How I Eat Healthy on a Budget

1. Create a realistic budget. The first step to eating healthy on a budget, is actually creating one that fits your needs. It might take you a few months to perfect it, but that's OK. If you budget $500 each month for groceries for your family, and you see that you are consistently spending $600, you either need to look for ways to cut back, or increase your budget to a realistic amount. Once you've found an amount that works for you and your family, do your best to stick to it. 
2. Meal plan. In order to save money on groceries, I highly suggest creating a meal plan. I've tried both weekly meal plans and monthly, and I have found that I am able to save more money when I plan for the entire month. This way, I am more likely to buy in bulk and am less likely to make impulse purchases. When I make a meal plan for the entire month, we do one big grocery trip at the beginning of the month to stock up on non-perishables and anything we can freeze, and then do small trips each week for any fruits and veggies. 
3. Be flexible. I am a huge planner, so this one is hard for me. But you really can save some money if you aren't too specific with your plan. For example, I always plan for a specific meat, but just specify "vegetable" so that I can shop according to what's in season and see what the store might have on sale that week. 
4. Incorporate wallet-friendly meals. Make sure you don't plan an entire week of expensive entrees. Plan to have "wallet-friendly" meals at least a few days a week and this will help keep your monthly grocery bill down. Great examples include chicken dishes, rice and beans, tacos, soup, and chili. 
5. Shop for meat mid-week and freeze. I don't always do this, but when I have time I try to stop by my local stores in the middle of the week to check out their meat section. It's always a gold mine. Since most people shop on the weekends, stores often have produce that will go bad soon marked down in the middle of the week. If you have the space in your freezer (or an extra deep freezer), this is a great time to snag some deals on meat and simply put it away for the time being and incorporate it into next month's meal plan. 
6. Limit eating out. I'm not saying to never go out, but make sure you plan for it, and be realistic about how often you can afford to eat out each month. Eating out can be very expensive, so we try to limit our dinners out to a few times a month. 
7. Get a Sam's Club membership. This might not make sense for you if you are just purchasing groceries for yourself, but for families or even just couples, I think a membership to Sam's Club or Costco pays for itself very quickly. You can save a considerable amount of money on household cleaning products, food, and lots of other random items. 
8. Coupon. Be careful with this one. When I first started couponing, I wanted to use coupons so bad that I found myself buying things I would never normally purchase, simply because I had a coupon. This will not save you money in the long run, and is definitely not a good idea. Instead, look out for coupons for items that you already would be purchasing. I know a lot of people say that there aren't any coupons for healthy foods, but that's just not true. Target consistently has coupons for frozen chicken, frozen fish, Greek yogurt, eggs, and milk. These are all staples in my house. And even though many health food brands don't put their coupons in the Sunday paper, you can often find printables on their website, or even send them a request for one. In my experience, they are glad to send you a few so that you will try their products. 
9. Don't feel like you have to buy everything organic. In an ideal world, I would only eat organic produce, grass-fed meat, and cage-free eggs. But the truth is, that's just not in my budget right now, so I pick and choose what's the most important to me, and make compromises in other areas. There's no need to buy organic bananas (or any produce with a peel) if you really can't afford it. You are going to be discarding the peel anyways, so save your extra money for fruits and vegetables on the dirty dozen list. 
10. Shop store deals. My last tip would be to shop at more than one grocery store. Every store has different deals going on each week, and you can't take advantage of all of them unless you are willing to shop around. This is another reason that I like to make a monthly meal plan. This way, I can go to many stores on my "big" shopping trip to get deals on items that can be stored for a while, and then stick to one or two stores for my weekly trips. 

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