How to Eat Real Food on a Budget {Fit Tip Tuesday}

Let’s talk budgeting because let’s face it: buying whole, real foods aint cheap. Fact.

I want a farm so badly and lots of chickens. Do you know what organic, free-range eggs cost? Oh my. I sound like Veruca – “Daddy, I want it nowwwww.” Dad, I’m not asking for a golden goose, just a chicken. Good thing I have pay cheques coming in now otherwise I would legit be miserable every time I see my grocery bill – I am carefully tracking my grocery spending during the Whole 30 challenge so I will fill you in. And good thing I live at home – did I really just say that?! Yes. Yes I did.

My parents are awesome and would never let me go hungry, but I buy my own food. As I should. I’m a big girl now. But since starting the Whole 30, I am not used to buying so much fish and meat (beans and lentils are much more budget friendly) and I try to buy organic, free-range, pastured, grass-fed (all that good stuff) as often as possible – but it is certainly adding up – I just began buying my meat from Rowe Farms. I have made this a priority in my life so I am trying to figure out some budget friendly ways to keep this realistic.

You don’t need to buy the most expensive this or that (do what you can) but there are ways to eat well and not break the bank. So today’s Fit Tip Tuesday with Lisa is all about healthy eating on a budget – because it’s possible.

Fit-Tip-Tuesday-Button

If you choose to invest in your health, you can do so and still be financially responsible. It first comes down to budgeting and balancing your life. Amy wrote this great post on making a budget. I use a little book I like to call my “pink book” and an Excel spreadsheet to budget my earnings, spendings (needs vs. wants), and net goals. I buy “expensive” food but I do my very best to budget for this. I love to travel (obvs) but I budget for this. I CrossFit. But I budget for this. I love Lululemon. Okay I don’t budget for this as well, sometimes it just calls to me. Anyways, those are my choices and you make yours.

Obviously eating real, nutrient rich food is a priority of mine. So what to do? I’m no expert, but here’s what works for me.

1. Buy frozen produce and shop in season.

I used to be really bad at this. I love berries and I wanted them all the time. But $5.99 for a box of raspberries that I could devour in 2.5 seconds? No thank you. Instead, I stock the freezer with frozen berries – much more cost effective and a lot of professionals believe this to be healthier as the produce is frozen at it’s optimal point.

Seasonal shopping is really important as well. In season fruits and veggies are budget friendly and often better tasting. If raspberries are in season, go for it. They are less expensive and of higher quality. Another tip is to buy produce in bulk. An avocado can sometimes be as pricy as $3 each but buying bags of (smaller) avocados is often around $2.99.

Groceries

2. Shop locally and at a farmer’s markets.

Farmer’s markets are the new candy shop. Hopefully it will start to get warmer ASAP (go away winter) so you should see a lot more farmer’s markets popping up around you – check your local newspaper or hello, Google! Farmer’s markets are a great option for in-season, budget-friendly produce and other goods.

3. Look for sales.

Even health food stores have sales. One of my favorite stores announces weekly and monthly sales. If a jar of nut butter is on sale or a box of Larabars, I buy it – I will need it and use it eventually. If meat is on sale, buy it, store it properly (see tip #7) and freeze it for future use. Whole Foods has weekly and monthly flyers as well. Check your local store and take advantage of the sale.

4. Learn how to make homemade goods.

You don’t need to buy everything. I make lots of snacks. It’s super easy and cost-effective to throw some dates and nuts into a food processor and make delicious energy bites. There are so many other goods that you can make too: fermented veggieskombuchaalmond milk and nut butter. My goal is to make homemade cashew butter asap. Hopefully I don’t kill our food processor.

Apricot cashew bite

5. Grow your own spices/produce.

Aren’t gardens the cutest? I don’t exactly have a green thumb but I want to try to grow a mini garden this summer. I think I am going to start with fresh herbs and spices on the windowsill in my my parent’s kitchen. Of course growing your own spices and produce will save you lots of money.

Window-Sill-Gardening[Image source] 

6. Buy from bulk bins and buy in bulk.

This has been a life-saver for me. I frequent Bulk Barn (it’s Canadian) for most of my nuts, seeds, flours and some dried fruit. It is so much cheaper to shop this way rather than buying pre-packaged flours and nuts. Sometimes I only need a little bit of this or a lot of that, so this is a great option. If you are shopping for more than one, buying things in bulk is another cost-friendly tactic – just resist the Costco taste-testers, ew.

7. Limit how much you go out to eat.

Going out to eat is expensive. Sure, it is a fun social endeavour but what about a pot-luck? Or cooking with a friend? I do enjoy some time off from the kitchen but it is super rewarding to eat the fruits of your labor and share it with someone you love.

8. Properly store food.

Often time food “goes bad” because it isn’t stored correctly. I store nuts, seeds, grains and flours in glass jars. Nuts and some flours (like almond and flaxseed meal) should be stored in the fridge. Store chopped veggies in airtight containers and use a vacuum sealer to prevent foods from losing freshness or getting freezer burned.

Jars

9. Make a plan and stick to it.

Yup. My favorite word: plan. This has seriously helped with my budget! I used to buy too many things and they would often go to waste – and we know that I hate wasting food. I know it has been a few weeks since I have posted a weekly plan but I still plan my meals. I survey my section of our fridge and pantry and figure out what I have/need/want to make. I write down meal ideas on stickie notes and make a grocery list. I buy the food (and stick to my list!) and then get my prep on.

Grocery List1

10. Eat amazing and delicious food and love life. 

I just couldn’t end on an odd number…

Questions of the day…

How do you eat healthy without breaking the bank?

Who is your favorite character from Willy Wonka? 

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38 thoughts on “How to Eat Real Food on a Budget {Fit Tip Tuesday}

  1. Oh, the money…..I could definitely use a coaching from you when it comes to budgeting!! I am the worst, I just spend what I have or don’t spend (if it’s gone). Terrible.
    I love to buy on famer markets and if I would live in the US, Whole FOods would be my second home and the death of my wallet (I’ve been there daily when I was on vacation last year).
    Great tips! Frozen food is such a great idea, buying in bulks is a little tricky since I am always with the bike :-) which, on the other hand is good so I can really only buy what I need.

  2. Lol I loved that movie as a kid!! Probably Charlie as all the other kids were kind of evil ;)

    I definitely agree buying in bulk as well as meal planning helps to save so much money. As does batch cooking and buying in season. We are so much better at not getting takeaway as much any more but could still improve some more!

  3. I love these suggestions. I recently started buying frozen veggies and fruits and find that I’m saving a significant amount just by making this swap. I need to work on making a plan and sticking to it : )

  4. Great info and tips! I think it’s important to remember that buying healthy foods CAN be affordable if we are being smart, shopping around AND making sure we are making it a priority in our budget.

  5. Great tips! I keep a small garden in the summer with herbs, peppers, and tomatoes (I kill everything else), and that helps out a lot. I also try to buy based on what’s on sale. Meat can get super expensive, so I especially stick to the sale rule with that!

  6. Love this, Amy!!! I’m with you on the sales. My favourite health food store has member discount days (15% off) once or twice a month, and I always stock up on a few things when they are on sale.

  7. Amy this is a great post! You have given so many helpful tips! Now I know I am doing the right thing as I follow a lot of these! (and I am glad you are such a big planner too). I love buying from the farmers markets when I can; you really can tell a difference in taste too, AND you know you are doing your part to support the local community. I think you have hit most of my tips, but I also try to eat meatless once per week, and get my protein from other plant/grain sources. As an athlete I have to pay careful attention to my nutrition, and protein intake to ensure I am able to recover from workouts, but I feel those grains often have so many benefits that they outweigh the meat nutrition sometimes!

    Thanks for the advice!

  8. #10 is my favorite :) All of these are great tips. I love that you store things in glass jars. My mom does that too and I need to get myself that organized (plus it’s adorable). Also I had no idea almond flour was supposed to be in the fridge… that’s probably bad news for the almond flour I’ve been using…

  9. These are great tips. I use many of them myself so that I can buy good food AND stick to a budget. I am like you, what I eat is probably the most important thing to me (right up there with getting in a workout, so our posts are so in sync today!). That means even when I have a “no spending money” rule, like I did this past month, I still bought quality foods. I also look for deals on food, as well as foods that keep longer (i.e. frozen produce where I can). Oh, and thanks for the link love!

  10. Love your tips! Ryan and I really want our own chickens one day so that we will always have lots of organic eggs! I would also love a garden one day to grow some of my own vegetables!

  11. I’m usually pretty good with budgeting for groceries, but lately I’ve been…well…not so great at it. It’s on my list of goals for the month! I can’t wait until the farmers markets start opening up again…last year I had a year-round one just down the block from me, and I saved soooo much money that way. I miss my farm-fresh eggs!

  12. I completely agree with this. I’m still figuring out budgeting to this day with food, but one of the most important things I’ve found is to make sure your pantry is stocked from the get-go. It costs more up front, but of course you can even do that in a budgeted way with the bulk bins and stuff. Then, each week you’ll have less little things that you need to buy and you can focus on the produce and protein! I also think buying frozen veggies and berries are the most important tip to follow so I’m glad you made that number one. I always try to buy my frozen fruit at TJs (I know Canada doesn’t have them but still) because it’s consistently two or more dollars less than the big chains and it’s organic, too. Great tips!

  13. I find that the easiest way to eat healthy without breaking the bank is just by not eating out. I do all my grocery shopping on Sundays and plan out the week.

    My fave character from willy wonka is Veruca too!! haha

  14. All great tips! I think the biggest one is shopping at the local farmer’s market. I’m lucky enough to have one about 5 minutes away from our house, so that’s where I’ll go for all my produce. It’s way cheaper than going to the regular grocery story and I find the produce to be a lot nicer too.

  15. I love this!!! Everyone thinks it’s so expensive to eat healthy but it’s totally possible to do on a budget! These are all awesome, especially about wasting food. I throw so much money away just by not planning everything out and only buying what I can eat. I get super excited at the market and think I can cook a zillion meals a day. Also, cutting out restaurants is hugeee, I save so much money not eating out!

    Thanks for linking up girl! Love having you!

    xo

  16. Trader Joe’s is where it’s AT!!! Yesterday I went to buy ingredients for a recipe I am making for GiGi Eats today and OMG – so cheap! It’s nuts! I only need a tiny bit of celery but TWO HUGE hearts was only $1.50 so I just bought the whole thing… LOL! Now I am going to experiment and see if roasting celery is any good, LMFAO!

  17. These are grey tips! I cook for one during the week and often find that meal prep is not only a huge time saver but also a money saver. If I have something already to toss together quick I’m less likely to think about take out. I love your tip on the bulk bins! They are great for large and small quantities of items. There is a grocery store, jungle Jim’s, in cincinnati and I love how cheap their ethnic food is!

  18. I just recently started buying more frozen produce – such a money saver! Some veggies will always taste better fresh, but others like broccoli and cauliflower, I don’t mind either way. With a chaotic schedule prepping ahead of time has been key – if I don’t do it on the weekend, weekday dinners are either cereal, take-out, or a sandwich.

  19. Great tips! When I first moved to Toronto I was eating out all the time and oh man my bank account took a hit that I am still trying to recover from. Now I cook SO MUCH more and it’s so much better! Plus bonuc points- cooking is fun :)

  20. Great post! I try to save money on food by using up ingredients and only buying what I can realistically make/eat that week. That was a challenge at first! I eat the same thing pretty often so I’m not tempted by variety.

  21. I’ve never really budgeted before… I’m in a for a rude awakening when I get a job/move out/become fully financially independent later this year. Eek! That being said, I make a lot of my own foods (granola bars, granola, etc) and don’t buy convenience foods like microwave dinners, so I’m sure I’m already on the right track.

  22. Amy – great post. We do all those things for sure. Shopping at the farmers market and buying our fish in bulk from the fish monger has worked well for us. We invested in a vacuum sealer so we can freeze the fish. A home garden is another one of our favorites. It’s just too much fun with the littles!

  23. Oh such good tips!!! I love frozen produce and farmer’s markets especially. And I feel your pain – I’ve finalllllly been switching to organic, free-range eggs (from liquid egg whites!) over the past few months, and they ARE expensive. Trader Joe’s is the best I’ve found, but I know you don’t have it there. Keep up the good budgeting work!

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