8 ways to eat healthy and stay under budget (guest post)

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Super excited to introduce you all to my awesome friend, Shannon Smith! Shannon is a fellow food blogger who loves to cook while saving money! When you check out her blog, Foody Finance , get ready for some amazing homemade dishes with a creative spin. Thanks Shannon for this week’s post!

Shannon Smith: Foody Finance

So you’ve decided you want to start eating a healthy wholesome diet. That’s amazing! But now what? How much money are you willing to spend to change that habit? And how much exactly are you going to have to change to afford this new lifestyle? Do you have to stop eating out? Do you have to make everything from scratch? There are so many unknowns when changing the way you look at food. And a lot of the answers you will get from trial and error.

But thankfully, this post can be a good starting guide for you. You absolutely can eat a healthy hearty diet on a budget, but it takes some practice, diligence and a little know how. If you follow these 8 tips you’ll be able to feel happy and healthy in your body AND your wallet.

Plan ahead!

You’ve heard this said before, but it deserves repeating: planning ahead and meal prepping really does save you money and time. Having food on hand that you love and is not too difficult to prepare will prevent you from wanting to go out and spend more money. But not all meal prepping is equal.

Know your eating habits

Knowing your own eating habitats is crucial for planning ahead! Do you know you’re going to have that sweet tooth craving after work? Do you know you’ll want to skip leftovers on a meal that wasn’t as good as you thought it would be? Do you hate having salads for lunch? These are all things you need to think about when prepping your meals and snacks.

When I started meal prepping for the first time I didn’t think about what I actually liked to eat. I just tried to prep the “healthiest” food I could. This meant bland salads and no snacks. I was miserable and I ended up going out to eat more than I care to admit. But now, I make a delicious protein, nutrient and flavor packed lunch. I know that I need a bigger lunch to feel satisfied throughout the day, so I allow myself to spend a little more on my lunch groceries. But still, my lunches cost anywhere from $1.50 – $3 per meal. So much cheaper than a $15 bowl of Ramen! Know your habitats and plan for them So you can feel satisfied.

Choose the right grocery store

First, choosing which store to shop at is important. You’re never going to be on budget if you shop at Whole Foods. In general Walmart and Aldi are good options. But the chain grocery stores can work for you too. I personally shop at Ralphs and sometimes Trader Joes. Once you’ve found a store you like, stick to it. Yes, going to 5 different stores because different items are slightly less expensive at different stores can save you money; but we’re talking minimal savings for hours of your time and gas money. Stick with one that has a loyalty program and you’ll definitely be rewarded.

Ralphs, for example, has an app that lets you store digital coupons to your loyalty phone number. So they will automatically apply to your total when you’re checking out. They also have a Freebie Friday where they give away some kind of full size snack for free! And I was recently just sent in the mail about 2 dozen specialty coupons (some were for free items!) based on my shopping habits as a thank you for shopping consistently at Ralphs! Like I said, it pays to stick to one store!

Shop around the store

The key to eating well and saving money is to shop around the outside of the store as much as possible. That is where the fruits, vegetables, dairy, bulk foods and meat is usually located. Avoid the processed foods in the middle of the store as much as possible. Only venture in for your canned vegetables, beans and grains.

Always buy generic brands.

Generic brands are always cheaper and are just as good as brand names! Ralphs also has a brand called Simple Truth Organic that is only slightly more expensive (think $0.10 to $0.25 difference) than generic but still way less expensive than brand name and so worth it! All Simple Truth Organic foods are made with… surprise, organic ingredients! Buying good organic food for generic prices is my favorite grocery hack!

Couponing if you have the time and patience

If you like couponing, that’s great! There are so many apps to download, like ibotta, Dosh, Shopkick, Checkout 51, etc. You can add items that you plan on purchasing and then take a photo of your receipt to get money back. I know some friends who get back $10 to $15 back a month! However… there are some of us, who don’t want to put in that much effort for a little bit of a reward. I personally hate couponing but I equally hate spending money that I could’ve saved. So here’s how I solve my problem.

I said earlier that I’m an avid Ralph’s shopper. The main reason I went to Ralphs to begin with was because it was the closest and cheapest grocery store around me. But now I shop there because of the Simple Truth Organic brand and because of their app! Their app has all their coupons digitized and synced to your loyalty phone number. So when you add a coupon on the app (you can easily add all of them) it automatically takes the money off once you put in your loyalty number at checkout. I easily save $5 each time I check out and I barely had to do anything. That is my kind of couponing! But try your hand at all the different couponing apps and see which one sticks with you!

Sales galore!

Another great way to save money is to plan your meals around something that’s on sale! Look at your store’s ad for the week to see what’s on sale. And then plan your meals around that. Blueberries? Make blueberry breakfast bark and a blueberry pancake breakfast for dinner. BOGO Chicken Breast? Chicken it up! Have chicken with everything and if you get tired of chicken meat, make a broth with the bones and have soup! You can always freeze your meats and some other veggies and fruits when they’re on sale if you don’t want to use them right away.

Be conscious

It’s the same with a healthy diet as it is with healthy budget, being conscious of what you’re eating and what you’re buying is really the first step. Knowing what you’re actually spending money on can help you to cut out those non-need items like too many sugary Starbucks drinks when you could buy and make delicious coffee at home. I challenge you to track how much you spend on food in a week and in a month. Is it more or less than you thought? Did you spend more money eating out or on groceries? Answering these types of questions will help you to discover how you can change your budget and your way of eating to optimize for your happiness! After all, a good diet and a good budget mean nothing if you’re not happy.

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