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I am a big fan of healthy eating. There isn’t a vegetable I won’t try or a recipe I won’t cook—at least once. But the truth is that my life was not always this way. Not only did I grow up a severely picky eater but I also carried quite a few extra pounds because I indulged in junk food on a pretty constant basis. However, with a new year, there’s no time like the present to set a New Year’s Resolution that will hit two birds with one stone: Get healthy and save money.
The best way to get healthy isn’t just about heading to the gym (though that can’t hurt either) but also about eating well. And the best way to save money is, funnily enough, through eating well too. So why not conquer these two resolutions all at once? From cooking at home as much as possible to buying generic brands to swapping in for vegetarian protein, here are my 20 best tips for saving money while also eating healthy this year. As a convert of eating well AND not spending a ton of dough, you’ll definitely want to trust me on these.
Meal planning is absolutely essential.
I absolutely, positively love meal planning. There are tons of apps for this, but I keep things simple and just do it on a “Note” on my phone. Meal planning is definitely essential if you want to save money while eating healthy, since it allows you to grocery shop in a smart way while also making sure you don’t waste any food. This doesn’t have to be super complicated, but having a general sense of what meals you’re making helps you to stay on track.
Keep a list of what you have in the house.
This one is absolutely crucial to my sanity—and to my cutting down the grocery bill. In yet another note (yes, I love my notes!), I have written down everything I have in my house that’s food. I typically divide this into things in my fridge, things in my freezer and things in my pantry. The reason why I love having a list of this is that I can keep track of what I need to buy and, even more importantly, what I do NOT need to buy when going to the store. Plus, it makes meal planning easier since I can open my list and see that I have rice and canned black beans, and start my meal planning from there.
Write a grocery list and STICK TO IT.
You’ve probably heard the age-old advice that you should never grocery shop when you’re hungry, which is GREAT advice. The other one to add to it is that you should also make up a grocery list and stick to it, no matter what. This might be a little difficult, but it will help to cut costs and also help you avoid the aisles you don’t need to be going down (like the soda aisle or the junk food aisle) so that you aren’t tempted.
Cook at home as much as possible.
This one may seem obvious, but cooking at home is crucial to saving money AND eating healthy. What I like to do is give myself a budget for eating out twice a week (usually Friday night pizza and Sunday brunch) and, otherwise, I cook at home. It helps when I have groceries and have meal planned, too, since I don’t have the excuse of saying that I am feeling lazy and have no food at home.
Go for cooking once, then eating all week.
One of my absolute FAVORITE ways to save money and eat healthy during the week is to spend my Sunday afternoons prepping for the upcoming week. What this means is that I soak in the “cook once, eat all week” philosophy. Typically, you can find me making a great slow cooker meal that I will pack for lunch later and also prepping other things, such as quinoa and roasted vegetables. Some people I know also take Sundays to roast a chicken, which they can then incorporate into many other meals throughout the week. Again, meal planning to the rescue!
Stick to buying whole foods.
Often, the foods that aren’t healthy for you are also the foods that cost more money. Here’s where whole foods come in. If you can focus on buying things like quinoa, brown rice, canned and dry beans, and steel-cut oats, you can save a lot of money. You can also try getting legumes, nuts, seeds and other grains, plus fruits and vegetables. Oftentimes, this means sticking to the outer edges of the supermarket (where you’ll find plenty of greens) and just a few aisles in the middle (the ones with rice and beans).
Don’t get fancy—just buy generic brands.
A great way to save money is to buy your grocery store’s generic brands. The truth is that these products are often no different than the fancier brands, though you should definitely check the label to make sure. Buying generic can save money, especially if you are shopping for bigger items or in bulk.
Stop buying the junk foods.
This is an absolute MUST when you start eating healthy. Although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the occasional bag of potato chips or candy bar, what you’ll want to watch out for is making these a regular part of your diet. Typically, I think the best way to avoid junk food is to simply stop bringing it into the house. For me, this means that I only allow myself soda and candy when I’m at the movies. As for those potato chips? No, thanks! Feel free to make your own rules but, if you want to save money, this is a must.
Take advantage of sales on your fave products.
One of the things I always try to keep an eye out for when grocery shopping is sales on some of my favorite products, like the Greek yogurt I eat every morning or the frozen veggie burgers I often make for lunch. The trap you don’t want to fall into is buying things just BECAUSE they’re on sale. This is a sure-fire way to end up with a bunch of things you don’t actually want to eat. Instead, simply keep an eye out for the things you already buy on a regular basis—and definitely buy plenty of extras when they’re on sale.
Try swapping in vegetarian proteins.
You know what’s a great way to save money, eat healthy AND do better for Mother Earth? Implement Meatless Mondays! I admit I am a bit biased here because I already eat much more vegetarian protein than meat, but this is really a great way to save some bucks. I suggest trying baked tofu in a Chinese or Indian recipe or chipotle black bean burgers. Not only can you find great vegetarian recipes online but you can even swap veggie proteins in for some of your Latino favorites, such as veggie tacos or an “arroz con pollo” that’s made with crumbled vegetarian sausage.
Make a weekly farmer’s market date.
Want fresh strawberries or tomatoes in the winter? Sure, you can get all that—but you can save a whole lot more money if you stick to buying whatever produce is in season instead. What I love to do is head to my local farmer’s markets on the weekend and peruse what nearby farmers are offering. Not only will you be supporting local business and your community, but you will also be eating fresh fruits and vegetables all year long. It might even make you appreciate the seasons more thoroughly.
Also buy frozen fruits and vegetables.
When you’re not at your local farmer’s market buying fresh fruits and vegetables, you should head to the frozen food aisle. The reason why this is a great way to save money is that frozen fruits and veggies are often much cheaper than their fresh, grocery store counterparts. The great thing about this strategy is also that frozen veggies are packaged during season, which means they might also be even fresher (and thus taste better) than the out-of-season versions.
Buy in bulk (at least sometimes).
Just as with buying generic, you’ll want to be careful about buying in bulk. Don’t let the pretty glare of big discounts distract you into buying something you won’t use… However, you SHOULD absolutely buy the bulk versions of the products you love. I especially recommend this with essential cooking ingredients such as olive oil and spices. I really love buying spices in bulk, since cooking with LOTS of flavor is one of the best ways to make healthy food taste great.
Pack a delicious lunch for yourself.
Part of the whole “cook once, eat all week” strategy I love is that you can easily pack yourselves lunch for the week while doing this. Want to save money on those Chipotle lunches AND make sure that you’re eating healthy while at work? Then the answer is obvious. This is, for me, where the slow cooker comes in. I make all of my lunches in the slow cooker on Sundays and then pack them up for myself and my husband, so that I know that we’re both saving money and eating well throughout the week.
Embrace trying new (and cheaper) foods.
Eating some new foods can help you save money, and this is especially true if you embrace eating staples. Whether you’re already a huge fan or not, cooking things like eggs and potatoes (which are cheap to buy and easy to make) and making them a regular part of your diet can help you save money. I especially love having eggs in my house constantly and trying many different things with them—you can make omelets, egg salad, frittatas and a million other breakfast-for-dinner dishes.
Invest in great kitchen tools.
I know I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times but, seriously, if you don’t have a slow cooker yet, WHAT are you waiting for?! This is my go-to tool for making easy (and often cheap) meals. Another great kitchen tool is the pressure cooker, which helps you to make dry beans quickly and easily. From what I’ve heard, some people are also HUGE fans of the Instant Pot (a 6-in-1 tool that serves as both a pressure and slow cooker, as well as a rice cooker and other things).
Grow your own herbs for salads and cooking.
Herbs are a great way to add some flavor to your favorite dishes. However, they can get pricey if you’re constantly buying tons of cilantro and mint (my two favorites, anyway). The great news here is that you can easily grow herbs on a windowsill garden or even outside, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard. Growing your own herbs is a lot simpler than it sounds and it will surely add some really delicious, cost-cutting meals to your repertoire.
Don’t forget that canned fish can be great.
Canned tuna and canned salmon are easy ways to save money. Instead of buying their fresh (and often much pricier) versions, there’s actually a lot that you can do with these canned versions. Not only is tuna salad quite lovely, but you can search for tons of other recipes that incorporate these products into a regular routine. You’ll especially love these two when you pack lunch for the week, since you can do a simple salad and a delicious canned salmon dish.
Definitely shop online for great deals.
Last but not least, have you ever tried buying your groceries online? Retailers like Thrive Market and Amazon make it easy to buy some of your favorite products, especially those that are a little bit harder to come by. This is a great way to incorporate some of my other favorite tips on this list, such as buying in bulk and finding sales on your faves. Don’t be afraid to go online for your groceries—it’s an easy way to save money and time, and make sure you’re buying the best good-for-you stuff out there!