Clean eating doesn't have to break the bank - I can personally attest to that. When I first came to live in Boston I was subject to US immigration and waiting on a Green Card - the full process took us a total of six months, meaning we were living on one salary for the whole time! I also had to learn how to shop for food in the US, all the grocery stores were alien to me, except the ever enticing Whole Foods. Well, I learnt the hard way that we couldn't afford to buy all our food and household products there, and had to find ways to make our dollars stretch without compromising our clean eating values.
Using the principles below we managed to save hundreds of dollars a month on our grocery bills, some months even saving up to $700!
1. Eat Real Food
This may sound simple, but I truly believe this is the number one strategy to both save money on grocery bills, and get healthy! Base all of your meals and snacks around good quality proteins, an abundance of vegetables and fruits, and clean carbohydrates. Your food should resemble its original source and have minimal processing. It doesn't matter if you are not a great cook, keep meals super simple, 6 ingredients or less, and utilize the wealth of recipes available on the internet. Some of my favorite sites to go for inspiration are Nom Nom Paleo and Paleo on a Budget.
2. Convenience vs. Cost
Even when aiming to eat real food can we fall into the trap of buying 'convenience foods'. Think pre peeled, pre cut carrot sticks, jerky, store bought chia pots and protein powders. Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those foods, to the contrary they are all nutritionally sound (and I eat them myself on occasion), but when it comes to eating on a budget just take a little extra time to do these things at home, and your bank balance will thank you.
3. Find an Alternative to Whole Foods (a.k.a Whole Paycheck)
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Whole Foods for their quality and selection of products, but now there is a socially conscious alternative offering an enormous range of healthy products, at approximately 50% retail value,and they get delivered to your door!
Enter Thrive Market. Thrive Market offers the best selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices for a membership of less than $5 a month. And my favorite part? For every membership bought to Thrive Market, they will donate another membership for free to a low income American family.
At present Thrive Market is offering an extra 15% off your first order, and shipping is always free if you spend over $49. To sign up for Thrive Market click here or on the picture below and do good for both yourself and another family.
4. Food Prep Like a Boss
We meal prep twice a week because that fits in with our schedule (and I enjoy cooking). We usually roast up a joint of meat (pork or beef), chicken breast and or thighs, throw something in the slow cooker (usually a chili) and roast up seasonal veggies too.
Roasting veggies is super simple (and delicious), just peel and chop them into equal size pieces, then melt coconut oil with salt, pepper and herbs and spices if you wish (I use smoked paprika, turmeric and fresh or frozen thyme) in a pan. Put vegetables in a pre heated dish, and cover them with the melted coconut oil - this means you use less coconut oil than if you put it in the pan, and it covers the veggies more evenly resulting in quicker cooking time. This food prep enables us to have a delicious meal that night, and have leftovers for breakfast, lunches and dinners during the week. If we get bored of eating the leftovers dry I add them to a soup base (I call this 'pimp soup'), use them as a topping for veggie or gluten free pasta, throw them in a curry sauce or add to a gluten free wrap.
It is worth investing a little money in equipment that will make food prep easier and therefore save you money in the future, consider a slow cooker and a set of Pyrex storage as a great starter kit. Click here and scroll down to 'Equipment' for a list of links to my favorite food prep tools.
5. Reduce Food Waste
The average American household looses up to 40% of its food through food waste, a statistic that has huge economical and environmental implications. My husband and I have worked hard to reduce our food waste to under 5% food waste through forward planning and being conscientious. Here is how we did it:
- Have a rough plan of what you are going to eat throughout the week (this ties in with the food prep advice above)
- Understand how much you approximately eat each week
- Get creative with leftovers - they can be turned into soups, stews, pasta toppings, salads, fillings for wraps and sandwiches
- Learn how to store your food: did you know citrus fruits, avocados, fresh herbs, ginger and red wine can be frozen?
For more information on how to reduce your food waste check out the guest blog food activist Ashely Gelineau wrote for me last year: Reducing Food Waste On a Clean Eating Diet.
For more tips and tricks on how to reduce your food costs and still eat clean, nutritious, delicious foods check back next Monday for Part 2.
I'd love to hear your ideas for Clean Eating on a Budget - comment below and let us know what has worked for you!
In the spirit of full disclosure, some of these are affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything. I only recommend products and services that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands!