Food (including water), shelter, clothing: these are our needs at their most basic. Of these three, only one is absolutely vital to our ability to live and function on a basic level, and that’s food.
Having a proper meal can be the difference between passing and failing an exam, acing or blowing that job interview, or simply the difference between being productive at your job vs being unproductive. A healthy balanced diet is important for mood, brain function, weight management and overall health; most of us know and acknowledge this, but how do you maintain a healthy balanced diet when there are cobwebs in your wallet?
Buy ‘Whole Foods’
Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances. This generally makes whole foods healthier than their more processed counterparts. Luckily for us, many whole foods are way cheaper than foods in a more processed form and tend to be sold in larger quantities.
Example: Oats, nuts, and raisins are all much cheaper to buy than granola. For the same price as a large packet of granola, you could buy enough of the whole foods themselves to make many more servings than you’d get if you purchase them in the processed form (granola). Another example is buying a block of cheese vs a “cheese spread” or packet of shredded cheese.
Buy Fresh vegetables when they are in season and freeze them.
Vegetables are high-nutrient, low-cost foods. You can get even more value for your money if you stock up on a fair amount of produce when they are in season and freeze until you’re ready to cook them. Couple your vegetables with an affordable protein and some complex carbohydrates for a cheap but healthy meal.
Buy less expensive cuts of meat
Forgo the premium cuts of meat like chicken breasts and tenderloins; Buy the cheaper pieces (thigh, shoulder, tail etc.) instead. By doing this simple substitution, you can get similar nutritional value at sometimes half the cost.
Stock up on whole grains and legumes
Beans and grains like rice, black beans, red beans etc. are a great way to add healthy ‘bulk’ to your meals. They make your meals more filling and can aid in weight loss by helping you to feel ‘full’ for longer. You can use these foods as a meal in themselves or use it to stretch meals built around a meat such as chili or pelau.
Buy dried legumes over canned.
Though canned beans and grains can be convenient, there is a cost attached to that convenience. Save money, eat healthier and get more product by purchasing dried legumes and prepare them yourself. Not only are you in control of the ingredients you prepare them with, but you can also avoid unhealthy preservatives and cut back on environmental waste.
Try generic brands of items you buy regularly.
Often times the only difference between a generic or supermarket brand and a popular brand is their marketing…the cost of which is usually passed down to consumers in the case of the latter. Save money by giving generic or less popular brands a try.
Start a small garden.
Not only is growing your own food good for the environment, but it can save you cash and benefit your health in several ways:
- Organic food is good for you.
- Gardening is a great way to exercise (and save on gym memberships)
- Plants naturally improve the quality of the air you breathe.
Don’t have the yard space for planting? Do a simple herb garden on a windowsill or front porch with a few flower pots!
Buy staples in bulk.
Buying in bulk can save you a lot. Many supermarkets and membership shopping centres offer heavy discounts on bulk purchases.
Here are some basic staples to consider buying in bulk are rice, flour, oils, oats, sugar, spices, milk, vinegar, salt, eggs, legumes, garlic, frozen vegetable, canned fish (tuna, sardine etc).
By purchasing these foods in bulk, you ensure that you’ll always have a meal at hand, even when times are hard or you’ve run out of other foods.
Cook instead of eating out.
Cooking your own food is not only healthier and more sanitary than buying food prepared elsewhere, but it’s also way more cost efficient. For example, $30 spent on buying lunch and dinner for one day can purchase ingredients that can make an entire week’s worth of meals. You can also further save by replacing grocery items like store-bought bread with flour and simply making your own fresh bread at home (it tastes better too!)
Even a quick simple budget can go a long way in making sure you don’t overspend on groceries. It allows you to both simplify and gain a better understanding of your own finances as you’re forced to write out an calculate your expenditures and income yourself. Doing a basic budget by sorting your expenses into 3 categories (Fixed Expenses, Entertainment and Savings) is a simple but effective way to get started. Allocate and adjust expenses and funds using the 50/30/20 rule, where the numbers represent percentages that relate to the respective categories.
Write a list before you go shopping – and stick to it.
This helps to address the issue of impulse buying. By stopping to think through your actual needs versus your finances beforehand, not only are you able to control your spending but you’re also better able to stick to your budget, track your overall costs and compare prices beforehand.
It does not have to be difficult to eat well on a tight budget. Practices like cooking at home, budgeting, meal planning, making smart food choices and planting not only make it easy to eat cheap, but they can also benefit your health and save you on medical bills.
I really hope that these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me! If you have any comments, questions or additional tips that you’ve used, I’d truly appreciate it if put them in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading.