By: Nicolette Durkin, MS, RD, LDN
These days it can seem that each trip through the grocery checkout line brings a progressively higher bill. Over the last year general food costs have increased by nearly 10%, and most people’s income did not increase by nearly that much, which leaves a gap in our collective budgets for food. These increased costs may nudge us to leave nutritious foods – like lean proteins and fresh vegetables– out of our carts. However, you can still maintain a healthy diet by being a strategic shopper. Here are five ways to keep nutrition in mind without going over your food budget:
Make a GOOD Grocery List
A good grocery list can be the most effective tool to save money at the grocery store. It is tempting to grab extra boxes of snack crackers, a new cookie you want to try, or an artisan cheese as you stroll down the aisles. While it’s fine to try new foods or treat yourself once in a while, you don’t need to include these items every time you shop. These “extras” can quickly add up in price and tack on $10-$20 to the bill. Make a meal plan for the week.
Write down your meals and then add all ingredients to your grocery list. Include items you know you’ll need for breakfast like eggs, bread, fruit, or oatmeal. Healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and produce should be included as well. You will be amazed at the money saved by equipping yourself with an efficient grocery list and sticking to it. Having a plan for the week also minimizes eating out – which is usually more expensive and less nutritious.
However, it is easy to create a grocery list around what you wish was possible and not for your real life. So remember how much time you have to prepare, eat, and clean up and try to include healthy convenience foods, like nutrition shakes that can save you both time and money when you are short on time. Soylent complete meal shakes are a great solution for breakfast when you want to save time, they are less expensive than fast food and far healthier.
Don’t Count Out Pre-Made or Prepared Foods
Take advantage of healthy processed foods that come without excess sodium, added sugars and unhealthy fats. Canned tuna, chicken, beans, and plant-based protein shakes are all convenient and relatively inexpensive protein sources.
Frozen, unseasoned chicken breasts are typically cheaper than fresh as well. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and budget friendly. Plus you don’t have to worry about these foods spoiling if they are not eaten in time (Remember, throwing away food is detrimental to your food budget as well!)
Buy Foods in Their Simplest Form
Aim to buy items that are in their whole food form and add your own sweet or savory seasonings. For example, buy plain brown rice instead of a microwavable, Cajun-seasoned option. Choose a bulk container of plain oatmeal instead of sugar-sweetened, individual packets. Swap in whole sweet potatoes instead of frozen sweet potato fries. The “simple” version of these foods are often less expensive than their overly processed counterparts and usually contain less calories from added sugars and fats.
Search For Deals
When making your meal plan for the week, do a quick search of your favourite store’s weekly ad to see what items are on sale. This is especially helpful for meats, which can take up a majority of your food budget. Skimming sales can also inspire ideas for meals to make that week. Most grocery stores also have phone apps with digital coupons or reward points that quickly add up to get money off your next shopping trip. In addition to stores having their own apps, there are many great couponing plugins and apps that can help you save money and earn rewards at a variety of stores including, Ibotta, Coupons.com, etc.
Also, remember that for some healthy shelf stable items, that you eat regularly you are able to subscribe online and save monthly - which saves you both time and money.
Know Your Weaknesses
Eating out is generally more expensive than preparing your own food at home. However, a busy schedule doesn’t always allow the time and effort to cook. The result is grabbing a breakfast sandwich at the coffee shop or stopping at the deli for lunch. Reflect on what time of day may be your “weakness” when consistently eating out or reaching for the wrong food. This is an opportunity to swap in a meal replacement option like Soylent shakes. A shake can fit seamlessly into your busy day and save money you would spend at a restaurant. Most importantly, it will provide a balance of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and healthier carbohydrates to keep you fueled for your day ahead.