People say, “healthy eating is expensive.” But, consuming cheap foods like Taco Bell or mac and cheese may lead to costly health care bills down the road. When you look at it that way, what is the most budget-friendly way to eat?
The good news is that healthy eating doesn’t have to mean pricey superfoods and fancy detox diets. You can actually prioritize your nutrition without going over your grocery budget. Here are some tips for the money conscious macro tracker:
Here’s where you’ll find savings while browsing the aisles.
- Shop Seasonal - Fruit and vegetables that are in season are more plentiful, so they’re often more reasonably priced. Additionally, produce is usually most nutritious in season.
- Overripe - Extra ripe produce is ideal for baking, reducing, making sauces and mixing with oats or yogurt — and your local grocery store or vegetable market wants to sell them ASAP so they don’t have to throw them away! They will often have a section of discounted produce for quick sale. Otherwise, ask and they’ll look out back for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this produce. It’s simply ready to eat now!
- Frozen - Frozen fruit and vegetables are cheaper than fresh produce because they keep longer, so there’s less risk of having to throw them out if they don’t sell. One thought is that because they are snap frozen immediately after harvest they are just as fresh, if not more, than much of the fresh produce in the store.
- Canned - Like frozen foods, canned goods have a long shelf life. So, they’re priced more reasonably. You can get canned corn, peas, beans and fruits for less than a dollar!
- End of Day Farmers Markets- If you’re only buying a few things, looking to the farmers market for savings isn’t that great. You will get more ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of quality, but not necessarily volume. However, at the end of the day you can pick up good deals on the few items the stalls have leftover. They don’t want to take home one onion and two tomatoes, so they’ll give it to you for a good price (and might even throw in some extras for free just to empty the lot!).
- Buy Cheaper Cuts - Minced beef, stewing cuts, round/rump steak, chicken thighs, whole chickens and organs are all very affordable. Many of these cheaper cuts are either extra lean or extra fatty.
- Extra-lean meat can sometimes be tough and dry. Prepare it by tenderizing, marinating, brining or slow cooking. Learn how HERE.
- With extra fatty meat, do your best to trim all the fat off, cook it with no oil and pat dry.
Everyone knows that bulk buying is where the big savings are. But what should you buy and how should you find it?
- Costco - Costco sells your everyday dry store products at wholesale prices: egg whites, frozen produce, cheeses, grains. You’ll save money and time buying your pantry staples in advance, giving you more opportunity to focus on searching for fresh produce on a weekly basis. Check out our list of Costco buys.
- Ask Your Local Cafe or Restaurant - Costco is great, but not everyone lives near one and you do have to pay for an annual membership. If you have a good relationship with a local restaurant or cafe business, see if you can get in on their next dry stock order. Hospitality businesses get wholesale prices from their suppliers, so tell them how much you LOVE their bacon, granola and cheese and that you go through a tray of avocados a week! Perhaps they’ll add an extra tray to their next order for you and you can pay for it next time you go in. Even better, the business owners often get discounts the more they buy, so you’ll be doing them a favor!
- Get a Meat Share - If you’re about that long-term investment, get involved in a “meat-share.” Rally some friends (or buy a big enough freezer), and buy an entire cow from a local farmer in advance. Ask your local butcher if they can order one for you or help you find a farm. If you live outside of the city, research a local farm and get in touch.
- Cow-Pooling - Don’t have enough people to share a whole cow with? Cow pooling is an initiative started by like-minded, meat-eating, environmental impact and nutrition-conscious folks who want to make it easier to get their hands on some quality beef. There isn’t exactly a directory or service for it, so start asking around, create a meetup, or post in your local buy, sell trade magazines and Facebook groups. Even approach a farmer, they might know others interested in buying a cow-share.
Much of the money lost on groceries is due to people simply not eating all the food they buy. Simple strategies to reduce food waste will result in less money spent on food in general.
- Get Creative - Can’t get that bit of peanut butter from the jar? Add oats and milk to the jar to make peanut butter overnight oats for tomorrow's breakfast. Don’t know what to do with the random leftovers you took home from a restaurant? Turn it into a salad, sandwich, or add some sauce and make it into a tasty pasta dish.
- Preparation Leads to Less Waste - As soon as you bring your groceries home from the store, prepare them for easy and complete consumption. Pre-chopping, portioning or even cooking them all straight away helps you to stick to the plan you had when you first bought them, instead of forgetting or getting lazy.
- Be Organized and Tidy - Fresh food in the crisper, labels, jars, shopping lists. All of these things help you to keep track of what you currently have so that you’re not doubling up or forgetting what food is in your inventory.
- Nose to Tail Cooking - Did you know that much of an animal is left behind because consumers only favor certain cuts?
Explore unique cuts, organs (mmm chicken giblets and beef tongue!) and use leftover bones to make broth and soup. These ‘forgotten’ cuts are actually really, really nutritious, super affordable and nose-to-tail cooking has a very positive effect on the environment. Waste not, want not!
Some of the most macro-friendly recipes are also the most budget-friendly. The key ingredients are usually low-cost vegetable and/or meat cuts. Think peasant-style cooking, which originated from the need to make creative, delicious food using only the ingredients that families could grow themselves or trade for.
What’s your budget-friendly macro must-have? Share with the team!