No matter how you spend money on food—eating out, cooking in, vegetarian or carnivore—the expense eats up a lot of your monthly budget. Costs may soar if you’ve committed to a nutritious diet relying heavily on fresh vegetables and fish. You can get the food budget under control. There are ways to cut the monthly grocery bill in half without giving up healthy ingredients. Start by focusing on health, not expense. Think of these tricks as a foundation for healthy eating rather than just a way to cut back on spending.
- Limit frequency of spending.
Let’s say you go out to a restaurant or pick up takeout four times a week. Cut back to two or three times each week Instead of setting a limit on the amount you budget for eating out. Changing habits is easier than focusing on spending cutbacks.
- Plan menus before grocery shopping.
Take 30 minutes to plan menus for the next two weeks. Check your kitchen cabinets and don’t duplicate what you already have on hand. Check the bathroom for toothpaste and toilet paper so that you don’t run out and have to make another trip to the grocery for must-have necessities.
- Inventory what’s in the freezer.
I forget what’s in the freezer, and I bet you do, too. Inventory your freezer and keep on your fridge a list that you update every couple of weeks when planning your next round of meals.
- Limit grocery shopping to three times per month.
People who eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies think they need to make grocery runs twice a week, but they don’t. Bring perishables home, prep them immediately and store in airtight containers. Even the most delicate veggies usually last at least 10 days.
- Plan a “meal prep” day.
The prospect of coming home from a hard day’s work and spending another hour or so in the kitchen to get supper on the table sends many of us straight to the phone to order in pizza. That strategy wrecks both the budget and your goal for healthy eating.
Instead of leaving yourself at the mercy of last-minute food scrounging, plan ahead. Designate one day to cooking up a batch of staples you will use for the next week. Prepare rice and beans or root vegetables. Roast a chicken or make a casserole to freeze. Pre-cook stuff you can throw into grain bowls or salads. Prep for a stir-fry or a family favorite to pull from the freezer the day before.
- Leave room for comfort food.
There are times when we just don’t want to eat healthy and thec raving for takeout strikes. Leave room in your meal plan for comfort food that sounds better to you than takeout. Think macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. Making comfort food at home is cheaper and you can find ways to make it healthier than your local takeout emporium.
- Stash some healthy snacks.
If you’re starving when you get home, you don’t want to delay eating. Keep healthy nibbles on hand so that you don’t have to resort to calorie-laden, expensive junk food. Think hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts, apples, sunflower seeds, red pepper slices, carrot sticks, hummus, celery, dried fruit, etc.