The American household spends approximately thirty percent of their annual paycheck on food. Due to current inflated prices and a plethora of food classes, eating healthy while living on a tight budget can be a daunting feat. However, by thinking outside the box and shunning trend eating habits, it is possible to adjust accordingly. Keep in mind that it may take a little more concentration, familial determination and time consuming practice such as scanning for coupons, educating yourself on advertising ploys, reading labels and switching store choices. In the end you will hopefully be a more savvy consumer not only regarding food shopping but possibly crossing over into your other purchase routines as well.
Target Competitive Stores
Convenience may be the current attraction for your food shopping choice however if a few miles down the road another store offers more deals and a greater variety it will be worth the extra gas to shop there. Ask your friends and neighbors where they shop and compare notes. You may be spending way more than you want simply because it is a closer more aesthetically pleasing experience.
Sign Up and Cut Up
Applying for a particular supermarket’s point card system will enable you to take advantage of daily discounts. In addition, cutting coupons out of a mailed circular may be old school but when twenty or thirty dollars is saved at the register you will be feeling mighty educated.
The Evil Junk Food Draw
Yes, you can go to a fast food restaurant and feed a family of four for less than twenty-five dollars and walk away stuffed. You can buy bags of low end chips or pretzels, cookies and cakes to fill your overflowing cart, too. In the long run you are setting up yourself and your family for an ever continuing cycle that will ultimately lead to poor health and behavioral swings. Do not be sucked into the cheap deals and colorful packaging with words like ‘natural’, ‘fresh’ or ‘sugar free’. Resort to inexpensive, healthier choices that can ultimately replace the evil junk food draw – like fresh fruit from your local produce stand.
Preparing for your Shopping Mission
Follow some of these simple steps to make sure you are focused on the task at hand. Once you get the hang of it, many of these steps can be avoided.
- Make a detailed list – Jot down exactly what you need and don’t stray from it at all.
- Eat before you shop – Going to the supermarket hungry will have you buying items you do not need due to sheer hunger desperation.
- Shop Alone – Do not bring kids, a friend or spouse. Those who aren’t focused on the task are more likely to add unhealthy and expensive items to the cart.
- Bring your own music – Supermarkets often pipe in subliminal shopping music to make you stay longer, feel better and spend more.
- Keep off your cell phone – Stay focused on what you are doing.
- Move slow – Don’t let anyone pressure you into grabbing the closest item because the store is crowded.
- Compare prices (bring a calculator)
- Check all ingredients (avoid dye, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose and preservatives)
Inexpensive Healthy Choices
Once you are used to knowing what to look for and where to get it then your shopping time will be back to normal. In addition, changing eating habits in restaurants or packing lunches are also ideas to consider. Here are some healthy replacements you can look for as well as some other ideas outside of your shopping experience:
- White vs. Wheat – White bread turns to a glue-like substance that lines your intestinal tract. Choose wheat products without corn syrup or high fructose. The price difference is minimal.
- Fruit – Fresh fruit should be bought weekly to avoid spoilage. Keep seasonal and shop at a local produce market to save a bit of money.
- Dried Fruit – This choice lasts a long time. Keep refrigerated and avoid sugar and sulfur dioxide as a preservative. Black raisins, mango, papaya and unsweetened banana chips work well.
- Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – They are healthier and less expensive than canned, especially if you find them on sale.
- Nuts – These can be expensive but full of protein, omega-3 and good fats. Look for sales or buy in bulk.
- Large Yogurt – Buy the large container of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt and add your own fruit.
- Buy Store Brand – Pasta, rice, condiments, legumes, dairy and meat are some of the many store brand items that have been drastically improved and cost less.
- Pack a Lunch – Your tight budget will decompress when you bring your lunch to work.
- Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption – It is expensive and unhealthy.
- Buy a Water Filter – Do not waste your money on bottled water.
- Recipes – Find healthy recipes you can turn into several days of leftovers.
These are a few ideas when eating healthy on a tight budget. Stay away from old habits, save your money and feed your family right. Your body will thank you later in life.
About the Author: Matt is a full-time writer and blogger with a pasison for health, wellness, and personal finance. He enjoys blending frugality with health and knows you don’t need to spend a ton to live a healthy lifestyle. He is also a regular contributor at CreditLoan.com.