This week on the blog, my good friend, nutrition coach, and budget-friendly foodie explains how you can avoid the drive-thru and start SAVING MONEY on HEALTHY food. I have been asking her to write this post for a while and finally it is here! She also writes on her own blog at AWalkMyWay.com.
Take it away A. Walk…
Several years ago I watched the documentary “SuperSize Me” created by Morgan Spurlock. If you haven’t seen it, here is the premise: Morgan decides to document what will happen to him if he lives on a diet of McDonald’s fast food exclusively. The results and statistics shared will astound you. It is worth your watch. One point brought up in the film has stuck with me over the years:
It is cheaper for a family of 4 to 5 to eat at McDonald’s than to buy healthy food.
Umm…nope… I don’t buy it.
Here is why:
6 Cheeseburgers at $1.00: $6.00
4 orders of Small French Fries at $1.39: $5.56
4 drinks at $1.00: $4.00
(plus tax of course)
Meal Total: $15.56
If that family were to eat McDonald’s five times a week for the entire month (let’s call it 20 times) this will cost $311.20 for the month. This is amount we budget to feed our family of four with ten DAYS worth of groceries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Not to mention, we are also eating healthy and still well within our budget.
According to the USDA the average American household spends $150 to $300 on groceries per week. Our family is on the high end of that average and yet we still spend less than it would cost for our family to eat at McDonalds that frequently.
Here is an example of a typical family dinner:
Burgers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli for our family of four last week one night for dinner (2 adults, and a 7 and 5 year old):
1.25 lbs of lean ground beef: $4.98
2.5 lbs of Sweet Potatoes: $3.19 (on sale)
2 crowns of Broccoli: $1.49
(plus tax of course)
Total Meal Cost: $9.66
You tell me…what would you rather feed your family?
I Needed To Contribute
When I left my teaching job to stay home with our kids, I was desperate to find ways to contribute financially. I began couponing and finding simple ways to pinch pennies here and there using digital coupons and the Ibotta app. What I discovered was the majority of the food we ate was fresh produce and meats, which rarely allowed for couponing. I began to find other ways to save on those foods by becoming very “real food” savvy.
I want to help you realize the same. Sparing no expense for quality food is something I am not willing to compromise on, and you shouldn’t either. There are ways to save; you just have to think outside-of-the box, be willing to invest your time, and have a PLAN of action.
From my experience, I found five unique ways to save money on food we should all be eating. Not stuff in boxes that lasts forever, but on food we need to eat quickly before the food goes bad.
1.Buy What Is In Season
Did you know eating the vegetables that are in season provides you a lot of benefits?
It is something often overlooked because of the grocery store convenience. We have access to almost anything we want year round, however most of us can’t even tell which produce is actually in season.
The benefits to eating produce when it is in season are plenty.
- Tastes better: the environment for its growth is ideal.
- Less human interaction: when it grows as it is supposed to, humans probably have less to do less with its growth. This means less chemical exposure and a lower price for you.
- Affordable: it is simply easier to come by therefore less expensive due to the good old supply and demand principle.
- Total freshness: when things are fresh they tend to have more nutritional value and a richer taste.
Start approaching your grocery shopping a bit differently and think about buying foods that are in season to reap their cost (and nutritional) benefits.
This is so cool! You can select your region and time of year to see what produce is in season in your area.
2. Shop The Clearance Section
Clearance on whole, real foods? Um, yes!
Almost every grocery store will highly discount fruits, veggies, and meats that are almost about to expire. Perfect for you and I because we have a FREEZER. Take those items and throw them in the freezer for later use. Those brown bananas that are $0.39 per pound…slice them up, store them in a freezer bag in your freezer, and then throw them in a smoothie or a blender for some nice banana ice cream. You will also have a freezer full of options to pick from for meal prep without having to visit the grocery store as frequently.
3. Peek At The Grocery Store Ads and Apps
I know you are thinking does this really even happen anymore?
I promise it does…just not so much in the paper version. Almost every store offers a digital version of their weekly ad. Even betterer, many stores offer digital coupons that often include coupons for sales on produce, tubbed greens, and meats. They are begging you to use their app and retain your business so these coupons need to be fully taken advantage of.
It only takes one minute to scroll through their ads and coupons, and that minute could be worth lots of $$$ for you over time. I’ve used digital coupons on packages of mixed greens along with store’s weekly sale to get a large container for one dollar. This one dollar becomes several nights worth of salads to pair with a meal for less than $0.33 for your ENTIRE family!
Sprouts, my favorite local retailer, has even joined in and offers an app to highlight their own digital coupons and sales of the week. By the way, Wednesday is double ad day which equals double savings when shopping 🙂
Coupons are not abundant for real foods but I have a surprise for you! There are some great sites that do provide us with something better.
All Natural Savings is one of those sites that offers coupons and rebates on organic and high quality options.
Organic Deals is another great one. Their grocery tab offers a drop down menu for Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods to highlight the deals of the week and coupons at each of those major grocery store chains. Boom! One stop savings right there 🙂
4. Buy Store Brands
I am not talking about the bottom of the line store brands. I am talking about nice quality frozen store brand fruits, veggies, and meats.
Every store offers them now and this is to your benefit. Grocery chains are now recognizing their consumers are demanding higher quality for ourselves and our families. A great example is my favorite mainstream store brand by Kroger called Simple Truth.
Simple Truth is mostly an organic brand who can almost always beat the price of its non-store brand. Not to mention, stores would love for you to buy their off brand, therefore they are on sale more often than not. Cha-ching! Although frozen, these foods still offer you a major healthy go-to-dinner on a busy work night.
5. Meal Plan
The best tip to saving money on real food is PLANNING ahead.
I know it takes time, it takes energy, and it takes using your noggin. However, isn’t your health and the health of your family worth every extra minute it takes?
Use your favorite store’s weekly ad to guide your menu planning. Decide what vegetables to use each week based on what is on sale. My advice is this: 5 dinners a week is a really reasonable goal, with the other 2 nights being used as a great time to eat leftovers. Boom! A little hidden money saving tip right here too 🙂
And hello! We all love a night off from cooking! Just by simply planning for 5 dinners each week, you are saving money and avoiding the temptation to hit the drive thru when life gets busy.
BONUS: Saving money on real food means you are investing in your health as a byproduct. Therefore, completing the cycle of awesomeness I’ve talk about before…health, wealth and happiness.
Maybe the claim of healthy, nutritious food being expensive is less about cost and more about convenience. It’s simple math: healthy living does NOT costs more than fast food. But, it does take a little more work.
Get started by using these 5 tips to invest in your pocket book and in your health.
Work Hard Be Kind,
A version of this post originally appeared on AWalkMyWay.com.
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