There seems to be a huge misperception that healthy eating is an expensive luxury, not affordable for your average person and this is often used to justify poor diets, food choices and purchases.
Sure healthy food can cost more, but with a little thought you can easily eat well on any budget.
That’s why the following list will look at just some of the ways you can cut your costs, without sacrificing on taste or your health and it’ll also hopefully help you think of other ways you can make changes that fit into your lifestyle and the way you like to eat.
1) Plan meals
One of the easiest ways to reduce your food bill and eliminate waste is to plan your meals for the week ahead of time. It may take a little effort, but most people tend to eat similar meals on a weekly basis anyway, so by thinking ahead you can get an idea of exactly what you need, ensuring you only buy what is required. This also prevents you from having to decide what to eat on a whim, which often makes it far more likely you’ll turn to eating out and over the course of the month the cost of this repeatedly happening can quickly add up.
You could start by planning for 7 days at a time, see how you get on and once you’ve got the hang of it even extend it to 14 days if desired.
2) Make a shopping list
Linking directly to point number one. Write a list of what you need for the week and implement a rule where you only buy what you are sure you’ll use. I’ve gotten to the point where I very rarely waste or have to throw anything away. On top of that, impulse buys often tend to largely consist of items you either don’t need, are highly processed or detrimental to your health.
3) Shop online
If you struggle sticking to your list or being distracted by impulse purchases then the easiest way to avoid this is to shop online. Many stores now have apps you can quickly and easily do your weekly shop and you have the added bonus of saving time as well, often paying exactly the same as you would in-store. Personally I’ve found for meat that online butchers are not only cheaper, but also better quality as well.
4) Cook at home
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe you don’t have the time or simply don’t enjoy cooking, but the easiest way to save money is by making more of your own meals at home. While eating out may be quicker and convenient, you can often feed a family of four for less than you’d spend on a meal for one or two at a restaurant. On top of that you also have the added benefit of having complete control over what goes into your food.
5) Make larger portions
If you’re short on time and want to cut down on the amount of time spent in the kitchen, then aim to cook larger meals and split them into multiple portions. While it means eating the same thing more than once, it aids in making healthy eating less time consuming and you could always freeze what you make and have it at a later date.
6) Bulk cook
Take an afternoon once every few weeks to bulk cook a range of dishes to keep in the freezer. That way you have a healthy option to turn to whenever you are short on time. This can easily be done with a range of meals, from stews to stir-fry’s or pasta dishes. This method also has another advantage that is often overlooked in the fact that it also reduces your gas and electricity bill.
7) Pack lunch
In the moment buying lunch may not seem like a huge cost, but over the course of a week or month it quickly adds up. So try packing something the night before, or if you’re short on time cook a larger dinner and take leftovers.
8) Opt for single ingredient whole foods
Often when foods are processed they consist of a range of ingredients which can boost the price and this holds especially true for pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, with the ready sliced options being drastically more expensive and only saving you a few minutes in prep. Other examples include whole blocks of cheese being cheaper than ready grated, whole grains such as oats being cheaper than cereals etc. While they may be less convenient, it is a small sacrifice to make if cutting costs is your main goal and you can also get larger quantities for far less.
9) Stop buying junk foods and drinks
If you’re trying to save money then wherever possible look to eliminate empty calories or ‘junk’ foods such as soft drinks, crisps and chocolate. These items often offer little to no nutritional value and reducing your intake will help both your wallet and your waistline.
10) Look for sales to stock up your cupboards and freezer
If it’s something you eat regularly and has a long shelf life, then take advantage of opportunities to stock up your pantry whenever you can. Be careful though, as this can go both ways, encouraging you too buy excessive amounts of products you don’t need, which you are then forced to either eat in excess, throw away, or get stored in the back of a cupboard, never to be seen again.
11) Go meatless for some meals
I know, the thought alone may sound like a nightmare, but believe it or not you can make some delicious meat free alternatives of your favourite meals. Try using other protein sources such as eggs, canned fish or legumes. Personally this was a concept I was really sceptical of at first, but in reality after a few meals I barely noticed the change.
12) Use cheaper cuts of meat
Alternatively depending on how or what you eat look to incorporate cheaper cuts without sacrificing on taste. This is especially if you use them in stews, stir fry’s, soups or slow cookers, as these cooking methods can turn tougher cuts into tender and tasty servings instead.
13) Check the going out of date sections
Everyday supermarkets try and quickly get rid of products nearing their use by dates and this is a great way to find some bargains. So try shopping at the end of the day or first thing in the morning to take full advantage of these offers, as they are usually done on fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.
14) Buy produce that is in season
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are far cheaper as they are more readily available and don’t need to be imported. Opting for in season veg can also help add variety to your meals.
15) Try farmer’s or fish markets
One way to reduce costs on fresh produce is to cut out the middle man and go directly to the source by visiting local markets. On top of that your purchase’s are often harvested on or close to that day, making them not only cheaper, but also fresher.
16) Go frozen
Many people dismiss frozen produce without realising that in some cases they are potentially a far healthier option because of the fact that during processing and transportation many nutrients can be lost. Therefore, by freezing items at the source they remain intact. Not only that, but it also cuts down on waste due to a longer use by date and you may also find some of your favourite everyday items far cheaper.
17) Freeze what you don’t use
If you’re going away for the weekend or realise halfway through the week you have items such as fresh fruits, vegetables or herbs that are likely to go off and not get used up, make sure you freeze them before it’s too late. That way you can stock up your freezer and use them at a later date.
18) Buy items such as rotisserie chickens
If after a long day you want a quick and convenient dinner, then check the cooked food section of your local supermarket rather than turning to a take away. Not only is this a healthier and cheaper option, but you can also use leftovers for lunch and they are often heavily reduced if you go later in the day.
19) Buy in bulk
For items such as oats, rice, pasta and other dried or canned goods you can get huge discounts at wholesalers or distributors by purchasing in bulk. They also have a long shelf life, meaning they aren’t going to go off in your cupboards. Just make sure you only buy larger quantities of foods you actually eat and aren’t simply buying them for the sake of thinking you are saving money.
20) Try cheaper brands
Everyone knows branded goods cost more than supermarkets own unbranded alternatives, but what they don’t realise is that in many cases they offer no improvement on taste or nutritional value. Yet they buy them simply due to the mind-set that a fancier label must make them better, when that often couldn’t be farther from the truth.
21) Look for coupons
Check your local supermarkets website before shopping to see if there’s any offers or promotions. These also may be included in local papers or magazines, so check before throwing out any junk mail.
22) Check your cupboards
We are all guilty of losing track of what’s lurking in the back of our cupboards, so when planning your meals double check what you actually have. You may get some ideas of other meals you could prepare or save yourself buying duplicates of products you already have.
23) Don’t shop when you’re hungry
When you are hungry you crave foods that aren’t good for your health and there’s actually a large amount of research backing up the notion that shopping in this state can lead to making on the spot decisions that you want at the time, but actually don’t need and it is common place to also buy far more than necessary as well.
24) Grow your own
While not feasible for everyone, if you’ve got the space you could easily plant a small vegetable garden that requires a minimal amount of maintenance. Doing so will not only save you money, but may also be a relaxing and rewarding activity, which tastes better than the store bought alternatives.
And last but definitely not least…
25) Eat smaller portions
Part of the reason why we are facing an obesity epidemic is our society has adapted to eating huge portions that far exceed what they actually need. Not only will reducing portion sizes save you money, but it’ll also over time save you inches on your waistline. If you struggle with hunger then try bulking up meals with low calorie options such as vegetables, as it’s a win win situation, boosting your nutrient intake and food volume.
That should give you a good starting point in regards to cutting costs and reducing your food bill, but obviously depending on your lifestyle and routine there are far more ways you could add to it as well.
What other practices come to mind that could help others looking to save money? Share you thoughts, questions and opinions in the comments below.