When you start looking for ways to save on your food budget, you find almost limitless opportunities. However, for most family meal planners price is not the only consideration – you want your frugal meals to be healthy too. You can do this by looking at three things, which will save you money, and make your meals healthier:
Source – Skip – Substitute
When you look at the source of your food, when you skip the really expensive and unhealthy ingredients and substitute the others for healthy and more affordable alternatives you can frugally feed your family and keep them healthy inside and out.
The source of your food
Frugally adding healthy food to your diet starts with where you buy that food, so when you do your grocery shopping:
Buy discounted produce. Filling your trolley with fruit and vegetables can get expensive quickly, but if you look for the reduced produce which may just be a little over ripe for example, you can make savings and stay healthy.
Frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are often much cheaper than their fresh counterparts, and because they are snap frozen at the source, rather than traveling from the farm and sitting in your supermarket for days on end, they are also fresher. Frozen vegetables will also keep longer, so you reduce wastage.
Shop locally. Go to your local farmer’s market for fresh food straight from the source, and without the middle man prices.
Order direct. If there isn’t a farmer’s market near you, you can order direct from the distributor through a food co-op. You may have to buy in bulk and meet a minimum order requirement but if you team up with friends or neighbors you can share the savings.
Join a co-op. The food at a co-op will be more expensive than a grocery store, but will be cheaper than a health food store and you’ll be able to access fresh, organic foods for your family.
Grow your own health foods. Set aside part of your garden for a vegetable patch and start growing your own fruit and vegetables. You can also grow your own herbs in the kitchen window and save on price without diminishing the flavor of your meals.
Multivitamin. The source of your health foods doesn’t have to be all from fresh foods, as often the pesticides used often lower the vitamin levels of your fruit and vegetables. A multivitamin will cost you around $10 a month which can be a lot cheaper than organic produce.
Fish oil. Fish are filled with Omega-3 which helps lower cholesterol, decrease body fat and reduce inflammation but keeping your family healthy on meals of fish can be expensive so look for fish oil or fish oil tablets at the supermarket.
Buy in bulk. When you find a healthy meal ingredient on special, stock up and enjoy bulk discounts. Meat, fruit and vegetables can be frozen for several months to help you make long term savings.
Shop in one place. While one supermarket may have specials on milk and another has cheaper meat, think about the time and money you are wasting in shopping all over town. Instead, remember that time is money, and cut your fuel expenses by shopping in one place.
Expensive and unhealthy foods to skip
When you cut out these foods and follow these tips you will not only be saving money, you’ll be saving your health too:
Skip salt. Sodium is hidden in a lot of foods and most of us are under the assumption that salt adds flavour. However, your body doesn’t need a lot of sodium and you will find that you have actually become used to high salt levels, and if you cut out the salt from your diet, after a while you won’t miss it at all. Therefore, stop adding salt to your meals, and look for no added salt or low sodium versions of packaged foods.
Eat less. Skip the extra portion and you will be healthier and you will save money. You don’t need to go back for three servings of pasta at dinner, instead, limit yourself to one and you’ll be able to maintain a healthier weight and a lower grocery bill.
Skip junk food. Chips, chocolate and other packaged foods are not only expensive but they are very unhealthy, filled with a lot of added sugar, salt and preservatives.
Skip the food court. Instead, bring your lunch to work and you won’t be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils at lunch time when you’re faced with MSG ladened Chinese or a fast food burger meal. You just need to put in a little preparation time in the morning and you’ll be able to pack a healthy lunch and save your lunch money.
Healthy and frugal foods to substitute into your diet
Of course you can’t go without all the tastiest things in life, but there are ways to make those tasty which can be so bad for your health and your budget, a little lighter:
Substitute oil. When you are baking, use oil and an equal amount of no added sugar apple sauce to replace butter or shortening.
Substitute water. Drink water instead of soft drinks and juice as it comes free from the tap. Then when you do treat yourself to a soda with a meal you’ll really enjoy it.
Substitute vegetables. While most people plan their meals around the meat they are using, shift your thinking to plan a meal based on vegetables, with meat as an accompaniment. This helps you add more vegetables to your diet, and keep down your costs by buying less meat.
Substitute whole grains. Use steamed brown rice, barley pilaf, kamut, spelt or quinoa instead of white rice and pasta for a healthy and unique alternative.
Substitute beans. Beans are high in protein, have a high nutritional value and very little fat. This means you can use them to fill out soups, salads and as a side dish without blowing the budget.
Substitute fatty meats. Fatty meats are cheaper and can have more taste than lean cuts. Plus, it is not the fat on meat which makes you fat, it is the amount of calories you eat which makes you put on weight, and you in fact need a balanced intake of fats including Omega 3, 6 and 9 for a healthy diet.
Choose in season fruits and vegetables. It can be hard to keep eating healthily when your favorite fruits and vegetables go out of season, but when you shop seasonally you will find your produce is more affordable, and it will be more nutrient rich because it is fresher and grown naturally.
Forget snacks. When your family is eating healthier meals made up of nutritious foods, they will find the need to snack between meals diminishes. This means you don’t have to buy a lot of expensive packaged snacks, and your family is eating healthy regular meals.
Add eggs. Eggs are filled with vitamins, are high in protein and are affordable. Plus, where they have had a bad name for many years, it has now been proven that eggs don’t increase cholesterol levels as dietary cholesterol is not linked to blood cholesterol.
Add tuna. Tuna is another great source of protein, and canned tuna is not only cheap, but contains the same amount of protein as meat.