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Healthy Eating and Budgeting

Updated on March 9, 2019

Eating healthy and staying in budget sounds like a contradiction to many of us. It can be if we just go about it in a reckless manner. I know you are thinking that I'm crazy for even believing this, but I've actually done it. It can be done.

Here we will help you accomplish just that. Let's explore how eating healthy can be affordable.

Cost of Healthy Food

When you walk into the grocery store and see the advertised healthy foods, you will see high costs. The assumption then is that those are the only healthy choices and they are supposed to be expensive. It is designed for you to see only those items. The stores want to make as much money off of you as they can. But healthy food is not as expensive as you might think.

It comes down to being deliberate. Most shoppers want to go in and out of a grocery store as fast as they can. Taking their time to find what they really want is not at the top of their agenda. That is why stores set up their floor plans to help you do just that, but they make sure that the higher priced items are the main ones you see. Yes, they promote really good sales, but the higher priced items are not far away. It is all done very strategically with gaining the most money from you as the goal.

There are healthy foods out there that do not cost a lot of money, but because of how the stores market, you have to be very attentive and deliberate to find healthy food within your budget.

What is Healthy?

Believe it or not, this can be a relative term. Yes, there are foods that some see as healthy, but to others, they might not be. Let's look at each type of food we generally buy at the grocery store.

Fruit - This is always a good choice. It comes in frozen, canned, fresh, and dried. Look for sales. Some fruit can be very pricey, depending on the season. If you are trying to watch your sugar intake, these can be on the not so healthy list.

Dairy - This is one that is normally healthy. But for some, it can be very unhealthy. Read the labels. A diabetic needs protein, but some items in the dairy aisle are very high in carbs due to additives. Be aware of what is in your dairy.

Meat - This is a very high in protein source. There is quite a bit of debate on red versus white meat, but chicken and turkey as well as fish are very healthy choices.

Bread - This has been a staple for centuries for many civilizations. Bread is high in carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals. For anyone who is not active or a diabetic, these are only healthy in moderation.

Vegetables - These are always a good healthy choice. Vegetables are full of valuable vitamins and minerals. They are great for snacks and main meals. It is usually advised to eat as much as you can of these. Some should be in more moderation due to their high carb content, but overall veggies are always a good way to go.

Snacks - This is the sketchiest of healthy areas. Many snacks might appear to be healthy but in reality are extremely high in fat and/or sugar as well as additives. Read labels. Choose foods that are as pure as you can find. Fresh fruit is better than canned fruit. Fresh veggies are the best. Watch for those high in sugar.


Staying Within Budget

We have already noted how expensive it can be to eat healthy. Stores are set up for you to see more of the high priced items than the more affordable ones. They want to benefit from the health craze as well. Really can't blame them.

That means you can't assume that what you see is all there is. You have to be deliberate and search for healthy foods that meet your budget. Let's look at a few ways how:

Watch for Sales - This is a big way to stay in budget. Every store has a sale going on. It usually changes weekly and covers nearly every area of the store. Many advertise their sales through the newspapers, flyers, or via email/text. You might find unadvertised ones when you are in the midst of your shopping. Don't buy something just because it is on sale. That will not help you to stay within budget. Just sales to guide your menu plans. Instead of hamburgers this week, buy chicken if it is on sale and much cheaper. If it is half off, don't buy two unless you are really going to use it soon. Unused product going bad does not help your budget. Use sales to help you be successful.

Coupons - This is another version of sales but can be combined in some stores with their very own sales. These are sales that are issued by the manufacturers of products and are limited in the time they can be used. They typically are $.25 off one item or buy one get one free. Stores honor these coupons if they carry the products. Some stores have specific days of the week where they will double the coupons so you save any more. Some people can save hundreds using coupons. This can take time to manage.

Look on Top and Bottom Shelves - Stores are smart. They know that most of us look at the products at eye level and purchase them because they are easy to see and grab. They place the higher priced items right at the perfect level where most people look and put the lower cost items on top or the bottom. Look at those sections and compare the prices. You might be surprised at what you find.

Try Homemade - Nothing is cheaper than homemade. You can save a lot of money by making products yourself. When I make homemade yogurt, I save about thirty to forty dollars a month. It does time from my schedule, but I think it tastes better and helps me stay within budget.

Control

You need to have control of your budget and the foods that you eat. Write out your shopping list. Write out your meal plans for the week including snacks, school lunches, and any events. Don't leave anything to chance that can throw your budget.

Don't take children with you when you shop. They will want unhealthy food because it is displayed to grab the eye. They don't understand self-control.

Experiment

Have some fun in eating healthy and staying in budget. Experiment with new foods, new recipes, and new meals. There are many sites online that show you alternative ways to make meals in order to save money.

Make spaghetti with ground turkey if you catch it on sale and cheaper than ground beef. Look for alternatives that you can use and save money. They are out there.

Comments

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    • Larry Slawson profile image

      Larry Slawson 

      7 months ago from North Carolina

      Very interesting article. I have been trying to work towards a healthier diet myself. We live in a culture where it is too easy to make poor choices (food-wise), and to stray away from healthier alternatives.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Your advice is well taken. We all need to be cognizant of what is good for us with regard to food, and also staying within budget.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rebecca, this is a very well-reasoned article, but sadly I believe that many (not all) have grown up not learning how to cook. Whole grains and dried beans are an inexpensive and healthy option but if you don't know how to cook them they are worthless. When I was in school HomeEc was a requirement, not an option.

      Observe the grocery cart in front of you and count the number of premade (frozen food aisle, canned goods, Hamburger Helper, etc.) items. Also, in the U.S. families rely too heavily on meat to fill their plates. It's a habit, not a necessity.

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