A lot of people hear the words “clean eating” and immediately dismiss the idea– it would just cost way too much to eat whole, healthy foods all the time. And, believe me, it CAN be expensive to follow a clean eating lifestyle, especially if you want top-of-the-line everything and want to keep your diet as varied as possible. The wallet-draining thought of eating grass-fed, organic, pure, raw, natural, etc. EVERYTHING is a fantastic yet unattainable goal for most.
However, you can still eat clean in a way that’s slightly more gentle on your budget. Most of the foods that are considered staples of any clean diet can be found at reasonable prices, especially if you’re buying in bulk (lean cuts of meat, eggs, oats, etc.).
I just recently decided that I needed to watch my spending when it comes to groceries. Here are a few tips that I have to offer; I plan on following my own advice for the next few weeks just to see how much I can save and still eat clean.
- Get a club membership. I recently bought a membership at Sam’s Club, and it’s saved me so much on my grocery bill. If you have a club, like Sam’s or Costco, near you, I highly recommend buying a membership there. I may pay $20 for a bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I’ve been eating chicken at lunch for three weeks now without having to buy more. I usually stock up on Almond Butter (a little over $6 for a 26 ounce jar) and eggs (7.5 dozen for $10) while I’m there, too.
- Even if you don’t have a club membership, always buy in bulk to get the lowest price per unit possible. Even if I have to buy some groceries at the local grocery store, I always compare and buy products based on the lowest cost per-unit (which usually ends up being a bigger or bulk package). Most grocers print the cost per ounce right on the price tag. When possible, freeze any left over food for the next time you’re ready to use it.
- Plan your meals around items on sale. When I was fresh out of college and still pinching my pennies, I always looked at the local grocer’s sale flyer before I decided what dinner was going to be that week. I planned for and bought what healthy items were on sale. This is especially important for fresh produce– fruits & veggies can get expensive if you aren’t buying them when they’re on sale/in season. Which leads me to my next tip…
- Stock up when things are on sale. And get acquainted with your freezer’s capabilities. It’s amazing how many different things you actually can freeze. =)
- Buy generic when possible. If there’s a generic option, I always opt for that instead of the name brand. I see no difference between Great Value brand oats and General Mills brand oats– except the lower price, of course.
- Look for less convenient options. Let’s face it– we pay for convenience everywhere we go, including the supermarket. Taking the road less traveled may not be your most desirable choice, but if you’re trying to save money it’s important. I used to only eat egg whites from a carton until I realized I was spending a small fortune each week on them. Now I buy whole eggs and separate the whites myself. They taste better and they’re cheaper. And if you don’t want to waste the yolks, find an alternative use for them. I either feed them (cooked, duh) to my dogs or save them & give them to my mother for making homemade noodles.
- You don’t always have to buy organic. I’ll be honest– I rarely buy organic food. I know that I should but, well, I just don’t. If buying organic is important to you and you still want to get the most bang for your buck, familiarize yourself with what’s known as “the dirty dozen” and the “clean 15.” This is a listing of foods that are the most “clean” and most “dirty” when it comes to pesticide use & contamination. Buy organic when shopping for the dirty dozen; buying organic isn’t as important when shopping for the clean 15.
- Buy your vegetables and fruits frozen. Frozen produce is often cheaper and, clearly, lasts longer than fresh produce. And it’s just as nutritious. Guess what– they often make these in generic brands, too! That’s like a double-win. Just be sure the frozen fruits you’re buying don’t have any added sugars– that’s NOT clean eating.
Eating clean on a budget isn’t that difficult if you know where and how to shop. And look at all the money you’ll be saving on health care bills one day if you start shopping for clean foods now. It’s a win-win! =)