Help! I just can’t afford to eat healthy, it’s too expensive!
This is cognitive dissonance at its best. You really want to do one thing but your beliefs are telling you otherwise. You really want to start eating healthier but you’re telling yourself that it’s too expensive to do so.
Bologna, I mean grass-fed jerky I say!
This is one of the biggest excuses that I hear from people who are say they want to live a healthier lifestyle.
I’m right there with you. My personal finances are extremely important to me and I know that spending your paycheck on food at the grocery store can seem like such a waste sometimes.
Today’s article is all about how to save some dolla dolla bills ya’ll when you shop, what you should buy, and how to make grocery shopping on the cheap a habit.
It’s a little Paleo biased but there are a few tips and tricks for those of you that aren’t totally Caveman or woman just yet. Regardless, you’ll still save some serious green.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE RECEIPT
One of the biggest hurdles you’ll need to get over if you want to start saving on groceries and food is the psychology of the receipt.
What they heck are you talking about Justin?
When you go to the grocery store you probably spend a few hundred bucks. In researching for this article I found that the average person spends about $150 per week or $600 per month on groceries. That’s not chump change and it can be difficult to get past that large sum of money.
This larger sum all at once can justify’s making less expensive but more frequent purchases ok.
Instead of grocery shopping for the week you may just pick up a $3 coffee and $2 breakfast sandwich at Starbucks that morning. That five dollars in the morning is a lot less intimidating than $150 for the week.
But do that every morning and you’re coughing up 25 bucks every single week. Now if you end up heading out for a $12 salad at lunch and picking up a $7 fast food meal at night (1), we’re really talking some serious green. About one hundred buck-a-roo’s for far less nutritional quality.
The first step to spending less money on groceries to get past the psychology of the receipt and to cut your spending dining out so that you have more for the grocery store.
So take a moment to look at last week. Where did you drop a dollar here, two dollars there, or fifteen somewhere else for food?
The $150 you spent in one shot may seem like a lot initially but it most likely will end up being the same if you are eating out on most days.
But Justin, I don’t have $150 per week for groceries?
No worries. I got you covered.
MONEY. WHERE ART THOU
USA Today had an article they published that outlined the 20 ways in which Americans blow their money. You can read that entire article here but below I’ve outlined our knuckle-headedness.
- Credit card debt: The average American has $15,000
- Unclaimed tax refunds: Up to $460 for self filers
- Deal sites: Unused Groupons, Living Socials, or Shake Weight purchases
- Wasted food: $529 per year
- Designer clothing for babies: Does the little one really need diesel jeans?
- Gambling: $400 per year
- Alcohol: It’s not that we’re drinking more it’s that the cost of booze is increasing. Up 79% from 1982-2011 at bars and restaurants
- Unused gym memberships: How about working out at home for free.
- Premium cable: I think you know how expensive this can be. HBO alone is like $15 a month.
- Coffee trips: Man, this one definitely hit home. $1,092 annually on life’s blood that fuels us 🙂
That’s a lot of wasted money. So my question to you is where are your dollars going? Before saying you can’t afford to eat healthy try asking yourself where your money is going?
- Can you cancel any unused subscriptions? Why are you paying for a gym membership you’re hardly using. Work out at home instead. Any magazines or other subscription services you’re not using? Cancel those too.
- Can you cancel the premium cable package and instead stick to the basic. Or even better, cancel cable altogether?
- Can you forget about that morning latte and make a cup of coffee at home?
- Can you skip out on a few happy hours?
If you want to start eating healthier it has to become a priority. What are you willing to give up so that you can have more disposable income for better food?
THE BREAD AND BUTTER. NO PUN INTENDED
Step Number 1: For Shopping On A Budget Is To Eat More Real Food
The healthiest and least expensive food is going to be found on the perimeter of the grocery store. Fancy colorful packaging with cute buzzwords costs companies money – Which means you’ll be paying more.
Wether you shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or a larger chain grocery store – They’re all pretty much laid out the same. Real food around the perimeter, fake food down the aisles.
Proteins can be found at the meat counter, veggies in giant bins, and fresh fruits right next to them.
Pre cut, pre cooked, pre washed, snack pack dried fruits and nuts, and juices are also going to have higher costs. Not only the packages but the labor that it took to do those tasks cost someone money which means you’ll have to pay for that cost. You pay for convenience.
Step Number 2: Is To Buy In Bulk
Although you may be spending more upfront you’re getting a ton of great food out of it and saving a lot in the long run.
Now I’m not talking about buying a 10 pound tubs of pickles. Proteins like chicken, beef, salmon – frozen veggies, and nuts and seeds are great bulk purchasing options.
When you here the word bulk your noodle might automatically got to Costco but there are other great online options for purchasing healthy foods in large quantities like Eat Wild, U.S. Wellness Meats, and Local Harvest.
Just make sure to store your goods in a freezer until you’re ready to do something with them.
Step Number 3: Is To Buy Stuff That’s About To Expire
Usually this stuff is marked down significantly and in most cases if you prepare it in a day or two you’ll be good to go. If you’re not quite ready to cook it – get it into a freezer right away and it should be ok for a few more days.
- Look for about to expire bins
- Ask store employees or the store manager where you might be able to find this stuff
Remember the movie Big Daddy? You can also save money if you buy damaged goods.
I had a roommate that worked for Whole Foods and when I went grocery shopping there I’d always ask him what’s messed up today 🙂
- Kerrygold butter
- Canned goods
- Veggies and fruit
If it was busted, I wanted it. I know that sounds sad but hey, I’m trying to save some loot here.
Also, keep your eyes peeled. Not literally, that would be weird, and gross. Keep your eyes on the lookout for yellow or sometimes red tags. This usually means that they are on sale.
You can often find proteins on sale for $1.99 to $2.99 per pound at bigger food marts. That’s a pretty significant difference when compared to the $5.99 to $9.99 per pound you’d normally be paying. Just ask the guy at the counter when they expect to have some sales.
Step Number 4: Is To Accept That This Will Take Some Work
Eating poorly is just so cheap, easy, and convenient
My nutrition as a high school and college student wasn’t half bad but my buddies and I were no strangers to Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers (J.B.C’s). I’m not sure if they still do but they used to close at 2am in my hometown of Herndon, Virginia.
After a late night we’d pool our dollars together and head out for a J.B.C run. 15 minutes later, whomever was sober enough to drive would come back with anywhere from 15 to 20 J.B.C’s, ready for use to devour.
They were on the dollar menu then so you could get a lot for a little.
We were hungry at that moment so why bother going to the grocery store to pick up a few things when you could take a convenient trip to Wendy’s and grab something fast and cheap.
It’s so easy to get cheap, fast, and convenient food. No wonder grocery shopping has become a lost art. You really don’t need to go anymore. You can get something to eat just about anywhere.
If you want to start saving on groceries and food you’re going to have to break bad habits. You may have a habit of stopping off at a fast food joint on your way home from work when you’re hungry and not sure what to make.
- Make it easier on yourself by not driving past your favorite fast food place
- Keep healthy options on hand at all times. Work, car, and home.
- Don’t carry your debt or credit card on you, leave it at home. You’re much less likely to spend cash in your wallet than you would be to charge on your card. Don’t believe me? One study that Nerdwallet references found that consumers spend 12-18% more at McDonald’s when using a card than when paying with cash. McDonald’s even reports that their average credit card receipt is $7 and cash receipt is $4.50.
DO I NEED TO EAT ORGANIC TO BE HEALTHY?
You’re right, trying to eat organic can get pretty expensive but if you remember from this article organic, grass-fed, natural, free range, and some of those other “healthy” terms might not be as important as you’d think. There’s organic Pop-Tarts for Pete’s sake. And you better believe those are more expensive than regular ones and in my opinion the fact that they’re organic doesn’t make them any better for you.
Every year the EWG comes out with its list of the 12 foods you should buy organic and the 15 you don’t really need to bother with.
It’s a great resource that can save you somer serious change. Stick to the clean 15 for most of your produce and when a recipe or your taste buds call for something in the dirty dozen remember you always have a choice. If your your current situation allows for the organic option then go for it – It not, no worries.
But the big thing to remember is that you’re trying to save money and make healthier food choices. Not save money and eat PERFECTLY. If you’re currently consuming no veggies than who cares if they’re organic or not, just start eating more vegetables.
Organic spinach might be a healthier choice but it’s not going to help you drop more body fat or become stronger than regular spinach.
What about grass-fed beef? All the cool kids are talking about it.
This is the one area I’ll gladly shell out a an extra buck or two for higher quality. If you’re trying to eat more grass-fed proteins ask the market you go to the most if any sales are coming up.
16 HACKS TO HELP YOU SAVE MONEY
I’ve spent the last few months asking clients, friends, college kids, Moms, Dads, members at my Crossfit Box, and brainstorming my own ideas. Here are a few of the best hacks that I’ve gathered from everyone.
1. Use flyers and coupons: It might be a pain in the ass but all those mailers that you throw away are full of useful coupons you can use to save a little change here and there – small savings really do at up.
One woman that has been a regular at my Crossfit box for years recommends going to Sprouts on Wednesdays because it’s double ad day. Sprouts weekly deals run from Wednesday to Wednesday and that means that savings overlap. Don’t believe me? Sprouts actually tells you to do the same 🙂
2. Don’t shop at a million different places: One client that I work with calls around and finds the cheapest sources of protein that week. Where ever that is where she’ll be shopping for that week.
3. Avoid wasting food by doing this: Store food that is about to expire or you know will perish soon in plain sight. I have a terrible habit of forgetting I bought avocado’s and certain veggies because I’ll store them in places that are not in plain sight. By simply putting them where I can see them it makes sure that I end up cooking them before they go bad.
Here’s a great resource from Lifehacker on properly storing food.
4. Use kitchen sink recipes: One of the LimitlessCRAZIES said he often makes recipes that call for 1/4 head of cabbage or half a chicken. Thus, leaving him with leftovers that he isn’t sure what to do with.
So he started tossing anything like this into a crock pot or slow cooker and making kitchen sink chili, stir-fry, soup or stew. Get creative and use what ever is available. If you happen to throw a few items together that you normally wouldn’t and it turns out pretty darn good, write the recipe down on an index card so you don’t forget it.
5. Frozen for the win: I’m not talking about the movie here. If you have a terrible habit of wasting veggies buy frozen ones and keep them in your freezer. The nutritional value is almost the same and they’ll last longer. Broccoli, kale, spinach, and brussels sprouts are great options.
6. The incredible, edible egg: Eggs are definitely a super food. Packed with protein and healthy fat they make for an awesome meal or snack if you like hard-boiled ones (check this hack out). You can usually grab a dozen for $3.99 which means that each egg is costing you only 33 cents. Scramble 3 of them, toss in some spinach, a little salt and pepper and you’ve got yourself a meal under $2 bucks! #eggsforthewin
7. Chicken of the sea: I’m not going to lie to you, I can’t really stand tuna. It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s the only thing I ate while in college #dormlife. Although, there’s usually crazy deals at grocery stores where you can get up to 10 cans for $10 dollars. Now you might not want to eat this 3 times a day but tuna makes for a great snack or meal if your money is tight.
8. The right fruit: If you’ve been reading L365 for a while you’ll know that I emphasize limiting fruit to 1 to 2 servings per day max if fat loss is your goal. I also talk about consuming low sugar fruit like berries. The problem with this is that berries are often the most expensive fruit. Switching to pears, plums, apples, and bananas (post workout only) will save you some dollars.
9. The cheapest drink ever: Water. Just drink water. 🙂
10. Simple recipes: Get good at 1-2 recipes and make them often. It makes trips to the grocery store super easy and keeps you from buying items you don’t really need. Make these 2 recipes over and over again until you can’t stand it. Then, find 2 more recipes you like and wear those bad boys out.
Are a few basic ones that you can often cook in bulk and store in the fridge for an entire week (except for the omelette).
11. Tis the season: Shopping in season is a great way to save on groceries. This resource as well as this one outline what foods are in season.
12. Don’t be fooled my portion sizes: We live in a society where bigger is better and the more you can get the better. But don’t be fooled by portion sizes when dining out. Most restaurants and fast food places give you far too much food for one sitting. Some meals can contain over 2,000 calories, that’s almost an entire day of eating in one sitting.
13. Fat, fat, and more fat: When you hear the word fat you may cringe a little. But those who have been a part of the Limitless community know that fat is our friend. It’s a super important nutrient for fat loss, energy, and health.
One way you can save money by purchasing fattier cuts of beef. So instead of the 93/7 that you usually get try 85/15 instead. Sure, you may add a few extra calories but you can get those back by being a little more active or making some healthy swaps like these.
14. Cash is king: Never use your credit or debt card at the grocery store and instead shop with cash. You’re more likely to buy way too much and things you don’t need when using your cards. By paying with cash you’ve pre committed to spending a certain amount and the fact that you’ll see it disappear right away, unlike cards, will keep you from over spending. It’s science :)… Seriously, it is.
15. Farmers markets: Remember this post a few years back about how to dominate your farmers market experience? If not, check it out. Farmers markets give you the chance to bargain, shop in season, and get great products for a reasonable price. For a farmers market near you visit this link or this one.
16. Keep a price Journal: This is my favorite little hack, one that I got from Robb Wolf’s Paleo on a budget guide. Every time you go grocery shopping hold on to the receipt. Over time you’ll start to notice patterns in pricing.
Some produce will be cheaper during certain months. Proteins might be cheaper during certain times of year. Same goes for fruit and healthy fats as well. This works great for staple foods that you buy often.
By keeping a price journal you’ll also be able to see what foods you go thought fast and which ones you don’t. I’ve done this before and found that I eat the same stuff over and over. It didn’t make much sense for me to go to the grocery store and buy a variety of items when I was only eating a few things. The rest of the stuff would end up going bad.
WRAPPING THIS BAD BOY UP
Lets re-visit the, “I can’t afford to eat healthy excuse.”
- Are you affording to have an expensive cell phone plan with unlimited everything
- Are you affording to buy signature drinks at Starbucks every morning
- Are you affording a season pass to Disneyland
- Are you affording Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon each month
- Are you affording to eat out at restaurants multiple times per week
What are you willing to give up so that you can have more money for your health?
We don’t do excuses here at Limitless365. We recognize that every aspect of our life is a choice. You get to choose to live a healthier lifestyle. What changes will you be making today? Post to the comments below.