One of the biggest hurdles to always eating clean for many people is affordability, and at Active Woman Magazine our readers often ask us ‘how can I afford to eat clean on a tight budget?’
We know that eating well can often be the biggest investment in ongoing good health, but exactly how can we work smarter to stretch our hard-earned dollar further? We’ve put together 7 strategies to get more ‘bang for buck’ from your groceries budget:
- Meal Plan
This sounds obvious, but sticking to a meal plan of what you will eat in the week ahead ensures you are not only buying just the ingredients you need (avoiding expensive waste), but assists in saving money by planning meals when either quality meat is on sale or seasonal produce (which is often cheaper again) is readily available.
Cooking up a storm once a week; freezing the meals, or turning them into creative leftovers is ideal for busy people. So too is the slow cooker meals and recipes that allow for the use of cheaper cuts of meat and yet still provide amazing nutrition and flavour.
- Buy in Bulk
Consider asking a friend or family member who can share a bulk purchase with you. You can save as much as 50 per cent on a bulk buy, as opposed to a smaller ‘price-per-unit’ purchase. Just as you’ll find retail stores offering bulk purchase, there are several online retailers that offer healthy, unprocessed foods for up to 50% cheaper too. By registering with them you get access to daily discounts or deals, and the products are often delivered straight to your door.
If you have the pantry space, buying staples such as flour, rice and oils is a good way to save too. Favourites such as quality coconut oil, nuts and seeds can be brought online at various outlets too offering large discounts and free shipping for bulk orders.
Buy your meat cuts in bulk, from an organic butcher if possible, split into meal size portions and freeze. If you are very budget conscious, consider eating smaller portions of excellent quality meats, poultry and fish and then add lentils, beans or vegetables to nutritiously bulk them out.
Experiment with cheaper cuts of organic meat by slow cooking and then using the same ingredient different ways ie. leftover roast chicken could become soup, broth or chicken stir-fry or casserrole.
- Buy ‘In Season’ fruit and vegetables
Ideally, sourcing your produce from a farmer’s market will ensure you are not only buying quality ‘paddock to plate’ fruits and vegetables, but you are supporting local farmers and their families. Buying direct removes the ‘middle man’ which means you get it cheaper, and you know where your food came from.
Buying fruits and vegetables when they are in-season and readily available is also ideal as they are often cheaper and fresh to the store. Avoiding ‘packaged, pre-cut & ready to serve’ produce means you need to prepare the food yourself, but you save handsomely on pre-package price and know exactly what is in your food. Produce sold this way might be convenient, but can be exposed to packaging practices to keep a longer shelf life so always read your labels.
Where possible, shop the ‘seconds’ in the fruit/vege shops. It might not look pretty, but it will taste the same and evitability save you money.
- Take advantage of frozen convenience.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a great, affordable option when it comes to eating clean on a budget. Depending on the produce (summer or winter), frozen can sometimes be more nutritious than the fresh vegetables and fruits. In this way, they get picked & flash frozen at the peak of ripeness, so there’s very little time for the produce nutrients to deteriorate from any air exposure.
Buying your produce when in season & freezing in meal portions can go a long way to help with the budget, especially freezing expensive organic cheeses, fresh herbs or juicing citrus to freeze when it’s cheap and plentiful. Many vegetables can be cut up, separated in zip lock bags and frozen. Try and buy quality Milk, Coconut Water and Cheese on sale as you can often freeze these items for later use
- Grow, make, preserve or ferment your own Food
Grow your own vegetable or herb gardens. Even a small pot of various herbs on a balcony can end up saving you money. Consider making your own simple salad dressings and sauces, it saves on the expense of costly condiments, but you’ll avoid all the preservatives, sugar and sodium too. When you have access to plentiful, affordable fruits & vegetables consider learning how to ferment or preserve them. You can create your own Sauerkraut with Cabbage or Kombucha with different fruits. Fermenting produce yourself is not only great for your gut health, but saves you money by buying a pre-packaged version. When tomatoes are in excess, cook up large amounts of tomato bolognaise that you can freeze in batches and add to any dish.
- You don’t always have to go ‘Organic’ – know when to skip organic.
Eating organic can often be the most expensive part of a budgeting dilemma. If you are conscientious about the foods you are consuming and trying to stay clear of the residue of nasty pesticides on fruit and vegetables, going ‘organic’ seems the best choice every-time. This choice though can sometimes have a nasty effect on a tight budget as organic is often equated with ‘more expensive’ to produce and a premium is added to the price.
Consider educating yourself on the Australian lists for ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean 15’, which can help steer you in the direction of what produce potentially contains the toxic substances. In the instance that foods are potentially exposed to pesticides, genetic modification or synthetic fertiliser, you might then insist on paying the premium for certified organic produce.