One of the common misconceptions about clean eating is that it's expensive. And when you've got a tight budget, meal planning and grocery shopping comes with its challenges. When we say clean eating what we mean is food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Foods that are processed and packaged are full of artificial ingredients, and though they can taste good in the interim, they ultimately make us feel tired and unproductive later.
If you’ve thought about cleaning up your diet but worried about the price tags on healthy food here are nine easy tips for eating clean without breaking your budget.
1. Have your shopping list ready.
Nothing is worse than walking through a grocery store aimlessly grabbing things and forgetting what you really meant to buy, especially if you're on an empty stomach. Have a plan before you hit the store by researching recipes, writing down ingredients, and taking stock of the everyday foods you eat that you need to replenish. It'll save you time (and money) when you walk into the grocery store prepared and aware of what you're there to get.
2. Know when you can skip the organic.
As more grocery stores make an effort to provide organic and local food to its customers it's easy to think anything with an 'organic' label on it means it's safe, healthy, and worth the extra price. Sometimes, though, organic can actually be worth skipping. Foods that fall under the “” like strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, and apples, are all produce you want to buy organic since they have the highest levels of pesticides. Foods on the “” list are all produce items you can buy conventional, like mushrooms, avocados, pineapples, mangos and papaya.
3. Embrace whole grains and buy in bulk.
Buying large quantities of everyday staples like whole grains, beans, nut butters, spices and olive oil can not only help your food budget but it also eliminates waste and packaging. Whole grains like quinoa and brown rice are great bulk buys because they're inexpensive, filling, and double in size when you cook them.
4. Seek out alternative sources for groceries.
It’s great if you have a favorite place you like to shop every Sunday afternoon, but it’s worth researching your local area and checking out other places you might be missing out on when it comes to sales or low cost produce. Your local farmers market, food co-op, ALDI, and others offer a variety of both local and organic food and sometimes at a much lower cost than your standard grocery store.
5. Avoid "super foods."
It seems every other day there's a new "super food" people are rushing to add to their morning smoothie, whether it's lacuma powder, goji berries, or acai seeds. Sure, all of these things offer a variety of nutrients and antioxidants, but you can receive many of the same nutritional benefits by sticking to your regular fruits and veggies -- and without the added expense.
6. Plan your meals in advance.
Whether it’s tomorrow’s breakfast, snack bags of veggies for the week, lunches or dinners, prepping your meals in advance can not only save you money but unnecessary calories as well. When we’re stressed or not in the mood to cook we tend to grab whatever’s closest to us (bags of chips, packages of cookies) or we log on to Seamless to order take out for the millionth time. By spending a night or two a week planning your meals out, cooking, and storing them, you take better inventory on not only what you’re eating, but what you’re spending your money on as well.
7. Repurpose your leftovers.
Like planning your meals in advance, saving and preparing leftovers is a great way to cut back on food waste and makes an easy meal to grab when you’re in a rush. Tonight’s pasta dish can be reheated and invigorated with fresh veggies. Soups and things that can be turned into sandwiches can also be spread out over the course of a couple days.
8. Visit the farmers market towards the end of the day.
Spending a late morning or early afternoon browsing all the yummy fresh food at the farmers market is a great way to start your day. But you might actually get more bang for your buck if you head in a little later. When you visit the market at the end of day sellers are more willing to negotiate on giving buyers a good deal on produce that they’d have left over in stock.
9. Take advantage of produce when its in season.
Fruits and vegetables are not only cheaper when they’re in season, but their taste and nutrient levels are at their peak as well. Berries, melon, stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots) and corn are great to grab in the summer while squash and pomegranates are better in the autumn. Stock up on your favorites when they’re at their peak and store them in your freezer to enjoy during the months when they’re not as readily available.