eating clean on a budget

Creative tips to save money and nourish your body in a healthful way

Hello, My name is Gina. I am a mom of two, business owner, dietitian, food lover and recovering shopaholic...at grocery stores. When I first started on my journey of clean eating it was all about purchasing foods that were different, always organic, gave me satisfaction, and didn’t leave me feeling deprived. However, I added up one month of shopping that was well over $900…for 2 people and an infant (insert appropriate horror-movie gasp)! That just wasn’t feasible, like at all. Over the years I have learned how to scale this back greatly, but noticed one of the main concerns most people voice is “how do I eat clean affordably?” So out of necessity for myself, and for my clients I set out to find some great cost savings techniques to help you eat clean, whole foods, on a budget. No, this is not another post where I’m not going to tell you to ‘not shop on a an empty stomach’ because let’s be real, I’m only grocery shopping because I’m out of food and I’m hungry!

Budget friendly tips:

1. Buying organic frozen vegetables (especially for veggies that you don’t use daily). I know I’m not the only one who has shamefully thrown away a head of rotted lettuce or cauliflower that accidentally was abandoned for several weeks in the back of the fridge, right? In the US alone we waste about 30-40% of the food we purchase. Yikes! But…is frozen just as good as fresh? Actually, yes, sometimes it’s better quality than the fresh stuff because it’s flash frozen on sight before being shipped to stores. So buy the frozen organic broccoli, cauliflower rice, and berries in bulk and stash them away where they won’t rot and won’t waste your cash.

2. Utilize cost effective grocery stores like Aldi, where you can buy plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, organic gluten free foods and snacks, organic eggs, and grass fed meats that will cost a fraction of what you would pay at a health food store. Whatever items you can’t find here supplement at the higher end stores as needed.

3. Shop with a (budget-friendly) friend. Find someone that has like minded goals and go halfsies on a wholesale club membership. You split the cost and both reap the rewards. Does you sister have a Costco card? Does you friend go to BJs Wholesale Club frequently? What about your neighbor’s best friend’s aunt? You get the picture. Maybe I should create an app like tinder for people that just want to share wholesale club memberships? hmmm...

4. Minimize packaged products as much as possible. Making most food at home is less expensive. There’s definitely going to be convenience items that make life easier but are waaay cheaper to make yourself like protein bars, breakfast sausage patties, and guacamole. So you need to way the cost and benefit of purchasing these items for your family. Here’s a great example: I can buy large avocados at a bulk grocery store 6 for $5. Those 6 avocados can make a whole lotta guac. But for my daughter’s lunches I sometimes splurge and buy the individual guacamole cups, because they stay fresher in her lunches even though I know it costs more. Convenience is key sometimes especially towards the end of the school year!

5. Do your research! Use the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists to help you save a few dollars on organic produce. You can find this list that they update yearly here. I truly believe that consumers vote with their dollar, so if you are able to buy all organic that’s great! But if you’re trying to be cost effective using this list deciphers which food items have the most and least pesticide exposure. The dirty dozen list has the most pesticides and should be the foods you purchase organic. The others can be purchased conventionally.

6. Seek out farmers markets, food share programs, and food subscription boxes. This is kind of a loaded one. First, shopping at local farmers markets is an amazing way to support local farms, obtain super fresh produce and artisan products as well as conserve some money. There have been many times when I’ve come late to a market and I can get great deals on the produce that is left over and they don’t want to pack up. It’s key to ask for a deal if you buy multiple items at a Farmer’s Market too. When I was in college I went to a market with my mom. I unknowingly paid exactly what was asked on the sign for each item like always until I noticed that she was asking for bulk deals. She has always slayed in this department and taught me that you won’t get a deal if you don’t ask. Subscription boxes and online services for boxed items, cold foods, and even meat and poultry has been on the rise. You can now have very high quality products shipped right to your door for less than going to an actual grocery store. I call that a win-win! Check out some of these resources to get you started:

  • Find a local Farmer’s Market near you

  • Support environmentally conscious companies like Perfectly Imperfect Produce that are saving “ugly” produce and delivering to your doorstep

  • Try Butcher Box for high quality meats and poultry

  • Vital Choice sources high quality seafood

  • Thrive Market is an online healthy wholesale club that also offers free and reduced memberships for certain people like veterans, teachers, and low income families!

7. Use Instacart or curbside pick up! This may seem counter-intuitive because there’s added fees depending on the store. However, search for coupons and free trials if you haven’t used a service like this before. The first time I used Instacart I got $15 off my order! I have found the reducing my trips to the grocery store in general cuts down on cost. Plus you save money by default by sticking to your list and not making any impulse purchases...and it’s delivered to your door in under 2 hours...SCORE!


8. Don’t waste your leftovers! Before you set out to make your list and purchase groceries for the week. Take a quick inventory of what you already have and use it up. This cuts down on food waste and allows you to be more creative with meal planning. Some of the best and quickest meals are one-pot-wonders of whatever is left in my fridge at the end of the week.

9. Use less meat with each meal instead of it being the ‘star of the show’. Animal products are often the most expensive items to purchase, especially if you are buying high quality. Some people need more protein than others but if you can tolerate less and fill in with more veggies and plant foods it will save money too. I like to make 2 large organic frozen chicken breasts in my InstantPot, shred it up, add seasonings and use this on top of salads, veggies, tacos etc throughout the week. It lasts surprising long compared to just eating a piece of chicken at each meal.

10. Buy bulk when items are on sale. My beloved Whole Foods Market typically has a sale on organic whole roasting chicken every few months where they are about ½ the cost! When this happens I buy 5-6 at a time and stash them in my deep freezer to have on hand later. I will do this with most items I can freeze or save for later. It’s more upfront cost but cuts down on your grocery bill throughout the next month or longer.

I hope you can implement a few of these tips to help your food dollar go a bit further. If I missed any that you use, please share your tips below!

Wishing you health and happiness :)


Gina


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