When we were first married, David and I worked for a non-profit college ministry. It was an unconventional job in many ways, one of which included fundraising our salaries. Yep, we raised every cent of our paychecks for 4 years. Although I don’t miss this aspect of the job, I am thankful for the financial responsibility that it taught us. We had to budget for everything, and it forced us to really consider what our necessities were. This included food, obviously. Since I was vegan and very concerned with healthy eating, I was determined to find a way to make shopping for healthy food on a budget happen. So I buckled down and figured out where to shop, what to buy and how to do it all as cheaply as possible.
Though now we have a bigger budget, we still stick to many of the money-saving strategies we established back then. Over the years, these simple tips have allowed me to both save money and time without compromising my healthy diet.
Money-saving strategies for shopping for healthy food on a budget
Establish a budget
Consider how much food you’ll need to buy for the month, then break it down into weekly amounts. How often will you cook, and how many people will you be feeding?
I highly recommend using a budgeting system. My husband and I use Goodbudget, which is basically the envelope system in an app. You allot money to digital “envelopes” and you enter every transaction in the appropriate one. It keeps track of your overall monthly budget and let’s you know if you’re on target, under or over budget for each category. It does require some diligence, but is easy to use and you can share the data with others.
Where to shop & best deals at each store
This is where I shop, but keep in mind that where you live will be a determining factor for both where to shop and the affordability/availability of products.
I shop here for organic produce and other organic and special diet products like snacks, non-dairy milk, meat, eggs, bulk nuts, vitamins and supplements. They have great sales, so I always make sure to check their weekly ads.
Not typically the affordable choice; however, if you’re an Amazon prime member, there are weekly deals just for you. Whole Foods also has some specialty products (like imported cheese, local produce and locally-made products) that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
Here I buy organic staples like beans, oils, protein bars, trail mix, and snacks. They almost always have the cheapest prices.
Similar to Walmart, although they have a better selection or organic and special diet products. The Simply Balanced Target brand offers great prices on organic snacks, too!
Oh, how I love Trader Joe’s! Their frozen entrees and sides are amazing, and very reasonably priced. My husband loves the vegan fried rice with tofu and I am partial to the cauliflower gnocchi. I also love to buy organic snacks, spices (the “Everything But The Bagel” seasoning is unreal!), nuts, salad dressings, and oils.
A few months ago I purchased a Thrive Market membership, which is an online grocery store that has awesome deals on healthy snacks, pantry staples, meat/seafood, household and beauty products and more. You can shop based on your dietary needs, which is super helpful for sorting through all the products. I buy a lot of chips and snacks here, plus cooking oils/marinades/sauces, spices, baking supplies, and household products. While this requires a little more planning in advance, in my experience it ships quickly. All the shipping materials are recycled, too, which is an added bonus. They even include insulation and ice packs for heat-sensitive items.
Costco or Sam’s club
I don’t shop here often (I don’t live close to one of these stores), but these stores are great for buying bulk items, especially snacks!
More tips for shopping for healthy food on a budget
- Shop Seasonal. Buying items when they’re in season, like produce will save money, since that item will be in high supply. Here’s a helpful chart showing what produce is in season based on the month and where you live. Eating seasonally is also a great way to ensure that you’re getting fresh produce that hasn’t been shipped from far away (meaning it’s been in circulation awhile), or preserved with harmful chemicals (in the case of organic produce, that is).
- Shop Local. While local products aren’t necessarily cheaper, they are usually high quality and you know exactly where they came from. For me, that’s a huge bonus! I like to shop our local farmers marketers in the warmer months for organic produce and other locally-made items. Also, knowing that you’re supporting local farmers and vendors is very gratifying!
- Shop Sales. I always check weekly grocery adds to compare prices, and to see what’s on sale. If an item I frequently use is on sale, I try to stock up, so I save money over time. A lot of places will price-match, too, if you find a cheaper price elsewhere.
- Buy in bulk–especially if you’re feeding a lot of people, this is key for saving money! It also ensures that your pantry and fridge will be stocked for a while, saving extra trips to the store! I always buy grains, nuts and dried fruit in bulk.
Sticking with it
Eating healthy is already challenging, but with these time-, money- and sanity-saving shopping strategies, you’ll be more likely to stick to it for the long haul. Now onto the next step: preparing all the healthy and yummy items you bought! Check out my post on meal prepping to learn how you can easily prepare healthy meals for yourself and your family.