Often when people are told that they need to change their diet, they often try to justify their poor choices by saying that eating healthy is more expensive. In this they are implying that they simply cannot afford to eat healthy food, and therefore their health will always suffer.
There is no denying that food is expensive. It often tends to be one of the largest allocations on a family's budget; It also is something that is necessary to maintain our bodies and this too is often used as an excuse for how much money is spent in groceries.
I also am not trying to deny that certain fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, and that most of the items in the supermarket which are proposed to be a healthy alternative are often priced higher. However, there is a vast difference between eating a healthy diet and eating a 'healthier' diet.
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet as far as I see it consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, wholesome grains, legumes, nuts and if you are so inclined meat and dairy. The key thing is that all of these are as fresh as possible and processed foods are eliminated altogether where possible and otherwise kept to a minimum.
A 'Healthier' Diet
A 'healthier' diet may contain fruits and vegetables but it also features a vast number of processed foods and snack items. While it may seem that by picking the low sodium or organic version of a canned item that you are improving your diet, the improvement may well be very minimal because of all the other things added in during the processing of the food.
In short, the more ingredients listed on the package of goods you are picking up, the less healthy it is likely to be. Also these processed foods tend to be more expensive than fresh or dried goods.
The Benefits of Eating Healthy
One of the first benefits of eating healthy is that you get control of your weight and are able to sure that your body is getting all of the nutrients that it needs. Often, when people sacrifice their health to continue to eat poorly, they end up paying for it with increased doctor bills.
From my own personal experience, I have found that eating healthier has improved my energy levels drastically. My body is in balance and my weight has shifted to a natural median.
There is also the green aspect of healthy living. You take less out of the world when the majority of your food comes direct from farmers and not from a factory.
I also have found that when you eat fresh food, it simply tastes better than packaged food. It took a while to be able to taste the subtle differences in flavours after bombarding my taste-buds with salt-laden junk for so many years, but now I can pick up the subtle flavours of foods and truly enjoy them.
Tips for Keeping Your Grocery Budget in Check
1) Stop Being Lazy
I have found that whenever I question someone closely on their large grocery tab, it is often accompanied with a large eating-out tab as well. Both of these stem from the same problem.You have gotten too used to someone else doing most of the work to feed you when you are hungry.
In order to save money you must be willing to do most of the work in ensuring that you are feed, watered and placated with the occasional snack. In so much, it is imperative that you get into the habit of preparing your own meals, well in advance. This also includes doing some prep work. It may be easier to buy pre-chopped vegetables or pre-seasoned meat, but you do pay for that privilege and it all adds up over-time.
Now, I am not suggesting that you make your own ketchup from scratch but that you simply stop cutting corners and put in the work.
2) Meal Planning
This leads on naturally from above. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. This is true in exams and it is also true of trying to reduce unnecessary food spending. Having a good idea of what you plan to eat for the coming week will allow you to prepare anything you need to do in advance. You can take down meat, pre-chop vegetables or even pre-cook components of a more complex recipe. The key in Meal planning is to keep it simple and make sure that you include easy meals on days when you will have a lot on your schedule.
3)Check What You Have and Then Buy What You Need
In other words make a list based both on your meal plan and what you already have in your pantry before heading out to the Supermarket. Also make sure that the things that are going to spoil soon are on the Meal Plan. And if you are not planning on using them this week...
4) Make Sure Food is Stored Properly
If you get a great deal on vegetables and you buy a good few pounds, make sure that you have adequate space to store them. Further, make sure that you have a plan for storing them in the long term, for example canning or freezing them, if the quantity is too much to use within a week.
There is nothing more annoying that having to throw out food, because you forgot that it was there or simply couldn't use all of it in time.
5)Shop in Bulk But Only if You'll Use It
Bulk shopping to take advantage of sales and wholesale prices can be a great way to save money over the long term.
However make sure that what you are buying is something that you will actual use often and that you have adequate storage for. Do not be swayed into buying something just because it is a really good deal, it is only a good deal if you benefit from it fully.
6)Buy Direct and Buy In Season
Wherever possible try to get your fresh vegetables, meats, dairy and fruits directly from the farmers. This not only supports the local economy but it also allows you to have some control over the quality of ingredients that go into your food. Overall, shopping direct also tends to be cheaper as you get to take advantage of low prices on produce that are in season.
Keep an eye out for Farmer's Markets and Co-ops and research if there are any Farm Share programs in your area. Always the produce in season, as this will stretch your dollars farther.
7)Grow Your Own
Even if you live in an apartment you can at least get some small planters and grow your own herbs. If you are blessed with more space, try wherever possible to research what plants grow best in your area and start with plants that are not temperamental if you are a beginner.
Be on the look out for cheap plants that give a good yield and start small; you could quickly lose any gains if you put too much money in to unnecessary equipment or buy the wrong plants for your area.
If you are successfully however you can at the very least, add lots of flavour to yur dishes and get the satisfaction of having grown it yourself.
8)Keep It Simple
As you get better at cooking you will naturally also get more adventurous. Recipes will often call for items that normally would not be in your grocery budget, some of which are speciality items and quite expensive. Limit trying new recipes to one or two a month, and stick to a core staple diet that is balanced nutritionally with enough variety to keep you from feeling bored.
Also, limit items that you enjoy but that are very expensive, especially if they have little nutritional value. Try also to limit the portions you use of the item, so that it lasts you a longer time.
For those who are now starting out cooking at home, build your pantry slowly, there is no need to rush out and buy everything at once. Be systematic but consistent and remember whenever you are trying something new, only buy a small amount just in case you find it is not to your liking.
Grocery shopping within a budget is like anything else something that takes time and skill. Given too that the prices of goods varies from place to place, only with practice and care will be able to hone your ideal budget.
I personally believe that if you skim off the grocery budget you will pay for it at the doctor and I have decided to make healthy eating a priority and I urge everyone else to consider doing the same.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject.