10 Tips for Clean Eating on a Budget

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I hear it all the time…”Eating healthy is expensive!” True. Quality products cost more than crap, they should. Look at anything that is quality, that will last awhile – all of those things cost more than cheapy brands made out of of cheapy materials, right? How do you justify buying a leather bag, expensive shoes, or that perfect little black dress? “It will last forever, plus – it goes with everything.”

What if we started caring for our bodies the way that we care for that leather bag? Well, I guess it would last quite awhile too. Our bodies should be THE most important thing that we’re responsible for. They carry us on our journey, from beginning to end. They grow, stretch, create new lives, and are all too often taken for granted. A fancy bag, vacation, a nice car, your kids newest toy (which will be lost, broken, or forgotten about by next month) – those things are all great, but they WILL fade, disappear, be irrelevant one day. But your body, that’s something that you will always need, so take care of it by filling it up with quality ingredients, and if that means spending a little more, rest assured, you are doing the right thing now so that you don’t have to deal with the consequences later.

With that being said – you can be smart about grocery shopping and budgeting. Just because you’re spending more than you’re used to doesn’t mean that there aren’t techniques for setting a budget and sticking to it. Check out my favorite 10 tips for keeping your grocery budget in check, in order to maintain this fun, new lifestyle that you’ve committed to!

1 – Create a plan. You should have a meal plan ready for the week ahead before setting foot in the store. Without a meal plan, how would you know WHAT in the world you’re shopping for? Look at your family’s schedule and plan out each meal. What do the kids need for lunch every day? Which night will be family pizza night? Is this the weekend that you have 5 graduation parties? Know which meals you need to prepare and then decide what will be served at each. From there, you can make a list of ingredients that go into each meal and BAM
-> a grocery list!

2 – Keep an ongoing list of staples products that you are running low on. I buy a lot of the same things, and when they are running low, I write them down on the list for my upcoming trip. These are things that we use regularly, like olive oil, for example. When you sit down to make your meal plan, you can add to that list, so you aren’t forgetting anything, and so that you don’t buy something you just bought and now you’re handing out honey bears to the neighbors.

3 – Check out the pantry before you leave the house. Once you’ve created your meal plan, check in your cupboards for things that you may have purchased and used 1 time. I do this all the time with very specific spices and different blends of flours. If I see an ingredient that I don’t use frequently, I always check the house for it before running out to spend $12 on Almond Meal. Another great idea is to look for substitutions online. While there are lots of great gluten-free and vegan recipes out there, a lot of times, these require products that most of us don’t keep in our houses. If you aren’t following a gluten-free diet, a lot of times, you can sub-out the coconut flour with the whole wheat flour that you already have.

4 – Shop online for nonperishable foods. Amazon and lots of other sites sell things at a discount if you buy more than a few. Larabars are a great example of this. With that being said, if you’re following a clean-eating diet, most of your food will be perishable, since the premise of this type of eating is to cut out most processed foods. Granola, peanut butter/almond butter, bars, protein, and any snacks are all good to find online.

5 – Check for sales. My family makes fun of me because one of my favorite things to do is look through the Sunday ads for sale prices and coupons. I am not willing to compromise on the brands and products I love, but who says I can’t get a great price on something that’s delicious and good for us? With more and more organic and nongmo foods becoming popular, stores are advertising more of them, and therefore, they are being added into the sales rotations. Check out the flyers before you go, you might just find a way to save a penny or two!

6 – Bring a notepad to the store with you. Or you could just use your phone, but I’m a pen/paper kinda girl. This one sounds silly, but I am SUPER guilty of seeing things I want to try and throwing them in the cart. We have a whole shelf in our pantry dedicated to almond butter/peanut butter because I just can’t stop. Recently, I started trying out this pen and paper method, and it’s working out well! When I see something I think looks interesting or that I’d like to try, I make a note of it and leave it on the shelf. When I’m running low on the similar product that I use, or when I make my meal plan next week, I’ll add it in. Do you know how many times I see fresh artichokes in the store, buy them, have no idea what to make with them, already have my meals planned out for the week, and then throw them away. Goodbye $5. It makes a lot more sense to have a plan for everything you buy. Plus, what the heck am I supposed to do with fresh artichokes? Had I looked up a recipe for them and come back next week, they might not be rotting in the city dump right now. Hopefully a weasel found them and got a nutritious meal.

7 – Buy in season. Fruits and veggies will always be cheaper if they are in season. When I make my meal plan for the week, I write things down like this: Tuesday Dinner = Salsa Chicken, Brown Rice, Veggies. That way, I know I need to select a vegetable to cook, but I’m not committed to the eggplant when the broccoli is much cheaper right now.

8 – Only buy what you need. Ever get sucked in to buying a bag of bell peppers when you only needed 2 because the whole bag was only $3 more? While the value of the bag is better than the single peppers, that’s only true IF you use all of the peppers. If you end of throwing them away because they went bad before you could use them, you just did the opposite of saving money. The major difference you will notice between whole foods and processed foods is that whole, real foods go bad. You can look at the box of mac & cheese, and the expiration date will probably tell you that you need to leave it in your will for your great grandchildren, but those fresh peppers won’t make it very long, so if you don’t need them, don’t buy them.

9 – Buy in bulk whenever possible. Confused? Feel like I’m talking in circles? There are lots of things that will go bad, so again – if you won’t use it, don’t buy it. However, there are also lots of things that can be frozen or that will last you quite awhile, and purchasing those things in bulk from a place like Costco will save you a ton of money. Chicken, turkey, fish – those can all be frozen for months! Check the expiration date to evaluate whether or not you will get use out of the food – if you will, then make room in the freezer!

10 – Don’t go shopping hungry, or tired. I’m sure you’ve all heard this one before, but it’s true. Like true true. I consider myself to be pretty disciplined when it comes to clean eating. I don’t buy junk because I don’t want the option to sleep-walk into the pantry and wake up covered in Cheeto dust. However, if I have to run into the store and I’m hungry, those little voices start to creep in. “One box of Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies won’t hurt anyone” or “Don’t you remember how you used to dip Dorritos and Chips Ahoy in ranch dressing? Doesn’t that sound nice?” <- I couldn’t make that up, by the way. Eat before you go to the store. Consider grocery shopping just as much a part of your healthy lifestyle as exercise is. You wouldn’t skip a meal and then try to workout, would you?

There you have it – my top 10 favorite tips for making clean eating a budget-friendly activity. Do you have any tips to add to this list?
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  • Reply Morgan A. June 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm I absolutely love and agree with all these tips. I follow you on Instagram, but this is the first time I've stopped by your blog. (I can't believe it took me so long!) I completely agree with just keeping the crap out of the house... I recently picked up two boxes of brownie mix (just in case!) and I ended up making one last week, eating about a third of it and then throwing it in the trash because I have nooo will power and knew it would take me about 24 hours to eat the whole thing. Then I threw out the other box. But if I don't have things like that in the house, I don't have a problem. I look forward to reading more on your blog, and you should totally do a Costco trip! We buy a lot there (meats to freeze etc.) but I love to know what others buy there! x. Morgan / morningappleblog.com
    • Reply Olivia Grist June 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm Thank you so much for your comment! You are so right, it's crazy difficult to talk yourself out of something that's already prepared and ready in your house! I would love to do an article on Costco, and what I find there! I think that will be a near future project! Thanks for your feedback girl! :)

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