Keeping it Clean and Budget Friendly!

I am asked all the time how to eat clean on a budget.  It is commonly assumed that eating clean is more expensive and it can be, but with a few tips, it can be easier to manage even if you’re budget has very little wiggle room!

Eating clean, as I have mentioned before, is a lifestyle.  At it’s most basic level, it’s about selecting whole nutritious ingredients and preparing your own food to avoid the over processed junk that lines our supermarket aisles.  Of course, it’s also about what food combinations you eat and in what portion sizes, but shopping for those foods is the first step!  Keeping to the perimeter as much as possible ensures that you are selecting whole nutritious foods but there are tricks and trips to make navigating your local grocery store or whole food market less expensive so you and your family can eat clean on the cheap!

Shop in bulk. Start in the bulk section of your local health food store. Bulk foods are cheaper than the packaged versions, and you get really clean and healthy foods. Think beans (easy to cook and cheaper than buying cans), whole grains such as barley, millet, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), and whole grain flours.
Buy produce that is in-season. Keep your eyes on the fliers that come with the paper and find out what’s on sale.  Figure out what produce is the cheapest at your local stores.
Selective organics. You don’t have to purchase all organic produce to get the benefits of eating organics. Save your money for the organic options of the “dirty dozen”. Those foods which contain the highest amounts of pesticides.
Peaches
Apples
Bell Pepper

Celery
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cherries
Pears
Grapes
Spinach
Lettuce
Potatoes

Get familiar with your local stores. I shop at three different stores because I know where I can get better prices on different foods and supplies. That said, you have to factor in the carbon foot print and cost of driving from store to store. For me, these stores are relatively close together. If I had to drive further to get to each one, it would outweigh the benefits of going to a cheaper store. For example, I go to Whole Foods only once a month.  My local Hy-Vee has most of the things I need in their whole food section.  I love Hy-Vee Healthmarket!

Clip those coupons. While few people want to take the time to clip and organize coupons, it can definitely add up in the savings department. Typically, you won’t find a lot of sales on bulk items or fresh produce. But often, stores will put out coupons for a certain amount off of your entire order, as opposed to the manufacturer offering a discount on one specific item. Keep your eyes open for these deals. I know Whole Foods occasionally offers discounts on anything in their bulk section. This is the time to stock up, especially on items you buy regularly.
Cook from scratch. I know, I know. You don’t have time to cook every day. But with a little planning, you can work in home cooked meals every day of the week. Plan to cook and freeze portions of large recipes on the weekend. Bake your own bread. and take some spare time to make your own clean-eating mixes (like for pancakes or muffins, maybe) and store them in the freezer so it’s not such a hassle but you don’t have to pay a lot of money for the good-quality mixes.

Freezer Friendly.  My freezer is always stocked full! Using my freezer, I can buy things when they’re on sale, freeze them, and be able to put something together quickly and also if I don’t use them for a while they don’t go bad. Even produce can be frozen.  I peel fresh ginger and freeze that, I chop lots of onion and freeze it, I zest lemons and freeze it, I wash cilantro, dry it and freeze it… You can also keep many organic cheeses, breads, and flour mixes in the freezer to keep them longer and use them only when you need them.  Also, buying frozen fruit and vegetables is normally much cheaper than buying fresh and as long as it’s JUST the fruit and veggies and no additives or sugars it might be more nutritious than buying fresh since they’re frozen at their prime.

Buy the whole bird. Buy a whole, organic chicken. Yes, it seems pricey at first. But here’s the thing.  There are so many ways to extend the “life” of that chicken. The meat can be frozen or used in soups, sandwiches or on its own.  Plus, once you’ve removed the meat, you can boil the bones to make the best chicken stock ever. You just can’t beat a home-made chicken stock

Protein Power. It’s not necessary to eat meat every day, and it’s healthier to eat fish so why not save that money toward good-quality fish and eat more beans? Buy beans dry, preferably in bulk, and cook them in some salted water in your crock pot. You can freeze them and if you’re adding them to stews or soups, they’ll defrost as they cook. Or you can defrost them yourself and use in things like tacos and salads. As long as you don’t overcook them, beans hold up extremely well to freezing.  When it comes to beans (canned and rinsed, or dry and cooked in the crock pot) you can also get your protein from other sources less expensive than meats – eggs, Greek yogurt, nut butters, nuts, skim milk, and canned tuna.

Can it.  Many organic and clean eaters don’t eat canned fruits and vegetables but they can be a fantastic alternative to fresh fruits and veggies, especially if your favorites are out of season.  Keep the organic list above in mind and make sure your fruits are not packed in syrup!
Find Frozen Meats I buy some meats frozen instead of fresh. I purchase some meats frozen because they are less expensive. You can often find great deals on frozen chicken breasts, frozen fish, and frozen turkey breast. Fish is nearly ALWAYS cheaper frozen. Just read your ingredients carefully and make sure you are just getting the meat. You don’t want someone’s butter and seasonings messing with your salmon fillet.

Eat IN. Why not eat where you know you’ll always have a table ready for you – at HOME!  When I looked back at all the money we used to spend eating out, I realized that eating clean is far cheaper for myself and my kids. Just one fast food meal for my two girls and I was right around the $20 mark. We also used to order pizza on Friday nights at about $25 and you’re already at $45 of eating out and eating food that’s giving you virtually NO nutritional value. Do you get a morning latte at Starbucks or grab lunches on the go?  You can make a few adjustments with your daily expenses and invest those towards your grocery budget. My girls and I make our own pizza on Friday nights now and in addition to it being healthier for us with whole wheat crust and lots of veggies, it’s a lot cheaper too!  Here is on of our favorites – Spinach and chicken sausage!

Being deliberate about eating clean, finding creative ways to preserve what you buy when you can find it on sale, and limiting eating out will go a long way in getting and keeping you on an eating clean budget!  Check out Eat Clean Magazine’s budget-friendly recipe section for some delicious recipes that come in around $2 a serving and put those ingredients to use!

Happy Shopping!

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