Secrets to Saving on Your Food Budget…and Still Eating a Healthy Plant-Centred Diet
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they couldn’t afford to eat healthfully…I wouldn’t need to worry about my food budget!!
I’m not sure when wellness became all about $20 coconut yogurt and $40 fitness classes but you want to know a secret? You don’t need either to live the wellness life. It’s kind of like how you look at fashion magazines but probably don’t buy $5000 dresses. Fun to look at…not how you live.
For me, my food expenditures feel even more monitored because of the amount of recipe development I do and the fact that I feed five hungry mouths most days. I cannot afford to feed my family chanterelle mushrooms and $50 Goop-inspired smoothies.
So, how do I do it? I’m giving you the scoop, right here. None of it is rocket science; but it will transform your food budget, I promise!
1. If you use a lot of it, buy warehouse size.
For real, it may seem like sacrilege for someone who supports local food producers to also shop at Costco but I can’t afford to feed my family of five solely at the farmer’s market. The savings I get from buying large allow me to support the niche products I love like Spread’Em Kitchen Cashew Cream Cheese or Moon Brew Tonic.
However, I am not buying jalepeno poppers for my fam on the reg either. I buy the healthy (yes, sometimes local!) staples that we go through quickly, such as Silver Hills sprouted grain bread – which is half price – Mary’s Organic Crackers, dates, almonds and locally produced organic tofu.
If you are shopping for one or two, stick to dry goods or items that can be frozen so you don’t produce waste. I recommend keeping nuts, seeds and flours in the freezer if you don’t use them up within a couple months.
2. Put in work. Buy ingredients, not meals.
Wanna save money? Put in a little elbow grease. You always trade convenience for cost.
Field spinach is a fraction of the cost of prewashed baby spinach because you have to wash and trim it. Bonus: it is also more flavourful. Choose whole carrots, not baby carrots. If you eat meat, buy it bone in + skin on.
And avoid pricey items like salad dressings when it takes 30 seconds to whip one up. Ditto for snacks, one of the biggest health food budget busters. Those roasted chickpeas that are $7 for a small bag? You can buy dried chickpeas for pennies, just soak, boil and roast. Ditto kale chips and veggie burgers.
3. Sales aren’t just for shoes.
Seems like a no brainer but when chickpeas are on sale 5 for $5, stock up and make those roasted chickpeas. The key here is to buy non-perishables if buying large. But sales are just for dry goods. When fresh foods are on sale, keep enough flexibility in your meal planning to take advantage. When cauliflower is $3 instead of $7, that’s the week to make cauliflower rice. Give yourself a few extra minutes to grocery shop so you can notice what’s on sale, instead of just rushing around for a few frantic staples and miss the budget boat.
4. Buy local and seasonal.
For us Canadians, buying stuff from the US is getting crazy pricey. Whenever you can, seek out Canadian-produced food and your dollar will go farther. Ditto for eating in season. Now is the time to buy strawberries…not in January. Not only are they cheaper, they taste 1000x better too.
You can extend this to all of the imported super foods we buy. Looking for omega 3? Flax seeds are grown in Canada and are dirt cheap. Grind what you need for the week in a coffee grinder and freeze. Ditch goji and acai berries for frozen blueberries. Swap quinoa for wheat berries and barley if you aren’t gluten free.
5. Grow your own..and make your own.
Growing food from seed is like printing money. The amount of kale you get off a single plant, which you can keep in a pot on your patio, is insane. Even if you only have a windowsill, you can stop accumulating half-used packages of herbs by keeping them live in the window.
Love kombucha? Did you know you can use most kombucha as a starter for your own batch? So you don’t have to spend four bucks a bottle? Google it. Mind blown.
6. Eat more plant-proteins
Beans are your BFF when it comes to healthful eating on a budget. If you can, start a weekly soaking party. Every Saturday before you go to bed, put a pot of beans to soak. Then, Sunday evening, rinse and boil them off in fresh water. Package in meal sized servings in ziploc bags, label, date and place in freezer. Now, you have cooked beans for pennies a serving, ready when you are. Bonus, if you and a few friends do this using different varieties, you can have a bean swap.
Go grandma-style and cut meat meals with legumes…or replace the meat entirely. Red lentils dissolve to almost nothing in a marinara. Crumbled tofu makes a great taco or casserole filling. If tofu is on sale, stock up and you can totally freeze it.
7. Watch the waste
Food waste is a perpetual struggle but you want to avoid literally throwing your money away. The solution? Be curious about what is in your fridge when you open it and force yourself to eat fresh first. If you are feeling snacking and would typically go for crackers, open the fridge to see if any fruits and veggies have been hanging out a while and snack on them instead. Do a weekly fridge snoop before you grocery shop and plan to use up end bits in your meal plan a couple of times a week. Smoothies, muffins, soups and stir-fries are great options for using up little bits of fruits, veggies, seeds, butters and condiments that need using up. Need more tips? Check this out.
Wellness isn’t about eating fancy meals all the time…it’s about embracing the plant-powered basics that bring true vitality and wellbeing.
Do you have some favourite budget-friendly tips? Come on over to Facebook and let me know!