By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
I’ll be the first to tell you that cleaning up your nutrition and eating healthy comes at a cost. Unfortunately, those who don’t have a bank account with a few commas may find it difficult to afford healthy foods at all meals. After all, it seems like we have things backward these days since unhealthy foods are fairly inexpensive and plentiful. So, what can you do when grocery shopping on a budget?
In this article, we will look at 10 strategies you can employ to help save money when grocery shopping on a budget and looking for healthy food options. Nothing mentioned below is a secret, it’s just a matter of understanding how to pick and choose items that will provide you with the best value (nutritionally and from a cost perspective).
Buy in Bulk
Purchasing food items in bulk is always going to be your best choice and provide you with the best pricing. While many think it’s counterproductive to pay to join wholesalers like Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, or the many other retailers, you’ll more than benefit from doing so thanks to the reduced pricing on bulk items, and your membership cost will basically pay for itself very quickly.
When you are grocery shopping on a budget, try to purchase everything you can in value packs or bulk. This means everything from your protein sources, carbohydrates, and even healthy fats.
Stock up on big-value bags of ground beef, ground turkey, prepackaged burger patties, boneless/skinless chicken breast, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, natural peanut butter, nuts, healthy nut oils, etc. While the sticker price may initially shock you, when you break everything down, you’ll see that the cost of buying in bulk can save you quite a bit of money.
Start Meal Prepping
Think about what meals you want for the week and start meal prepping. The upfront time investment may seem like a lot, but think about all the time you will save during the week, not needing to plan out your meals.
Pick and day and do all your meal prep at once so that everything is ready to go in Tupperware containers and placed in your refrigerator. You can separate them by individual meals for easy grab-and-go or put all of one item in individual Tupperware containers.
Grocery shopping on a budget and buying in bulk will save you time and money in the long run while not allowing you to find an excuse to eat junk. People who don’t take lunch with them to work will generally find themselves raiding the vending machine or going out to lunch and consuming food that is unhealthy. Not to mention, you’re going to pay WAY more money to eat out at a restaurant than it would be if you prepared your own meal.
Additionally, think about the food options you have to choose from (especially from the vending machine) — they’re not exactly what you would want in a healthy nutrition plan.
Make a shopping list before leaving your house
Have you ever gone grocery shopping while you were hungry? How’d that work out? I’m willing to bet you got home and found you purchased a bunch of items you shouldn’t have bought but did because you were hungry while shopping, and the food looked good.
If you’re grocery shopping on a budget, you’ll want to make a grocery list before you go to the grocery store and stick to the list when you get there. Another “pro tip” would be eating a balanced meal before going to the grocery store. Doing so allows you to be full and satiated while shopping and hopefully steer you away from being tempted to buy something you shouldn’t be eating and not on your list.
Do you want an even better solution to the problems mentioned above? Do your grocery shopping online and then head to the store to pick it up. This will prevent you from going up and down the aisles and tempting yourself to binge. Search for the food on your list while using an app or the grocery store’s website, and do your grocery shopping on a budget directly from your mobile device.
Use coupons and reward programs
Are you trying to save money? One way to do so is by using coupons and reward programs to help lower your costs when grocery shopping on a budget. Look for coupons and reward programs that save you money at the grocery store(s) you frequent.
Think about the overall savings if you’re buying in bulk to lower your costs, and then add coupons and/or reward programs on top of it. There are apps out there that do all of these things for you to provide you with the best user experience possible, as well as the best savings opportunities.
Look for frozen food options
When grocery shopping on a budget, fresh options may be more expensive than frozen ones. While the product may be the same, the frozen variety can save you money. Think along the lines of your produce. When you purchase fruit that is out of season, you’re going to pay a premium. That same fruit, when frozen, has a stable price all year and can save you money. Not to mention the frozen variety has a longer “shelf life” than fresh.
Picking up pre-cut produce will also drive the price up due to convenience. Many times, frozen fruits and vegetables are already cut up and prepared (they’re just frozen). If they were fresh, you would have paid a considerably higher price for them.
The frozen section can also be a place where you shop for your prepackaged protein sources as well. Look at the ingredients on the packaging to ensure they aren’t adding a bunch of unhealthy junk. The ingredient list should be minimal. If it’s super long and contains words you can’t pronounce, put it back and find another source.
Skip the organic products
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” It applies here when we’re talking about organic products. Are organic products better for you? Sure. But when grocery shopping on a budget, organic products also come with a higher price tag.
Don’t stress over whether or not everything you eat is organic or not. For instance, when it comes to produce, be sure to wash the items well before eating them to remove any pesticide residue or contaminants that may be on the item.
When it comes to grocery shopping on a budget, you need to consider your needs versus your wants. Would it be nice to have something organic? Sure. But to stretch your money further, skip organic products.
Buy generic over name brands
Most of the time, when making purchases at any store, you will pay a marked-up price according to the brand. Buy a household name brand, and you could pay twice as much (sometimes more) than the price of a generic brand. Switching over to the generic brand can save you a ton of money when grocery shopping on a budget.
Best of all, the generic brand often contains the same ingredients as the name brand and tastes similar (sometimes even better). Check the unit price on the price tag of two similar products (one generic and one name brand) and see how much you’ll save per ounce/gram/pound/etc.
Split a cow
If you tend to gravitate towards meals containing meat, you can save a lot of money by buying a full (butchered) cow or splitting it with a friend or family member. You tend to get amazingly fresh and inexpensive cuts going this route. The only thing you need to take into the equation is how much freezer space you have available. It’s not uncommon for people to “buy a cow” and then have an entire freezer dedicated to storing all the meat.
So, if you’re grocery shopping on a budget, speak to your local farmers and see if they offer full or half cows to stock up your freezer and last you a considerable amount of time.
Go to a farmer’s market
Circling back to where we spoke about organic products, you may be able to find inexpensive organic products at farmer’s markets. If organic isn’t of interest to you, you can still get farm-to-table products where you purchase some of the freshest items directly from the farmers and save money in the process.
Think along the lines of grains, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and many other products, all at what many would consider “discount prices.” Not only are you saving money by going to a farmer’s market and grocery shopping on a budget, but you’re also supporting the local farmers — which is a win-win.
Use spices and herbs to change things up
There are times when during meal prep, things can get somewhat repetitive or bland. You can avoid getting sick of consuming the same types of foods by changing them up with spices and herbs. You can buy a single container of spices and herbs for next to nothing, and it will last a long time.
Simple spices and herbs can take any meal and create something mouth-watering by simply sprinkling a little flavor on top, which makes them a staple when grocery shopping on a budget.
Since we are on the topic of ways you can save money when grocery shopping on a budget, let’s quickly touch on some ways that you can also save money on supplements to help stretch your dollar further.
If you purchase various supplements each month, such as a pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, multivitamin, etc., why not stack these products together and save some coin? Head over to our stack page, where you can choose from complete stacks according to your goals, as well as an option to create your own stack and save up to 25%. It’s our way of helping you save money and showing our appreciation and support for the brand.