“New Poor”~ Those who were previously middle class but because of
the economic downturn they are now living at or below the poverty level.
More and more people are learning to live with less. People are looking for places where they can save money in their budgets, places where cutting corners will allow them to attempt to continue the lifestyles they were previously accustomed. One of the first and easiest places for most people to trim back the fat is with the groceries they purchase, the foods that they consume. There are after all a multitude of options, varieties, brands, and choices. Where does one even begin? We know we want to feed ourselves and our families the best possible foods available, but when presented with the option to purchase sweetened apple sauce for $.50 a can, conventional apples for $.99 a pound, and organic apples for $2.99 a pound, the choice is easy. The cheapest choice usually isn’t the best for our bodies or our families, but we also don’t need to spend absorbent amounts of money to eat healthy either.
The first place we can start is by creating a budget. Eating on a
budget means that we will have to make some behavioral changes. If you are one
of those people who regularly stops for fast food, grabs pre-made options at the
grocery store, or eats out frequently, you are probably eating low quality foods
and you are spending a fortune as all of these options are expensive! Think for
a moment, how much do you spend on bottles of water or cups of coffee per week? Developing a budget can help you become both healthier and wealthier. Changing any habit takes time, patience, and support. Set up realistic goals for you and your family. You will find that budgeting will become easier with time.
Below you will find 12 tips and tactics to help you eat well on a budget:
Are you a meat and potatoes kind of person or do you prefer to live a mostly
vegetarian lifestyle? It doesn’t make much sense to buy a bunch of greens that
are on sale at the farmer’s market when your whole life you have hated greens.
Try making a list of all of your and our family’s favorite foods. Put emphasis
on healthy options, such as fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, seeds, etc. Once we
have this list, we need to look at what kind of cook we are and what our time
restraints are. Are you a single father of 4 who has a max of 20 minutes nightly
to cook or are you a grazer who does better with small snacks or meals
throughout the day versus 3 set big meals? Are you an emotional eater? Do you
find that you tend towards certain foods at certain times of the month? Knowing
what your time constraints are, your preferred style of eating, and any
emotional triggers will help you to stick to your budget as you will be able to
account for those things.
There are however some guidelines or basic dietary recommendations for everyone. Everyone should aim for a balanced diet that is eaten on a regular schedule. Maintaining blood sugar levels throughout the day is not only better for our bodies, but will also help keep us on track and we won’t reach for those cheap convenience foods that are both unhealthy and expensive over time. Meals should contain a variety of foods including greens, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, and dairy. Avoid artificial sweeteners, sugars, and too many grains or grain products. Additionally, aim for 80oz of water daily.
2.Familiarize yourself with your resources.
If you are truly struggling in the financial department there are many different programs designed to help you obtain food at little or no cost. Did you know that in most states you can dial 2-1-1 to get assistance on how to navigate all the resources and agencies that currently offer help or assistance? If you have access to the internet at home or via a public library check out www.feedingamerica.org which can help you locate free food assistance programs in your area. For tips from an incredibly resourceful husband and wife team visit www.moneysmartfamily.com. The SNAP program www.fns.usda.gov/snap commonly referred to as food stamps helps millions of people annually to purchase
necessary food items.
What kinds of foods do you already have in your house? Check the
pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and kitchen cabinets. People are often surprised
by just how much food they actually have in their homes at any one point in
time. With a little creative meal planning some awesome meals can be made.
Remember you can always make substitutions in recipes to use what you already
have at home. Make sure you discard anything that is expired or appears spoiled.
Typically if you are unsure, it is better to toss it than to take the chance of
getting you or one of your family members sick.
4.Have a plan of action.
Your action plan should include your money–saving goals, menu plan, and shopping lists. In order for your menu planning to be successful, it is best to take baby steps. Start by planning the most challenging meals for you or your family. Do you often feel rushed to get healthy dinners on the table? Start by planning out
some dinners for your family. Try using a slow cooker that you can toss all the
ingredients into in the morning and come home to dinner ready, or following some
of the recipes by someone like Rachel Ray www.foodnetwork.com/30-minute-meals/index.html . Gradually, you will be able to plan out your whole month. Remember just because you plan to have something one day, doesn’t mean you have to have it,. You have the necessary ingredients on hand to make it or you can always go with something else that inspires you at that moment in time. As for making your grocery list, this is an incredibly powerful tool, not only to help you save money but to guarantee you are eating healthy as well. Sticking to a grocery
list can help keep you from buying those convenience foods and any other
unnecessary items. Try organizing your grocery list by sections of the store.
Using coupons can save families as much as $1,000 per year on groceries. Coupons are widely available in newspapers, online, magazines and are often attached to recipes. Clip and sort coupons according to the sections of your shopping list. Be sure to read the small print on coupons in case there are any special instructions. There are some cautions to take when using coupons. Coupons are often printed for items that lack nutrition like Capri Suns and Handi-snacks. Don’t get sucked into buying these products because you have a coupon for them. Additionally, always check the store name brand or other generic brand for its price. Often times these items will still be cheaper than the name brand with the coupon. Remember we want to save both money and put the highest quality foods on our tables.
For time, labor and expense purposes, it is typically recommended to do
all your shopping at one grocery store. It is the reasons like Target and
Walmart now have full grocery sections. However, you should remember that great deals on food and other household items can be found at dollar stores and
pharmacies. Check out the weekly circulars in your area and pay attentions to
the sales. The local Mexican market may be having a huge produce sale and while
it isn’t the local Whole Foods or Safeway where you normally shop, going there
this time may save you a significant amount of money on the same exact products.
When buying groceries shop mid-week and on a full stomach. When possible, shop without your children so that you can maintain your focus. Shopping in the morning may yield markdowns in the produce and meat departments as well as “end of day” sale items from the previous day in the deli. Always remember that products at eye level tend to be more expensive, look high and low on the shelves for lower prices. Generic and store brand items can be significantly less expensive than, and similar in quality to, name brand items. Take time to check labels for hidden sugars and trans fats. To limit your intake of trans fats avoid any products with partially hydrogenated oil in its ingredients list. To avoid impulse buying, stick to only what is on your grocery list. If there is something that is on an incredible sale, such as blueberries, and you have space in your freezer, seize the
opportunity even though they weren’t on your list, but these exceptions will be
few and far between. Buying things in bulk can save you a lot of money, but only
if you have the space in your freezer to properly store the excess that you
won’t be eating immediately. Remember that most deli departments will slice a
large block of cheese or meat for free, allowing you to save money by not
purchasing the pre-sliced meats and cheeses.
A tip to remember is to avoid buying most processed foods, but avoiding most
anything sold in a box. If you take a look at things sold in boxes other than
possibly organic broths, these items tend to have low nutritional quality and
are expensive in comparison to their fresh or even canned counterparts. Avoid
specialty foods unless absolutely necessary and shop the perimeter of the store.
A great place to purchase your fruits and veggies are at your local farmer’s
market. Vendors typically drop prices just before closing. You may also try to
negotiate with a local farmer for whatever produce is in season as he may have a
surplus that he needs to get rid of.
7. Prepare your own food.
Learning to cook and prepare healthy meals with simple ingredients can change your life. Buy finding a couple recipes you love and are easy to make and then keeping these ingredients on hand, meals will become simplified. Just after you go to the grocery store, take the time to do your own chopping, dividing, freezing,
mixing, and sorting of your foods to prepare for quick meals on busy days. If
one partner does most of the cooking the other one can do the prepping. Cook in
bulk and freeze half of what you make, for example with soups and stews. This
makes dinner or lunch incredibly easy, just de-frost heat and serve on those
busy nights. If freezing meals isn’t an option, make sure to cook enough for a
couple meals. You will save yourself time by having the leftovers for lunch or
dinner the next day. Stir frys make quick easy meals as does throwing everything
in a crock pot before you leave for work in the morning. The food slow cooks all
day, and is ready when you return home. When you make pasta sauces, meat loafs, and other items, add extra veggies to them, which will help stretch them for a minimal cost and make them more nutritious.
8.Use the plate method.
Using the plate method is super easy to do and to understand. Using this method simply means that you should have the following on your plate. ½ of your plate should be covered with veggies, preferably a minimum of two different vegetable, ¼ should be your lean protein equal to 20-25g of protein, and the remaining ¼ can be a whole grain carbohydrate source. I however recommend that you omit the grain at dinner. Limit it to breakfast or dinner. Try seasoning your foods with various herbs and spices instead of adding a bunch of sauces or sweeteners.
9. Strive for a more plant based diet.
I am a huge fan of animal proteins, not only do I feel better, but I get sick less often, and have more energy. Meat, fish, chicken and dairy can be very costly. Especially when you are purchasing organic meats, dairy, eggs, and fish. Due to the amount of hormones that are being pumped into animals and the foods that are being fed to them, it really is in your best interest to purchase only organic meats and animal products. In doing this, offset the costs by working in more beans, legumes, nuts, hemp, seeds and other vegetables. Organic eggs are a great addition to add protein to otherwise vegetable based dishes and meals. You will save enough money to afford the organic meats from time to time. You will also guarantee a greater variety of foods are introduced into your diet.
10.Have snacks available.
Low calorie and affordable foods are easy to fit into your life. Chop up fruits and veggies that are in season, divide raw nuts and seeds into individual servings, keep cottage cheese and Greek yogurt on hand, and non-gmo edamame in the freezer which can quickly be boiled up. You will be less likely to reach for the unhealthy quick and easy foods if you keep these healthy snacks around and your blood sugar levels stable.
11. Grow your own food.
Home gardening can be very enjoyable and done just about anywhere as long as you have appropriate access to direct sunlight. It is the only true way to guaranteeing the quality and freshness of the food you are putting on your table. One tomato plant seedling can be purchased for a couple dollars, seeds
are even cheaper, soil, and a pot and you are good to get started. With an
initial investment of under $10 you can grow a plant that will easily save you
over $100. You will have enough tomatoes to make pasta sauce, add to salads,
burgers, and anything else you want them for. If growing vegetables seems
overwhelming for right now, grow your own herbs, you can save your family a
great deal of money and add some awesome flavors to your foods.
12. Allow for the unexpected.
Attempt to have almost ready foods available in the freezer or refrigerator for days when you don’t have your normal amount of time to prepare a meal. Many healthy meals can be prepared quickly; for example you can cook up a frozen turkey burger and serve it with fresh lettuce and tomatoes. If you pre-cut your veggies ahead of time, you will shorten the time spent in the kitchen even more. If you really have no time to make food at home, remember that is usually cheaper and healthier in most parts of the country to grab food from the deli at your grocery store than to go to a restaurant.
Life is unpredictable and no matter how perfectly we plan out our meals or how we are going to save money, sometimes things are out of our control. Have patience with yourself and life and give yourself credit for all the positive changes you have made thus far. This is a lifestyle change, it isn’t going to happen overnight and no one is perfect, there will be a moment when you are on that road trip and you eat something outside of your budget or that is less than healthy, but as long as our overall pattern is one that is healthy, you will see that you wallet benefits as well as your overall health.
# 1 Trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area, sharing health, fitness, and lifestyle information.