Tips For Clean Eating On A Budget
One of the challenges we can face when adapting to a healthy lifestyle is weighing up the cost of our food bill. Sometimes the high-quality food options are not the cheapest products to purchase and this can make clean eating difficult to manage — especially if you are studying or work part-time.
What exactly is 'clean eating'?
Clean eating refers to eating minimally processed, nutritious produce that is free from additives — food like fresh vegetables and legumes, whole grains, fruit and lean meats. Unfortunately, the thing that can often prevent us from purchasing these higher-quality foods is cost — healthy, good quality produce can often be more expensive than less healthy alternatives, especially if they are labelled as ‘organic’. Eating clean on a budget is possible though! It just takes some research, planning ahead, and sticking to your meal plans.
Tips for clean eating on a budget
Want to know how to eat clean without spending all of your money? Follow these simple tips to help you eat healthy and stay on track with your budget.
Tip 1. Choose your food store wisely
Have you ever walked into a food store only to see the same food you recently purchased, at half the price? Even though this can be really frustrating, there is a way to use it to your advantage. Do some research by checking out nearby farmers’ markets, health food stores, small food chains, and commercial stores — then compare their prices. You’ll eventually learn which one offers the best quality and value for money, so you can choose to buy food from there more regularly.
The type of food stores available to you will vary depending on where you live but the more research you do before committing to a regular store, the better. Sometimes your most convenient one can be less budget-friendly than alternatives and this could cost you more in the long run.
Tip 2. Opt for cheaper brands
Generic brands often contain the same quality produce but can be far less costly. Remember, more expensive does not always mean better quality! Sometimes the look and taste might vary among brands but for ‘clean’ foods this is often minimal.
Tip 3. Ingredients matter!
Seek out fruits and vegetables that are in-season and available in your region — they’re likely to be more expensive if they are being sold outside of their natural season. Does a recipe call for produce that isn't in-season where you live? Try swapping the ingredients for something similar that is in-season. Your dish is also more likely to taste better for it because the ingredients will be at their best!
Tip 4. Don’t be fooled by ‘organic’ labels
Sometimes a product that might come across as organic (based on words or images on its packaging) might actually not be! Be mindful when choosing items that appear to be 'organic' because this term can sometimes be thrown about to make a product appear healthier than its competition, when it has not been officially certified as an organic product. In order to be certified as organic, a comprehensive process actually needs to take place where the company is scrutinized by a third party organic certification company.
Also, some foods are generally produced with fewer (or no) chemicals, so buying a more costly ‘organic’ version of it might not necessarily be worthwhile. The key is to do some research about how your food is produced and then be mindful of this when shopping. This way, you can opt for organic when you feel it’s necessary, not because the label promotes it in that way.
Tip 5. Bulk is best!
If you know that a food item is something you eat often and it lasts a long time, buy it in bulk. For example, large bottles of healthy oils and grains are good to buy in bulk as you are likely to use these a lot when cooking 'clean' food. When you first begin to change your diet, it may feel as though your food bill is higher than normal. In the first few shopping trips, you will be buying pantry staples that can last you for a long time. Once your pantry is stocked up though, you should find grocery shopping becomes cheaper and you may not need to go as often!
Tip 6. Be smart with your meal prep
After you’ve done a grocery shop, you don’t want to have so much food that it begins to spoil before you can cook it. To avoid this, be prepared before you shop! Write a list of the meals you are going to eat for the week before you go shopping, being mindful of any social events that you have on that week. Then work out what ingredients you need for each meal. If you are planning meals by recipes, keep in mind the number of serves and decide whether this is realistic for your week.
When it comes to cooking, you can also utilise all of your ingredients and prepare ahead. If a recipe states that it serves two, use the extra serves as a meal for another day. Sometimes even if you limit the number of serves in a recipe, you may still have to purchase all of the food you would need to make the whole lot. Rather than end up with waste, preparing the recipe in full means you have meals for other days and it can save you money in the long run!
Tip 7. Save what you can
Sometimes, plans change and you realise you won’t have a chance to eat all of the fruit and vegetables you purchased. Spend a little time chopping them up, seal them in containers or zip locks bags and store in the freezer. These can then be used down the track for meals like smoothies or stir fry.
Clean Eating Doesn’t Need To Break Your Budget
Eating clean doesn’t have to mean spending all your hard-earned money on the most expensive organic products or superfoods. Sometimes it just takes a few little changes to save you some serious money and stay healthy.