Frugal Living

Can you eat healthy food on a thrifty budget?

 

Do you know how much you spend on groceries each month?

I’ve been keeping track for years. Back in 2009 when it was just 3 of us, and one of us was only 4 years old, our grocery budget was only $150 per month. I’m still not quite sure how we managed that. I do know that we’d crash our parents’ houses at dinnertime often – but they were always happy to oblige.

Our grocery budget is still extremely low compared to the rest of the country.

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OUR STATS


  • There are now four in our family – with bigger appetites and our grocery bill has definitely gone up. Our two kids are 6 and 12.
  • We eat gluten free.
  • We eat very healthy food – and buy a ton of produce, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains etc.
  • We buy a lot of natural items and whole, organic foods (not all organic – but when we can).
  • I don’t coupon – unless something crazy good pops up.
  • I do most of my shopping at 3 places – but could get by at 1 if I had to.
  • My budgeted amount includes toiletries, makeup, paper products, household cleaners etc. Not just food.
  • We live on the east coast where the cost of living is probably somewhere in the middle to about 10% less than average across the country.

Look at what people in the U.S. are spending on groceries and find where you rank.

The Thrifty Family Plan on this that fits closest to our situation, is $642.50 per month.

Right now our grocery budget is between $500 and $600 per month.

I share that with you so that you know – It is possible to eat a very healthy diet even with food allergies, on a very affordable budget. We are well below the National Average Thrifty Plan even with our dietary restrictions and the extra non-food items we purchase. This number does not include our eating-out cost – which is only an additional $100-$125 per month.)  I’m always a little puzzled when people say it’s more expensive to eat healthy. I save money by not buying a ton of junk food.

So – how do we do it? I sat down to really look at my strategies for keeping our food budget reasonable, and this is what I want to share with you.

***START SMALL***

Take a look at your cart when you’re doing shopping. Can you take out an item or two? It can save you an easy $10 per week (minimum) shaving a quick $40+ from your monthly budget.

*MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN*

Take 10 minutes and plan your meals. Check your pantry to see what you already have. I know I’m guilty of having multiple items because I can’t remember if I need something and keep re-purchasing it! Eggs are the number one culprit.

Think up some quick, cheap meals that you can make at home.

***USE UP WHAT YOU HAVE***

One serving of dinner left? Send it for lunch the next day. Freeze it to use later. Got over-ripe bananas? Make banana muffins or 3 Ingredient Banana Pancakes 

Throwing food away is throwing money away. When you meal plan you should be able to only buy what you need and therefore have less waste.

***COOK FROM SCRATCH***

No time? Just start small. On a Sunday afternoon, try to cook a big batch of soup, muffins or an egg casserole to eat for the week.

Plan meals that you cook at home in 30 minutes. Keep it simple – just buy whole ingredients without a lot of extras.

A lot of box-mixes are just flour, sugar, and baking soda/powder in an over priced smaller package. You might be shocked by how easy it is to make cupcakes and cookies without one.

***REPACKAGE BULK ITEMS***

For breakfasts – did you know that you can make your own instant oatmeal packets?  Buy the big container of oats! It healthier too! I’ll share my recipe with you!

For school lunches (I pack well  over 300 a year) I buy large bags of pretzels and almonds and separate them in individual packages or containers. If I buy yogurt, I buy the large organic container (from Aldi, but Sam’s has them too). This saves a TON of money. The next time you’re at the store – check prices and weights of individual packages verses the bulk sizes. If we’re counting calories – we use our food scale to measure an appropriate serving.

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These are my absolute FAVORITE SCHOOL LUNCH containers. Extremely inexpensive, leak proof containers that will save you a lot of money on plastic sandwich bags. Ziplock discontinued these for the longest time – and I was so upset that I actually wrote to them! Thankfully, they finally brought them back and I was probably a little too excited when I ran to stock up! You can get them at Target or on Amazon.*BUY YOUR MEAT AND PRODUCE FROM WAREHOUSE STORES*

For us, the cost of the membership was worth it – but if you can tag-a-long with a friend who has one, you can save even more. Produce and meat are great quality and much cheaper than smaller grocery stores. I often find bulk almond flour, nuts, meat, yogurt, and healthy organic snacks there for excellent prices. I also buy toothpaste, shampoo, hand soap, ibuprofen and vitamins there. The cost for those are included in our grocery budget as well.

Now – I do need to repackage and freeze meat when I get home (which I honestly don’t feel like doing after a big grocery shop), but it’s so nice to always have something around in the freezer when I need to make something for dinner…Now, it’s remembering to thaw it that’s the problem.

*DECIDE THE BEST PLACE(S) TO SHOP*

I mostly shop at Aldi and Sam’s. We like to drink purified water so we will make a stop at Walmart occasionally to refill our gallons (only 37 cents each!) and for other odds and ends (like Purdue gluten free chicken tenders – They’re the best.)

Aldi has organic produce, meats, yogurts and tons of well-priced gluten free items. I find the big-box stores extremely expensive and I almost never do my grocery shopping there.

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This is honestly exactly how I handle our grocery budget. We’ve been doing it this way for so long, it’s second nature. Now hopefully you too are equipped with a  few new ideas to cut your bill down and save a few dollars each month.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Can you eat healthy food on a thrifty budget?

  1. Check the ingredients, but you can also save money on over the counter medications by buying the store brand.

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