5 Strategies for Budget Eating
Buying bundles of kale, organic produce and nut milk make for a pretty Instagram picture, but can you afford to turn clean-eating into a legit habit? I believe so. After trial and error, I've discovered that it is possible to eat clean while on a shoestring budget. Upgrading your diet doesn't have to cost a fortune and it doesn't require you to spend every waking hour in the kitchen cheffin up a fresh meal. It does however, require some creativity and a solid game plan. If you're ready to eat clean without losing precious time and overspending, follow these 5 simple strategies:
1. Create a budget
Most people are dumbfounded when they look at their banks statements and learn just how much they spend on food and drinks each month. A few dollars here and there on lunch or coffee eventually add up. So, why not take out the element of surprise and be honest with yourself? Figure out what your necessities are and then create a realistic budget. Determine how much your must-haves cost and factor them in. Personally, my must-haves are fruits, almonds, pecans, almond milk, oatmeal, tomatoes, spinach and arugula. I continue to add foods to my shopping list until I reach my budget. If you do most of your shopping at a grocery store, then consider using coupons and buying on-sale or store-brand items. I'm pretty frugal so I aim to spend about $60 on groceries each week. As you probably know, I do most of my shopping at my local Farmer's Markets, which I find to be less expensive than the grocery store (see number 5).
2. Find your tribe of bloggers
Subscribe to food blogs that are in line with your taste buds and your budget. There are thousands of bloggers sharing mouthwatering recipes, so take some time to research the blogs that resonate most with you. I love following blogs that are in-tune with my shoestring budget because it means that I don't have to worry about substituting ingredients or finding alternatives. I'm currently obsessed with the following food bloggers:
3. Meal Prep
This step is crucial if you're trying to save time and money! Prepare your meals and snacks in advance so that you're not tempted to buy outside food that probably has little nutritional value. Simple things like throwing your smoothie ingredients into ready-to-go freezer bags or cutting up vegetable and fruits slices can make a huge difference. I spend about 2.5 hours every Sunday making dishes that will last for the entire week. Most people complain about eating the same thing more than once, but if your dishes are creative, healthy and flavorful then you won't mind. I'm a huge advocate of meal prepping because it eliminated my mindless spending at the Farmer's Market and grocery store. I know exactly what I'm shopping for, which means more money in my pocket and less time wasted thinking of meals on the spot. When you are intentional about what you're eating, overspending and wasting unused food are things of the past.
4. Shop at a Farmer's Market
Farmer's Markets are the best place to buy affordable, fresh, whole food! I do most of my shopping at markets and then head over to the grocery store for packaged items like grains and sauces. It's best to visit a market towards closing time because farmers are likely to sell food for discounted rates. They would rather reduce prices then lug all that food back onto the truck. I also love shopping at Farmer's Markets because there are always free samples floating around. Who doesn't love tasting in-season samples from organic farmers. If you're in Brooklyn, be sure to stop by my favorite market at Fort Greene Park on Saturdays.
5. Buy organic
If you're looking to eat mostly organic, the goal is to buy organic as much as possible, but know when to skip it. I buy organic fruits and vegetable according to whether or not they're on the Dirty Dozen list. If a fruit or vegetable is on the list, I buy it organic since it is the most contaminated. if it's not on the list, then I base my decisions on my budget. Prioritizing my organic purchases definitely helps me to save money. Just to be on the safe side, I always use a DIY Fruit and Veggie Spray to clean pesticides off of organic and non-organic produce. You can find that recipe here.
Let's agree that eating healthy isn't too expensive. If you do your part and create a solid game plan, then you can eat BIG on your small budget. I do.
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