Food prices have risen. I sound like my mother now, talking about the days when I could buy a dozen eggs for $3.50. This last month I have been trimming the fat in our budget to be sure we are ahead of the game in the next few years of uncertain economic times. If you are following the markets and have a critical mind, you’ve already realized that the US’s governments addiction to printing money is going to be a painful blow to all of us in the coming years. I’m hesitant to say how much I spend on groceries. It’s easily been over $1000/month….
As a champion for health, I feel quality food is vital but as I look at my budget I am beginning to feel how challenging eating healthy on a budget can be when, especially when we are talking about a budget of $500 or less each month.
But I am always up for a challenge. Here are some of my tips for reigning in your food costs without sacrificing your health or quality of meals:
1. Get a binder with sleeves. Put an envelope into each sleeve with your allocated budget in each department in cash.When you shop, take cash, no more debit or credit cards! I have a sleeve for food, clothing, personal care, gas, gifts…etc. Only my recurring bills for essential home operation get automatically debited from my account. The rest is organized into my binder.
2. Budget for each week of meals. I was notorious for buying up 7 cans of beans when they were on sale. This month, we’ve simply been eating up stored food to get back to a TRUE EAT and USE UP philosophy. I do have an emergency kit though, filled with about two weeks of food stored. I will leave this alone for now.
3. Eliminate junk food. If you have family members who love to snack, start doing shopping on your own. Choose your vice and stick to it. We love bean chips. They are about $3.50/bag. So instead of eating 2-3/week, we opt for 1/week as long as the budget allows. We save $14/month on “snacks” alone. Eat frozen blueberries or other fruits in the evenings if the craving strikes. Make home made apple crisp anytime by freezing chopped peeled apples now that they are in season. Get creative so that the ice cream and treats are slowly eliminated for more healthy treats.
4. Buy food in quantity when they are end of season. Heading into winter, we have budget for some end of season tomatoes and fruit for canning that will take us through the winter. This means I will be spending half of what I would normally spend on imported fruit that has been picked to early. Organic tomatoes are a healthy option when used from glass jars rather than buying cans from the store.
5. Quinoa and Brown Rice: Most people think that quinoa is expensive, but I have been getting large bags for about $7 that easily last one month. We make tabouleh, bean salads, mix into miso soup, puree quinoa with other soups or eat plain with olive oil and Sea Salt.
6. Beans: …The magical fruit….never mind. Beans are one of the best sources for protein and go a long way on a budget. I LOVE beans and we eat them often. I only buy one brand and I would gladly give up other items on my list for Eden Beans. They are packed with sea veggie that breaks down the exterior coating on the beans which helps us digest them easily. We never have “bean issues” from these beans. They also have put in place “NO BPA” practices. I’ve tried soaking and sprouting many times now, but life as a stay at home mom and entrepreneur? Something had to give. Eden is my best choice. Eat a large variety of beans. Add then to rice, pasta sauce, soups, salad’s etc.
7. More Salads: A general practice in my family since I was a child is to have a salad with every meal, or at the very least, with dinner. Most health issues stem from being overly acidic. Our bodies increase in acidity when we consume processed foods, drinks, meat, alcohol etc. Even stress and negativity in our life creates acidity in our bodies. All disease is born an acidic environment. On the flip side, even raw vegans can have issues with being too alkaline, as I was a few years back. The point is to strive for balance and for most people today, eat more alkaline foods. Salads boost your health and your meals without taxing your budget. Sorry, iceberg lettuce does not qualify as a real salad!
8. Drop Take Out and Restaurants. If you do take out or restaurants, have a look at your monthly bank statement and tally it up. Starbucks here, Macdonald’s there…it really adds up the food costs and unfortunately adds nothing to your health. But I know, when we are out for the day and the kids get hungry, it’s always a dilemma about what to do? I look at nearly all food establishments with disdain since we switched to a wheat free lifestyle. There are very few places that provide a “home meal away from home” so over time I have lost my affinity with feeling that Restaurants are “special”. On occasion we do eat out, but we carefully select where we go. I always take food snacks with me in a cooler when we had out so that we can avoid being in a hunger craze with the children.
9. Choose to drink MORE WATER! Milk is highly overrated. Juice as well. Let’s not discuss soda because there are no health benefits from adding this to your budget. The fact is that we are chronically dehydrated. Water, from the purest source available is the best choice. It’s all we drink now. My latest passion is learning about REAL WATER and the effects it has on our blood. WOW, how many of us even realize that the water we drink is actually processed? Milk is not the best choice for calcium, and it causes more problems that it solves. This week we will be heading up to a local spring to collect pure water in glass bottles to hydrate ourselves on a cellular level. Check if you have a spring near you?
10. Set Eating Times. There are times when I have felt like a short order cook for my family. It does not help when I cook 3 meals a day either plus snacks! This particular advice is really most beneficial for stay at home mom’s or dad’s. I have set times with my children for food. The know that at 8am the breakfast table is cleared and that a snack will not appear until 10am. This has eliminated (almost!) the whining and provides them with the responsibility and power to manage their own hunger. This also helps us with eating constantly and draining and dipping into the food budget by eating up things I have allocated for meals. The other option is to set plates of fruit and veggies out for your children to snack on. Once it is gone, they must wait until meal time.
11. Build a garden! I have been canning up a storm this year, compliments of the bounty from our garden. If you wait till the end of the season, even organic foods like tomatoes are quite cheap. This is the only exception I make with my budget. I won’t drop $4 for a can of tomatoes, organic or not when BPA is still an issue. I prefer mine in hoe canned glass jars.
These are some of the ways we have been able to cut our food budget in half while eating healthy. Other special recommendations would be eating towards a more vegetarian diet and meal planning.