Use These 13 Hacks To Eat Well On A Small Budget

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Grocery bills can certainly add up, and it can be hard to prioritize healthy eating when you're depending on a tight budget. Yet, eating with health in mind can make a huge difference for your mental and physical health, so it's important to learn these money-saving hacks to make shopping easier and simpler.

As a certified health coach, I work with people on managing their finances in order to live a healthy lifestyle, filled with rich, whole foods, exercise, self-care habits and access to things that can better their emotional and physical wellbeing. While I am not a financial advisor, and so I recommend seeking financial guidance elsewhere, I do find that coming up with a set amount to spend on certain healthy habits is beneficial for regulating stress and making room for things in life that are worth investing in for long-term results. Eating well can help prevent diseases and can boost productivity on a daily basis, and this effect will carry over throughout the years, making us happier, healthier and better off for ourselves, our families and our occupations. Eating on a small budget does not necessarily mean that nutrition must fall behind. Here are thirteen ways to save money, while still nourishing your body from the inside and out.

1. Join A CSA

"In season and local often means better prices and tastier produce! Plus, you will support small businesses, and the goods are delivered right to your door," says personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer over email correspondence with Bustle. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) support terrific causes and are often loaded with fresh, nutrient-dense and seasonal produce that is easy on the wallet and heavy on the health.

2. Choose Your Market Wisely

Not all markets are equal in prices. "Buy food at lower-priced markets such as Trader Joe's and Costco," says certified holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition, over email with Bustle. Plus, don't be afraid to make a few separate trips. While it might be more time consuming, it can help you save tons of money. For instance, you can buy fruit from one store and meats and seasonings from another.

3. Search For Coupons

You can often find coupons over the web, as well as in grocery stores themselves. Compile coupons in order to save well, suggests Bruno, as those extra dollars here and there can definitely add up. Plus, there are often chances to use coupons for healthy items, such as alternative milks, coconut water, legume chips and whole grains.

4. Make Leftovers, Intentionally

Cooking in bulk can not only save time and meal-prep for the week ahead, but it can also save lots of money through recipe makeovers and bulk purchases in store. "Use a slow cooker and double the recipe for leftovers," advises Bruno. Slow cookers are great for making larger portions of meals, such as stews, soups and chilis. Use throughout the week in different ways for diversity in flavor.

5. Buy In Bulk

Bulk sections at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods Market, offers nuts, dried fruits, legumes and beans, and grains, among other staples, that can save serious cash through avoidance of packaged, processed items. "Buy nuts, beans, and spices from bulk bins to save on costs," says Bruno. Plus, when in bulk, the foods are often free of any additives and salts, which can be a lot healthier, as well!

6. Stock Up On Items With Late Expiration Dates

"Stock up on cooking oils, nuts, canned beans, and stocks/broths when they're on sale," says Bruno, as these pantry staples have a long shelf life and are incredibly versatile and practical for hearty, nutritious meals that work throughout the seasons. While they might take up space in your pantry, the cost will be worth it. If you have a storage unit, you can throw some items in their until you're ready to use.

7. Be Cautious With Produce

Not all fruit and vegetables need to be fresh, as many studies show that frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. If produce is in season, it will often be cheaper and on sale; however, out of season produce is less availability and pricier. Plus, it won't taste as good when not in season! Purchase frozen varieties, as it'll be easier on a budget and won't make difference nutritionally.

8. Grow Your Own Garden

Whether you have access to growing a full garden within a wide open space, or have a smaller terrace in a cramped urban apartment, the ability to grow some fresh produce, spices and herbs can help cut down on costs and will increase the nutrition and flavor. "Grow your own salad greens and herbs," says Bruno, as it will make for yummy and healthy meals and be wallet friendly.

9. Make Your Home A "Restaurant"

"America craves the quality food, typically associated with ‘dining out’ experiences, but without the time and money constraints," says Mike Starks, CEO of Personal Trainer Food over email with Bustle. Set the mood to make eating at home enjoyable, so that you feel less inclined to head out to restaurants during the week. Also, you can look for gourmet meal services that are cost efficient and provide restaurant-quality foods.

10. Add Flavor Without Expensive Ingredients

"Add a little extra flavor to your veggies that will excite your taste buds with herbs, oils and spices," says Starks. This will help you make meals different and exciting due to various flavors and textures, without needing to add expensive oils, additives and sauces that can cost a lot at a grocery store. Different flavors and herbs can transform leftovers, as well, making the meals taste delicious and new.

11. Find Recipes With Similar Ingredients

"Look for recipes that have the same ingredients to avoid being wasteful," says Starks. If most recipes incorporate the same items, shopping in bulk is easier, and if you run out of a certain ingredient, such as a spice, sauce or protein, you can find a quick and efficient substitute that will match the flavor profile well and not require any additional spending.

12. Plan Meals Ahead Of Time

"You can save money by avoiding eating out at restaurants and/or the occasional grab-n-go snacks that tend to add up by the end of the week, and having healthy food prepared will keep you on track to achieve your goals without breaking the bank," says Kevin Curry, a Reebok Expert and founder of FitMenCook, over email with Bustle. By figuring out which meals you will eat during the week, you can save money on additional items that are unnecessary purchases.

13. Learn To Buy In Moderation

Sticking with portion sizes and eating expensive items in moderation is a great way to maintain a budget and save. "Practice moderation and only buy what you're actually going to eat. It's easy to get distracted by all the fresh, vibrant produce in the grocery store and you begin to buy more than what you need because you 'hope' to eat the food," says Curry.

No matter your exact budget, it's best to be mindful of your spending and look for deals at the grocery store whenever possible. Buying in bulk, planning meals and ingredients ahead of time, and scouting out the best options at local stores can save money over time and simplify the grocery store process so that you can feel less stressed about the money and healthier with your meal choices.

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