10 Tips On Shopping Smart and Eating Healthy On a Budget
Making conscious decisions in the store takes planning and effort, but it’s really worth. Years of cooking and buying groceries, here are my 10 tips on shopping smart and eating healthy on a budget..
*Shop the colorful vegetables and fruits and use them.
I love buying produce. Too me 3-pack cucumbers never seem to be enough for a week, nor a package of 5 heads of Romaine lettuce. Because my parents always had fresh produce in the kitchen (I would go to the Saturday morning market as a child), all of us kids grew up loving vegetables and fruits. Actually I thought treat meant fruit. Our mom always made sure there was fresh cut up fruits for us after dinner. I continued the tradition and habit, and sure enough our children all ask for the salad first. Chips to me was a holiday treat and occasionally my grandma would get some chips out when we would have sleepovers (we thought she was the coolest). I still remember eating some of my first meals in America back in the 80’s, and wondering why there were chips served as part of the dinner. I thought maybe it was placed there accidentally. But since that time, even I on very few occasions have served chips with hot dogs.
*Read the labels of everything you buy.
This may sound complicated, but your health will thank you. I know time is valuable but it always surprises me when I pick up a new product and read the ingredients. For me it is important for health reasons to know exactly what’s in the packaged foods, and once you start looking you will be surprised at how much sugar, salt and preservative is in most processed groceries. Even a simple thing such as cold cuts, different brands will have not only tons of salt, but also sugar, color and additives added. Knowing what is in my food and where it comes from is really important to me.
*Buy groceries that you eat a lot of in bulk
I am not talking about cookies. But honestly I do buy cookies in bulk too when they go on sale (“least processed”). I have the hardest time paying for “junk” food. To me it just don’t seem right. But I wouldn’t be a cool grandma unless I had some treats for my cute grand kids. Buying in bulk does not necessary only mean big/large packages, but it also means buying multiple of something when there is a sale.
*Buy quantity when stores are running specials.
This grandma buys grains, beans, organic canned goods, organic cereals and much more in bulk when there are great sales going on. The difference could mean thousands of dollars a year. Our family spend years with a real tight budget, but we never went without anything and it seemed we had at least one or two “guest” at our dinner table on daily basis. We always ate well and had plenty for a lunch bag or two the next day. According to the USDA the average food budget for a family of two is $7,500 per year. We fed a family of seven with $7,000 a year, for many years.
*Don’t buy a product just because you have a coupon.
This one might seem strange to some, but I won’t use a coupon, no matter how good the discount is, unless I love the product. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about coupons!!!. But there is no reason for me to pay $1 less on something that I am not going to eat it.
*Cook from scratch.
Here is an idea that can have several meaning, depending on a person’s perception and experiences. To me cooking from scratch means, to make spaghetti sauce with real tomatoes or canned tomatoes. It means to chop up the onions from its natural state and adding to my dishes and not opening up a bag with chopped onion in it. It also means that I peel and slice my apples for the kids rather than the prepackaged ones. I do have to agree that some of these products are so wonderfully convenient and there is a great purpose and reason for them, but when we speak of health and being frugal, there is nothing better than the scratch that our grandparents talked about and lived by. Chopping your own veggies, baking a brownie from scratch not a box, not only saves a ton of money, but tastes so much better and is much healthier.
This is at times easier said than done. But it is totally possible. I love going to farmers markets in the Summer. Farmers markets have to be one of my hobbies. The reason I love it so much, is not only because I can support local artists and businesses, but it is the BEST place to buy locally produced foods. Each State, City and Country have there own idea of fresh markets and some are better than others, but my experience has taught me that with a little research, every location we may live in, has at least one farmer or a local food producer. Local food is usually better for us and majority of the time is cheaper too. For me eating grass fed or locally raised beef is important. But buying antibiotic free and grass fed beef cost a fortune in the local grocery stores. So I have searched and found local farmers that sell their beef much cheaper. The point is, we may not find everything locally, but if we choose when it is available, we will often time find that it is much better for us and usually cheaper.
*Plan your meals ahead of time.
Actually, sometimes a head of time means 2 hours prior to our dinner. Having a list of ten easy meals on a piece of paper in my kitchen has made all the difference. I usually have the ingredients of those meals in my pantry and freezer, which helps me with decision making. We always have veggies on hand, which we serve with every meal. This helps our family to avoid take out or prepackaged foods. Some meals are fancier than others. As my son-in-law recently put it, “it is always interesting to see what’s for dinner at momo’s (that’s what my grand kids call me – it’s a long story)”. Love the guy, he has never not eaten my food, even though it is quite different than what he grew up with (he did admit though that he always manages to overeat 😉 .
I grew up with a grandmother who was part of the Armenian Genocide in the early 1900 hundreds. She watched her family be brutally killed and she ended up in an orphanage until she got married. Having heard her stories since I can remember, always made me wonder, how it was possible for her to adapt and adjust to the modern world as we know it now.We have so much available around us, and with a click of the mouse, we can even have food delivered to our front door. She ended up living until she was 104 years old. I watched her remove mold off some of her leftovers and finishing up the meal days later. When my husband would lovingly try to stop her, she would get mad at him and tell him “this is why I have managed to live this long – I am preserved with bacteria”. I am not an advocate of eating mold, actually I hope none of us try to eat mold. But my point is, in our modern age, we are way too quick with throwing away food that is totally fine to be consumed.
*Grow a garden.
Even if it means a pot of herbs in your apartment window sill. My twin sister has instilled in her daughters the joy that comes from eating home grown produce. Her cute daughters, each one of them grow herbs in pots, in their own tiny, one bedroom apartments. There is no greater satisfaction than growing your own produce.
Buy, store and cook what works for your family.
We all come from different backgrounds and traditions. We each have created different habits, whether good or bad. If you want to improve your health or the health of your wallet then take a minute and consider how simple our forefathers lived. For me as I think of their simple lives, I feel deep gratitude of how blessed we are to live in a time where we have so many options and possibilities. This earth is full of goodness.