In our last post, which you can read here, we introduced two concerns we’ve heard from many friends, acquaintances, and coworkers that ultimately keep them from enjoying a healthy-eating, home-cooking lifestyle:
1. “It just takes too long to cook at home…” or “I simply don’t have the time to cook…”
2. “It just costs way too much to eat healthy and cook healthy…”
We gave it our best to debunk the first point in our last post, and want to share with you today how eating healthy and cooking healthy doesn’t really have to break your bank or steal all those fresh and crisp dollar bills from your wallet.
Concern #3: “It costs too much to eat healthy & cook healthy!”
We found that when transitioning to enjoying more home cooked meals, that our hard-earned dollar was going more towards our grocery lists than to restaurant and fast food bills (which is a great thing!!). But it did take a little while to get used to. We’ll share our tips on how we’ve been able to keep our grocery totals down and are still able to get enough food to last us a week or two until our next food shopping adventure.
Become well acquainted with your grocery weekly ads…
Every Wednesday in our tiny mailbox, we receive a stack full of weekly ads that range from Safeway deals to hardware store bargains (that us girls frequent never…), but the holy grail ads our those from our favorite (and respectfully priced) grocery stores that are closest to our home which for us includes: Fry’s and Sprout’s. They always have weekly deals that get us very excited! A great perk to shopping the sales is that it most of the time means you’ll be getting produce that tastes its best as the in season produce are the ones in which you’ll usually get the greatest savings. You’ll also find that your grocery stores are aware of events and big social gatherings and they plan sales around those activities. If you shopped at the store around the Super Bowl, you may have seen the BBQ necessities on sale as well as chips and salsa as those are common party foods for a much needed football celebration (Touchdown!!!).
We use these weekly ads to better craft our grocery lists to ensure that we use all the opportunities to save. You can save numerous dollars weekly, monthly, and yearly by creating your grocery list based off of the weekly deals from your local grocery store!
Plan your meals for the week…
This may seem like a very tedious step when you are first starting to cook most of your meals at home, but it will surely help you buy only items that you’ll need so your dollar is spent on your food necessities only! We do a very basic sketch of our meals for a week to make our shopping a little easier, and below you’ll see an example of how we usually go about this:
1) What do we want to have for breakfast this week? “Our go-to! Oatmeal + fruit.” Thus, we buy a bag of quick oats ($0.99/lb), strawberries ($0.88), bananas ($0.57/lb), raisins ($2.99/lb), and cinnamon ($1.99). TOTAL: $9.86
2) What do we want for lunch this week? “Well with a full work week it has to be easy to pack… So, turkey sandwiches with veggies for snacks would be great this week.” Thus, our list includes whole wheat bread ($2.99), turkey meat ($4.50), lettuce ($0.99), mustard ($1.99), hummus ($3.99), three avocados ($0.88/each), and a bag of baby carrots ($1.00) and a cucumber ($0.88/each). TOTAL: $18.98
3) What do we want for dinner this week? “Something quick and easy to make…So how about for a few nights we do an easy pasta dish.” So we get a bag of whole wheat pasta ($2.99), marinara sauce ($3.00), a zucchini ($0.88/each) to add and a bag of spinach ($1.99). “We can use the whole wheat bread we bought for our lunches to make garlic bread! We can also make egg scrambles for dinners, as well.” So, we get a carton of eggs ($2.99), an onion ($0.88/each), some chives ($0.99), and two cans of black beans ($1.99/each). TOTAL: $19.46
4) Lastly, what snacks will we want this week? For easy packing, let’s grab a bag of stick pretzels ($3.00), apples ($0.98/lb), and maybe a few of those single-serve Greek yogurts ($1.00/each). TOTAL: $12.96
OVERALL TOTAL: $61.26 (for us girls, we can split that two ways, so for food for a week with a shopping trip like this, it would cost us each about $30.63 — leaving us with enough money that week to maybe eat out once or twice!)
These numbers reflect our current trip to Sprout’s in Tempe, AZ. These numbers also reflect a shopping trip/food sharing per week for two people.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store…
We’re sure you may have heard this suggestion throughout your life, especially if you’ve been reading tips and tricks on how to shop for healthy food. But! The perimeter of most grocery stores will include: dairy, meats, produce, and grains. These are the essential food groups and will make-up the bulk of your healthy eating lifestyle! (It also makes it quite easy to know your way around any grocery store you enter!) You’ll also be selecting your core necessities first by shopping the outside of the store first thing. It can be trouble at times when you head straight into the middle aisles as you first start shopping as you may start adding items in your cart that you don’t really need and that usually have a higher price point. These are times when your immediate temptations may get the best of you. For example, when walking in the cracker and snack aisles you may start snagging a cracker box or two, but your snack nature may have you nibbling on those crackers only for two days and suddenly the $4 you spent on the box is gone in just 48 hours. Thus, stick to the outside first, grab what you need to make your meals and sprinkle just a few favorite items in your cart once your done!
As we mentioned in the last post, LOVE your leftovers…
We mentioned that using a meal that has a bulky grain can be easily duplicated! This brightly colored recipe in this post is perfect for that! We snagged a few veggies (some of them here came from our CSA box from Steadfast Farm) and chose quinoa to be the bulky grain to make an easy and healthy dish that can easily be stored as leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. The veggies are cheap and you only need to select just a few as you’ll see in the ingredients list below (usually totaling under $5). The quinoa you can purchase in bulk and store in your pantry for later use (usually under $3-4). Thus, this large veggie meal would cost just about $10, and you can enjoy it for multiple meals throughout the week! Even if you separate the quinoa and the veggies as you store it in your fridge, you can use the veggies in your pasta dishes, in your egg scrambles, or in your turkey sandwiches! You can easily plan on making a bulk dish like this once a week to help you save money as you reinvent it throughout the week!
Overall, your budget friendly ways to eat and cook healthy are to really dive deep into your weekly ads so you know ahead of time what items are going to be on sale for you! There will also be such great and new items that will get marked down that will give you the opportunity to try something new in your kitchen! We saw this week that a new brand of salad dressings went on sale and we can’t wait to incorporate them in our salads and in our pasta dishes.
You’ll also use these ads and deals to help your craft your weekly meals which is also such a fun process! With new fruits on sales weekly, you’ll be able to create new smoothies, new oatmeal bowls, and even new fruit salads to pack for lunches. This will help you keep your costs down as you use the deals to drive your weekly meals which will save you dollars and dollars for the week.
During your outings, you’ll see that your best avenue for shopping is to grab your necessitates first along the outside of the store. This will help you eliminate temptations inside the aisles which will help you keep your grocery bill low as snack foods and processed foods usually have a higher price point, but their length of stay in your kitchen maybe too short to make the price points worth it.
We would also love to hear what tips and tricks you have (and use!) to shop for healthy food on a budget — we’re always lookin’ for more ways to shop smart!
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water
1 medium sweet potato
2 red bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 cup kale, your choice
1/2 cup radish shoots
1. In a rice cooker, place in 1/2 cup quinoa and add in 1 cup water. Place lid on top and hit “cook.”
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Cut up the sweet potato, zucchinis, beets, and red bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and lay out veggies. Drizzle veggies with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.
4. Place in oven and roast for about 20-30 minutes, checking every ten minutes and stirring.
5. In a pot of water, bring to a boil and boil egg for about 7-8 minutes.
6. Once the quinoa, veggies, and egg have cooked, gathering your serving bowls (2-3 depending on who you’re serving). Place in a scoop of quinoa, a handful of veggies, and a slice of the boiled egg. Top with a few leaves of kale, 1/4 cup of the red cabbage, and 1/4 cup off the radish shoots.
7. Enjoy!! Serve with your favorite dressing or with a dollop of hummus or Greek yogurt.
8. Store leftovers in the fridge for about 1 week in a sealed container.