If you’ve spent any time in college, then you know how to eat on a budget. Most of us can think back to Ramen-fueled study sessions and cold leftover pizza breakfasts. Even if you’ve never been to college, living on a tight budget makes it more difficult to get the proper nutrition we need to stay healthy.
As we get older, eating healthy becomes more important. The problem is, according to a Harvard study, eating green and clean costs about $1.50 more per day than buying garbage food. The food manufacturers love it! They can mass produce low-quality food at a cheap price, and when you’re on a tight budget, you might think that’s all you can afford.
There are ways to overcome this problem and still eat healthy, no matter your budget! With some planning and extra work, you can do it! Let’s dive right in.
1) Understand the Psychology of Food
This is a HUGE problem not many people know about. Food is big business, and like every other big business, they know how to get you to keep buying their product. They produce cheap products that offer little nutritional value. Have you ever sat down and mindlessly eaten a whole bag of chips while watching your favorite show?
These foods are cheap for a reason. Because they offer little nutritious value, they burn up quickly, send your energy levels plummeting, and leave you hungry. So, while it might not cost as much to eat this way, you’ll find yourself buying twice as much of it.
When you eat the right type of foods that nourish your body properly, you won’t be as hungry. You can eat less, spend less, and overall be healthier for it.
2) Follow the Seasons
Farmer’s markets in our local communities are becoming increasingly popular, and for a very good reason. You can get great produce at a cheaper price than you can find in the store. Why is it cheaper? It’s because the foods they sell are locally produced and are in-season. That cuts down on shipping costs and follows the law of supply and demand.
If there’s a certain food in-season right now, that means there’s an abundance of it and you can get it at a great price. On the flip side, it’s going to cost a store more money to ship in fresh strawberries from South America, so the price is going to be higher. Look up the seasonal foods in your area at any given time and enjoy the savings.
3) Have a Plan and a List
One thing stores LOVE to make money on are impulse buyers. These are the people who run in with a few things on their mind, but end up leaving with much more than they intended on buying. It goes back to point #1 about the psychology of food.
The layout of grocery stores is not random. They’re carefully designed following the law of Power of Perimeter. If you haven’t noticed, most of the stuff we need on a regular basis is found along the outside wall of the whole store. If you need a gallon of milk, you’re going to the very back to find it. Meats, breads, etc, are also on the outer perimeter.
With the most common products at the back of the store, it forces you to walk through the Little Debbie aisle and the frozen food section. They count on you seeing that one thing you know you shouldn’t buy and tossing it into your cart. Then, when it’s time to roll up to an aisle, there are plenty of other impulse items there as well.
Don’t fall for it! Don’t go to the store hungry. Take your time and actively plan out your grocery list. Clip coupons. Find great deals. It will take extra time, but you’ll save money in the end.
4) Do Your Own Prep
One of the more expensive aspects of grocery shopping includes buying products that have been already cleaned, cut, and prepared for you. This includes meats, fruits, and veggies. A tiny container of pre-cut fruit, while convenient, is much more expensive than just buying the whole fruit and cutting it yourself.
Instead of hitting the meat section of your store, go to a local butcher. Not only will your food be cleaner and not sprayed with chemicals to help preserve it, you can get more of it at a cheaper price. As part of your grocery regimen (planning/shopping/couponing), take the time after you shop to chop, cut, and prepare the foods yourself. You’ll save a lot of money.
5) Grow Your Own
If you have the space for it, there’s nothing better than growing your own garden. Yes, it takes work, but can be extremely therapeutic. Even if you live in an apartment, you can find a way to grow your own fruits and vegetables. There are a thousand ways you can research online to grow in various types of light, space, and circumstances.
Also, learning how to can is a huge asset. It may seem like a practice from a bygone area, but it has been roaring back to life in the past few years. People actually desire to grow clean, healthy food and to can it themselves and spare the extra preservatives and chemicals food companies add in.
Grocery shopping is one of our biggest expenses, and food isn’t going to get cheaper anytime soon. By learning how to shop properly and by taking these steps, you can improve the quality of the food you eat on any budget.