When my husband and I got married, I was eating a strictly organic, paleo diet – healthy food, but not cheap healthy food by anyone’s imagination.
When our income plummeted to us earning just $16,000 that first year, some things had to go. Namely, my extensively expensive food budget.
Through much trial and error, about a dozen tantrums on my part about how I missed the foods I had decided my body absolutely required for survival (Kerrygold butter, for one), and a few too many episodes of having to eat failed food experiments than I care to count, I finally learned how to master finding and creating cheap healthy food that was not only just filling, but also flavorful and nutritious.
One of the most popular excuses for not living a healthy lifestyle is the myth that it is impossible to find cheap healthy food.
Thanks to shows like Extreme Couponing, which highlight people “saving money on groceries” by amassing entire rooms full of processed foods, the myth has been perpetuated.
If you know your way around a grocery store, there are several ways you can save money.
Here are my
5 Easy Tips for Finding Cheap Healthy Food
5. Do the Prep Work
Prepared fruits and vegetables cost more money than plain ones. So buy the bags of carrots, the stalks of celery, and the whole watermelons.
This will save you at least $1 per package.
I like to do all of my weekly food prep work on Sundays to prepare for my week. I include any and all prep work of vegetables, cooking rice, etc.
Basically, the only things I do not prep ahead of time are apples, avocados, and bananas, due to browning.
4. Shop the Loss Leaders
If you don’t get your local newspaper, check the ads online for that week’s loss leader produce deals (those are the deals on the front page of the fliers that draw customers into the store).
Often, grocery stores will have can’t miss deals to get you into the store, in hopes you will spend more money.
If you’re on a tight budget, however, be sure you have a dollar amount set before you enter the store to avoid overspending.
It is also helpful to create a simple meal plan with those loss leaders included, to make sure that they will actually fit into your menu, rather than be a good idea that goes to waste for lack of planning.
3. Shop the Clearance
Perhaps my absolute favorite tip for buying cheap healthy food is shopping in the clearance section.
While some grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to only clearance items, many grocery stores will have marked down items right in their appropriate sections, or in their end caps.
I have found everything from organic and vegan salad dressings to bags of fresh sugar snap peas to organic spring mix, all on clearance for 50% or more off their regular price.
You might have to do some scouring around to find the most common hiding places for clearance items. I have always found the very best deals on everything clearance towards the end of the month.
Some stores have certain days of the week they regularly discount food products. Sometimes this is advertised, and sometimes you might need to ask the manager to find out the pattern of discounting.
I have found managers to happily share this information (if they even know it!
Don’t be afraid to ask!
2. Prep Work
Sometimes, you find amazing deals on produce, like one dollar for a bag of apples or ten cents per green pepper. In these instances, if you’re going to stock up on fresh produce, you have to have a plan for how you will be using them.
This will protect your investment, since you will actually get to use the cheap healthy food you decided was worth trading for your hard-earned money.
My favorite deal at our local grocery store is finding clearance boxes of organic spring greens for our salads. The problem, of course, when you deal with lettuce, is that if it gets just past its prime, it can get slimy.
If you’re not careful, you might only get to use half the package before it starts to melt into itself.
An easy way to keep those greens fresh and crisp is to add a napkin or a paper towel to the bag, replacing every other day or so. The napkin absorbs the excess moisture that causes the decomposition.
This practice easily extends the life of the greens by a full week.
If you find peppers, onions, or avocados on discount, it is a good idea to stock up on as many as you can afford.
Peppers and onions can be chopped, laid out on a sheet pan, and frozen before pouring into a freezer-safe container.
Avocados can be halved, pitted, and sealed in an airtight bag. You can use these frozen avocados in smoothies or homemade vegan
1.Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
I said number three was my favorite tip, but this tip is Number One for a reason.
Companies love to have feedback on their products, and will often thank loyal consumers with coupons for discounted or even free products.
The next time you are at the grocery store, take note of a few companies with products you love or want to try. At home, find their websites or Facebook pages and send in your feedback.
Be honest and say you’re looking to save money on your groceries and you’re asking for coupons for their products. You might be surprised at how many are happy to send you coupons!
Buying cheap healthy food is much easier when you are choosy about everything you purchase.
Making healthier swaps helps free up your budget to purchase more fresh food.
For instance, putting back the potato chips frees up space in your budget for a small bag of real potatoes, which can be stretched over many meals in different presentations (baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, hand-cut fries, etc.).
Being choosy also means being realistic. It is not wise to spend a great deal of your grocery budget on items you have never tried before or have no idea how to use.
Even as our income and family size has grown (and thus, our grocery budget), we continue to follow all of these tips to save money at the grocery store.
I still get absolutely giddy when I find cheap healthy food at my grocery store, and it makes me so happy to be able to feed my family nutritious meals made with fresh, wholesome ingredients on a budget.
Cheap healthy food is possible for every family; you just have to know where to look.
What’s your favourite tip for finding cheap healthy food? Let me know in the comments below.