In the last article, I wrote a quick rundown on how to keep an easy budget. To review, you should stick with your budget, whatever you choose, make a weekly or monthly meal plan, and eat what you have so nothing goes to waste. These simple steps will keep you on track budget-wise.
I think the hardest part of eating healthy on a budget isn’t the budget itself, it’s making the right food choices for your family so you stay healthy. Eating healthy can have several different definitions for people. In a world of fad diets and buzzwords like vegan or Paleo, eating healthy can seem much more complicated than it actually is. It comes down to two things: Choose whole foods and shop smart.
Close your eyes and imagine you’re walking into your local grocery store. What do you see? An array of colors, brand names for different foods, boxes, fruit, veggies, signs… it can be overwhelming. I’m sure it isn’t your first time in a grocery store, so you know what to do first. Grab a cart and start shopping.
Let’s talk about shopping smart first. There are certain ways to tackle a grocery store, believe it or not. First, always bring a list. If you’ve made your weekly or monthly meal plan, you’ll know what to expect for each meal. I write my list the morning of my shopping trip so I have the most updated copy. Now, I always start in the fruits and veggies. The majority of my cart is filled with those, and that’s where I spend the most time and energy. Once you’re surrounded by good food, you’ll be less apt to head for the bad food.
Tips for buying fruit and veggies: Buy in season. Usually the cheaper food is the one in season. Buy local. Buy ripe, but not so ripe that it will go bad before you plan to use it. Buy what you need. Remember, you’re sticking to your budget, so don’t buy more than you plan to use.
Now where do you go after the fruits and veggies? The best strategy is to stick to the edges of the store. The best, most healthy foods are on the outer walls. Think about your store again, what will you find on the edges? Fruits, veggies, bread, dairy, and meats. Nothing as processed at the foods you’ll find down the aisles.
I rarely go down aisles now, only to grab the occasional can of tomatoes or spices that I’ve run out of. The majority of my cart is filled with fruits, veggies, and meat. (We eat Paleo/Primal, which is a whole other post!) If you’re eating more conventional, then your cart will have some bread and dairy in it too.
The biggest tip of all: The less ingredients, the better for you. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t get it. If the ingredient list is half the side of the box, don’t get it. You’re looking for whole foods. Don’t fall for traps like Fat Free, Sugar Free, or what have you – those means more processed. You want whole fruits and veggies (preferably not from a can), real meat, whole organic dairy, and minimally processed grains.
I hope this post is steering you in the right direction. Getting your family to eat healthy starts with you, and it only takes a few small changes!