do so, then yes do it. It is 100% better for you. ESPECIALLY meats. If you HAVE to get anything higher quality, prioritize those proteins. We don’t want proteins with added hormones and crap. BUT if it’s fast food or crap versus non-organic beef… then I’ll take the beef any day. Vegetables are vegetables. Fruits are fruits. Eat them EVEN if you can’t afford organic.
Keep a look out on the prices though. Some stores will sell locally grown options that are actually cheaper. This weekend, Harris Teeter was selling locally grown sweet potatoes for $0.99/lb, which saved some money. It may seem small, but it adds up.
6. Keep it simple
The more complex your meals are, the more expensive they are going to be. Choose recipes that have only a few ingredients. Some recipes will require 10-15 different spices, some of which you’ll never use again. Choose recipes with common spices: cumin, paprika, oregano, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper. They’ll last you for many recipes and have a ton of flavor.
If cost is your main priority, you are going to have to sacrifice some of the excitement and thrill of extravagant meals. No you don’t have to eat chicken, rice, and broccoli, but it will save you a significant amount of money by keeping your meals as simple as possible.
I make a thai chicken curry dish that requires a TON of ingredients, but for the sake of cost, I make it just as good with curry, salt, and ginger. I don’t need the other 8 spices!
7. Choose the best grocery store for YOU
You don’t need to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes. If you don’t like Food Lion, you don’t have to go there either. You can find everything you need (give or take) at any grocery store you go to. Make sure, though, that whatever grocery store you prefer, you sign up for their rewards program. Harris Teeter – VIC card. Kroger – Kroger card.
Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs are great options. If you have access to one of these stores, sign up for a membership. Their bulk items let you save a good amount of money and they often have a good (and organic) vegetable/fruit selection.
Don’t be stuck on one store. I get all of my non-perishables and some of my veggies at Harris Teeter and save my protein and veggie/fruit purchases for Whole Foods.
8. Don’t let food go to waste
Eat all food you make. Save your leftovers. This will 1. Help with meal prep and 2. Help keep you on track during the week. There are times I want to go binge on Thursday or just buy lunch but I know I still have food at home that will go bad if I don’t eat it, which will cost me money not only buy wasting food I used my money to purchase but also to buy a new lunch.
It was amazing when I had this realization. I was spending close to $150 or even $200 in a week because I was throwing things away. I got a little more strict with this and bam, started saving as much as $100/week!
9. Save the alcohol for when you go out.
An easy way to save money and reach your goals is to reduce the amount of alcohol you’re drinking. We need food. That we can’t dispute. I don’t want you trying to save money by not purchasing enough food to eat. What we do is triage our grocery list from a health standpoint. Do you need protein to reach your goals and stay healthy? Yes. Vegetables? Yes. Fruits? Yes. Carbs? Still yes. Ice cream? Not essential. Chocolate? Still not essential. Alcohol? Nope.
Not only will this save you a ton of money, but it’ll get you reaching your goals much quicker. A half-gallon of ice cream is about $5. A bottle of wine $10 (at least), maybe even $20. A chocolate bar $5. This has you spending an extra $20-30 each week. If money is your #1 concern but you also want to be healthy, then maybe it’s time to cut corners where you can and where you should.
I’m not saying “don’t drink” or “don’t treat yourself” but save the alcohol and treats for a weekly—or even monthly—treat or for when you go out to dinner or spend a night out with friends.
10. Budget realistically
The last point may be hard for you to hear, but I have to say it because it’s true.
Do you truly not have enough money for groceries? Or do you choose not to?
I make very little compared to what I could make had I not started my business, yet I can afford a very nice 2-bedroom apartment by myself and $400/month on groceries. Why? Because I choose to.
What do you spend the rest of your money on? I had an old roommate come up to me one Sunday and tell me that he just dropped $400 on booze and food that weekend. Four. Hundred. Dollars. Then a couple months later, he commented on how much I must spend on groceries because my portion of the fridge and pantry are like quadruple his space. He said he envied me because he just doesn’t have the money to buy groceries like that. But he’s dropping my monthly grocery budget in 2 days!!!!
Are you getting mani/pedis every month? Drinking and going out every weekend? Online shopping weekly? Are you doing this AND saying you don’t have the money to buy groceries or even to hire a nutrition coach?
Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You have to decide what you value more. If you value eating toast, pb&j sandwiches, and ramen every night to have more of a social life and to treat yourself more often, then great. But you can’t complain that you don’t “have the money” for other luxuries. You just simply choose to spend your money elsewhere. Vice versa. If you value good, healthy nutrition and choose to spend most of your money on good groceries, you can’t complain that you don’t have the money to buy as many new things, go out with friends, or even get serious FOMO that your friends are all hanging out without you because you chose to spend your money elsewhere. This lesson took me a long time to learn. What you value may not be what other people value and there’s nothing wrong with it. You just have to accept the differences and own your decision!
Eating healthy isn't for the rich. Anyone can do it! You just have to commit to the effort and practice it every week!