Let’s face it – times have been tough the last couple of years! Many of us have lost our income sources, as least temporarily during this “pandemic.” Thank heavens for unemployment, but it’s only a fraction of what our income is or has been. Although things seem to be picking up again for many people, we can still be justifiably concerned with cash flow, paying bills, and feeding ourselves and our loved ones.

So, this begs the question – can we eat healthy on a tighter budget? Can it really be done?

The answer is a resounding YES! I’ll tell you how!

Reducing our junk food

First of all, it’s a great time to start reducing our junk food intake. Junk food, as most of us know, takes away from our healthy by supplying a fraction of substandard nutrients. I can hear it now – but I can’t afford to buy healthy food! I used to say and think this myself in earlier years. 

However, it’s not true. Even organic foods go on sale; in fact, some grocery stores have it on clearance sale. The trick is to buy it at greatly reduced rates, and then either eat it right away, or throw it in the freezer if it’s fresh meat, poultry, or wild-caught fish, or store it in your cupboards if it’s something canned, such as organic beans. 

If you are buying fresh produce on sale, just buy enough to feed yourselves before it goes bad. So, salads would be something to consume right away, but you can get by a little longer if you cook with it in soups, stir-fries, stews, etc. (Plus you can freeze it then.)

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Can It Be Done? Explore the possibilities of maintaining your health by eating a balanced diet without breaking the bank. Discover tips and strategies to make nutritious choices that are easy on the wallet.

Don’t think you can’t do the same thing with fresh conventional foods. I’m always checking the meat clearance rack and checking for sales on everything. I visit my grocery store fairly often – some of you won’t have time or inclination to do so, and it’s just a suggestion. 

If some of you have access to bulk purchasing, you can always buy things like spring water at bulk prices and larger quantities. So, in my opinion, if it makes sense to have a paid membership, then by all means do so, because over the course of a year, you will save much more money than the membership price.

Advance planning is always a good way to potentially save money. You’re not buying things so much on the spur of the moment. If you have a grocery list, then just buy what’s on the list.

It’s still usually less expensive to cook and eat at home, although I am a big fan of eating healthy in restaurants. But often and especially in the winter especially, when I don’t feel so much like going outside and running around, I eat more at home and my bank account thanks me!

If you cook more than you eat at one meal, don’t be afraid to consume your leftovers in a timely manner. Most cooked food can be frozen, so if you freeze your leftovers, you don’t have to have the same meal several times in a row. 

Try not to shop when you’re hungry! Statistics show that we tend to buy more when our tummies are growling – LOL!

Remember to keep your food purchases to real, whole foods – skip the ramen noodles and mac and cheese even though they’re very inexpensive to buy, relatively speaking. Your overall health, including your mental health, will thank you!

Get to know your food brands – do your due diligence and make sure that these companies have a good reputation for quality, especially in terms of having a lack of chemical additives which  really take away from your health. (Ask yourself, am I worth it?! And I really, really hope your answer is yes!) 

So, if you have a good brand, and you’re always reading ingredients and know about processing methods, you can save a little more money and buy generic. One good example is the Whole Foods home brand (365), which always saves money. Since I shop at Kroger, I have familiarized myself with their Simple Truth Natural and Simple Truth Organic brands and have done my due diligence.

Another good hack is to purchase healthy but cheaper cuts of meat and you can use them in your pressure cooker, soups, stews, burritos, casseroles, etc.

After fresh produce (hopefully that’s local and in season), you can go to flash frozen fruits and veggies, as these will usually contain more healthy diet than canned. 

If you have a green thumb, you can try your hand at growing your own garden of produce – it’s so much fun! I have a very tiny back yard, but I have cultivated it over about 5 years and it’s pretty close to organic by now. 

You can grow your own plants from seeds, or you can buy organic plants, but at least purchase non-GMO plants. I lay fresh, organic soil down each year, too. I can easily get about 20 veggie plans in my small garden, although I will admit that it’s way too crowded. My yield each year is fantastic, and I really enjoy the miracle of growing my own food!

If you like digital and/or paper coupons, use them wisely. If your grocery store generates coupons for you, they may base them on your buying patterns, so at times, I get double discounts – from a mark-down and a coupon, combined. I buy more when I get good stuff cheap and use it up later.

And, as always, please have a happy and holistically healthy day!

Dr. P