The past few months have had a huge impact on many of the families in our community. Due to COVID-19, many people have not been able to work because of recent closures and health concerns. Job loss has left some families struggling to make healthy and nutritious meals while sticking to their budgets.
Although it might seem impossible right now, it is incredibly important to look after our health. Maintaining a healthy diet is especially important because it keeps our immune system ready to fight infections and viruses. In the Health Education for Youngsters! Curriculum, we learn that for our bodies to stay healthy and strong, we need to eat whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Whole foods give us nutrients like antioxidants and Vitamin C, which are essential to boost your immune system. Because our bodies require a healthy balance of real food, ensuring we have all the nutrients we need is a top priority.
Making nutritious meals and prioritizing our health doesn’t have to be more expensive. To make eating healthy on a budget a little easier, we have made a 3 step guide with tips on what to do before, during, and after a trip to the grocery store. Let’s begin with some steps you can follow before going to the grocery store.
Step 1: What to do before going to the store?
See what you already have.
Check your freezer, pantry, cabinets, and refrigerator to see what items you already have on hand. Sometimes you already have everything you need to make a delicious and healthy meal. By regularly taking inventory of your kitchen, you can utilize ingredients you might have forgotten about and avoid repurchasing items we already have.
Create a gameplan.
By entering a store knowing what you intend to buy, you can prepare yourself for the week ahead and budget the amount of money each shopping trip will be. Start by making a list of recipes you want to make. By planning your meals, you can find ways to incorporate the food you already have and only buy the ingredients that you need. Planning also helps to keep fresh produce and other perishable items from going to waste.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
If you go to the grocery store when you are hungry, you are more likely to buy things that are not on your grocery list. It is difficult to resist cravings and impulse buys when you are hungry. Although it is fine to grab an extra treat here and there, consistently buying snacks that you didn’t plan for can hurt our budgets. Try eating a fruit or a small snack before going to the grocery store to help reduce cravings and impulsive buying.
Step 2: What to do when you get to the store?
Buy more generic brands.
Most grocery stores carry a store or generic brand of nearly every product. The generic brands often have the same ingredients as the more well-known national brands but are most likely less expensive. By simply switching from buying national brands to generic brands, we can save on each shopping trip. Make sure to check the ingredients if you have any worries about differences in product quality.
Shop for foods that are in season.
Certain fresh fruits and vegetables are more affordable during specific times of the year. Foods that are not in season locally get transported from other parts of the world, which causes them to be more expensive than they usually would be. You can save money by buying seasonal produce in bulk and freezing it to enjoy in the future. In-season produce will taste better too! Check out https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/ to find what produce is in season in your area.
Shop the perimeter of the store first.
Buying more whole foods and fewer convenience items or pre-packaged foods can save a lot of money. Most of the food on your shopping lists, such as whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy, can be found around the store’s perimeter. By primarily going along the edge of the store, you can stick to our grocery list and avoid spending extra money on pre-packaged foods or specialty items.
Don’t shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables
People often skip the frozen aisle when trying to make healthy choices. Still, you can find many nutrition-packed foods in the frozen section. Most frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen right after they are harvested, which means they have more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than the fresh produce you find at the store. Frozen fruits and vegetables also last much longer, so you eliminate wasting food and save money.
Focus on less expensive, nutrition-packed whole foods.
Beans, peas, lentils, potatoes, eggs, canned tuna, oats, brown rice, frozen fruits, and vegetables are full of nutrients at a relatively low price. Consistently buying fresh meat and produce may be difficult for some families. The foods mentioned above can help you make the most of your money without sacrificing health.
Step 3: What to do at home?
Cook more often than not.
Cooking at home is often less expensive than eating out. Plus, the meals you make at home will most likely be better quality, more nutritious, and just the way you want it. If cooking every day is stressful, try meal prepping, so you have food ready to go for a few days at a time, or even for a week.
Get creative with leftovers.
Leftovers can be a lifesaver when you don’t have the time or energy to cook. Cooking large meals with inexpensive ingredients that leave plenty of leftovers is a great way to reduce the number of times we have to prepare food. Also, it’s fun to get creative and make something different with the leftovers you have on hand, so you don’t have to eat the same meal over and over again.
Drink more water.
Water is a low-cost alternative to many drinks, like sodas, sports drinks, and juices. Instead of relying on sugary beverages, we can save money and reduce our sugar intake by switching to drinking water with your meals.
Subscribe to HealthStart’s Snack Science Video Series.
Are you running out of snack ideas to make at home? HealthStart’s Snack Science YouTube channel has healthy, nutritious, and affordable snack ideas that the whole family can enjoy. You can view and subscribe to our Snack Science channel at www.healthstartfoundation.org/snackscience.
There are many ways to eat healthy, even on a very tight budget. We hope this 3 step guide will help support healthy minds and bodies for your whole family without breaking the bank. If you have any money-saving tips, please share in the comments below!