Many people think that eating in a healthful way involves spending way too much money and time in the kitchen. I am here to debunk this myth for you and give you some of my top tips for eating in a healthful (intuitive) way while still sticking to your budget and not spending $200 a week on groceries.
Intuitive eating is eating anything and everything you want though, right? How could I not spend all my money on food when I am eating whatever I want.... Wrong! Yes intuitive eating is about eating what you want, so yes technically if you are wanting to eat out, go for it! But, this doesn't mean blow your food budget and spend all the money you want! There are definitely ways that you can incorporate the foods you love and honor your cravings without breaking the bank. So let's get into it!
8 Tips for Budget Friendly Intuitive Eating
1. Set a food budget and stick to it!!
The first thing you really should be doing is taking a look at how much $$ you have to work with each week (or however frequently you grocery shop). If you are running to the store 2x a week and just picking and choosing what you are getting without having an idea of how much you are actually spending, it can add up quickly when you take a look at your spending! Now don't get me wrong, sometimes I run to the store for a "few" things, end up with three bags, and feel like I spend $80 on nothing. That being said, if you take the time to map out your spending before planning what you are going to shop for, you can stray away from doing this too often.
2. Shop in season.
Produce can be pricey which is why so many people think that eating healthy is so expensive. The key here is to know what is in season and shop for these items! They will be much more affordable (not to mention tastier and higher in quality). In season produce will often be what is on sale, but to give you a rundown of what season to shop for your favorite fruits and veggies, click here. Apples, bananas, oranges, carrots, broccoli, and celery are to name a few of the fruits and veggies that year-round are in season and can be budget friendly options.
3. Don't fear canned or frozen foods.
Canned vegetables and fruits, frozen vegetables and fruits are awesome budget friendly options that still pack a health punch. What many don't know about canned and frozen varieties is that they are picked at their peak ripeness and flash frozen or canned quickly to preserve the nutrients! There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing these options to keep within your budget when fresh is too expensive. Frozen fruit can get a little pricey so opt for purchasing when on sale or buying in bulk can help! The biggest thing I would say with canned vegetables and fruits is to make sure you are looking for the lower sodium/ no salt added and the packed in 100% juice or no sugar added varieties.
4. Shop at the right stores.
Now I love Target, but if you are shopping for all of your groceries here or at Whole Foods, you are likely spending a pretty penny on your food. Now I am not saying you have to resort to Walmart (personally not a favorite of mine), but maybe think about changing up where you shop to get the most bang for your buck. Living in Northwest Indiana, food has never been super expensive compared to city living, but make sure you take a look locally to see if there are more affordable stores that you can shop at to save some money. My mom turned me into an Aldi lover over the last few years. While sure they don't have all of your name brand toiletry essentials and all the name brands you may love to shop, they do have some great products! They are able to keep prices down by focusing on the food rather than other nonessentials so that you are paying only for freshness and quality. They also offer food options to accommodate a variety of lifestyles, taste preferences, and therapeutic diets or allergies. Another idea for something fun to look into is a food delivery service called Imperfect Foods. Click here to check out their website. I haven't personally experienced it myself yet, but have heard great things! This company is on a mission to reduce food waste but allow you to save money while doing so! They send misshaped fresh fruits, veggies, and many other food products right to your door that otherwise would be pitched in the trash. Something I totally can get behind!
5. Cook larger and plan for left overs.
If you are cooking for two (or even a family) you can easily plan to make the full recipe or double it while you are cooking. Saves you not only time in the kitchen, but money if you plan it out right and use up the left overs for lunch the following couple days or dinner another night that week. Killing two birds with one stone here!
6. Plan ahead for your week (intuitively).
Yes you can still meal prep and plan for your meals while eating intuitively! Personally what I do weekly is:
1. Take a look at what is on sale that week
2. Think about what recipes are sounding good (somewhat based on what is on sale)
3. Look at what is already in the refrigerator and pantry
4. Plan out 4-5 meals per week leaving the rest of the nights for left overs or planning to eat out depending on the week.
5. Write up a list and stick to it!
I always have a "basics" list that I try to keep on hand to make sure that I know I will have some go-to meals and snacks that are my favorites. Tailor this to your preferences and voila! Pro tip: right when you get home, wash/ chop any fruits and vegetables as applicable to make sure you have them ready to grab when you are wanting them. You'll more than likely reach for them if they are already prepped ahead of time.
7. Pack your lunch.
Instead of spending $12 here and $15 there on lunch at work or swinging through a drive-through, pack your lunch and save yourself some money! This goes along with planning ahead for your week when you are grocery shopping, but pick two to three options that are sounding good for the week. This ensures you will have a few choices for variety so you don't get sick and tired of what you have and be led to eating out and spending more money when you already bought groceries. You can also use the same "ingredients" for meals and make them totally different. Example- a grilled chicken caesar salad can be eaten how it is or thrown into a wrap. Make up a batch of chicken salad and use it on bread, pita bread, or eaten with some crackers. There are endless options here if you get creative!
8. Be reasonable with going out to eat.
Sure spontaneous nights out (or ordering in) are fun, but if that is your go-to, maybe its time you get back to a regular grocery store routine to make sure that your food budget isn't completely blown within the first week of the month. That being said, if you were planning on making a recipe at home one night, but you have a killer craving for sushi, you can still honor your cravings and know that you can always make the planned meal the next day! This is also why I intentionally don't plan for 7 meals a week because I know that there will likely be 1-2 nights where I can wing it with the food I have on hand or will plan for ordering takeout so I don't waste food!
Whatever you do, make sure you don't go to the grocery store on an empty stomach!! I hope these tips help with keeping your grocery store trips budget friendly and filled with satisfying foods you enjoy :)