Last week over coffee, my friend Amy and I discussed the difficulty of eating well (and healthily) on a budget. I confessed that Andrew and I really don’t have a budget for food; with his allergies, there are some items (gluten and dairy free) that we have to buy, regardless of the price. Plus, we consider the money we spend on organic produce an investment–we are hoping for lower healthcare costs down the road as a result of taking good care of ourselves now! After all, it was Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine himself, who said, “Let food be thy medicine.” That, however, is a post for another day. Today I want to talk about eating well on a budget.
While Andrew and I do not have an official budget for food, we also don’t go crazy at the grocery store. Here are some ways we keep down the cost of what we consume:
- Buy in bulk, when possible. We always have large containers of brown rice and quinoa that we refill with bags purchased at a wholesale club. We also buy large bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and other items that will last a while.
- Look for sales. If our cereals of choice are on a good sale, we might buy five boxes (It is not uncommon for us to have ten boxes of cereal in our pantry at any given time. :)) Be flexible–if you were planning to have chicken breasts for dinner, but discover at the store that the pork tenderloins are on sale, it’s okay to change plans! Or…
- Buy meat when it’s on sale and freeze it.
- Look for in-season produce. It’s cheaper and tastes better.
- Buy frozen produce. It’s generally cheaper, has more nutrients than canned (and often fresh) produce, and works well in most recipes. We always have a large bag of organic broccoli in the freezer that we can steam for a quick, healthy side dish.
- Shop around. We know, in general, which stores have which foods for the least money. There are some items we always buy at Trader Joe’s, some we always buy at Kroger, and, surprisingly, a few items that are always cheapest at Martin’s.
- Limit the number of packaged “treats” that you buy. Generally, this is the stuff that ups the grocery bill, not the bananas that cost $0.20 each.
- Grow your own food. Sure, there were some upfront costs to starting our garden, but there’s a lot of produce that I don’t have to buy this summer!
Dinner last night was definitely a budget-friendly meal:
Cost: We purchased a 3.5 lb organic “griller pack” that included 4 chicken legs and 2 split chicken breasts on sale for $8.75. We bought 4 ears of corn for a total of $1.33. The squash came from our garden, but Kroger currently has them on sale for $0.69/pound. Let’s say we bought 3 pounds for $2.07. Assuming you have salt, pepper, butter (for the corn,) olive oil and vinegar (to marinate the chicken) on hand, the total cost of this dinner is $12.15. The cost per serving obviously depends on the people who are eating–this would probably make 7 meals for me and 3 for Andrew ;-)–together, we will likely get 5 servings out of this, bringing the cost to $2.43 per serving. If you factor in the cost of the items you had on hand (which I am not going to do,) I bet it’s still well under $3 per serving.
That’s a lot of food for $12.15!
Eating well doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Look for sales, buy produce that’s in season–or better yet, grow your own–and you can eat very delicious, healthy meals on a budget.
Do you have any tips for saving money at the grocery store?