02 Apr Healthy eating budgeting tips
It is no secret that healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods and so, it is now more important than ever to create personal finance changes to make healthy eating more affordable. At the societal level, the cost of food is control to some degree. There is also a lot of conflicting information on whether eating healthier is more expensive than eating junk food, but I am of the belief that it is more expensive because the comparison is often between cooking at home from scratch versus getting takeaways. It is also the ingredients, such as organic, grass-fed ghee versus vegetable oil and organic chicken versus conventionally grown chickens. Through experience, I see there is a stark price difference.
Of course, affordability is also greatly subjective, and my tips are based on my personal experience and situation. I work part-time, my husband works full-time, and we have no dependents. Outside of lockdown, my husband and I eat dinner at my parents’ house once or twice a week and once at my in-law’s house. This saves us time and money spent on cooking and ingredients. The food we eat at parents’ homes are not organic, gluten-free or made with wholesome oils and sea salt AT ALL, but we love the family time and consider living/working close to our families a huge blessing.
Some of these tips might be useful, some maybe not. Nonetheless, I hope my advice gives food for thought on more than just healthy food budgeting, including wastefulness and financial confidence.
1. Create a shopping list and stick to it when you go shopping – I use the ‘reminders’ app on the iPhone to do this as it allows you to tick items off without removing them from the list entirely. The ‘Notes’ app does this too. This is better than writing a shopping list out by hand which can easily get lost or thrown away. Having a digital list over time will also begin to show what your shopping habits are – what items you go back to every time you go shopping and what you bought that you didn’t like or didn’t use.
2. Do an inventory check of your fridge and cupboards before you head out for grocery shopping. This prevents purchasing several items of the same item and wastefulness by encouraging utilising what you already have, preventing food from rotting and being thrown out (which is essentially throwing money away!)
3. Based on a few months of grocery shopping, see how much you spend and create a realistic monthly budget and stick to it! I’ve found people don’t actually know how much they are spending on groceries every month. Knowledge is power. You can’t begin to spend more on healthy food if you don’t actually know where your money is going.
4. Research personal financing – better budgeting for healthy foods and wellness activities begins with understanding your personal finance better. When you understand where your money is actually going, you have a clearer vision of prioritising how you want to save and spend. There are loads of free resources available online for beginners, such as this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYkwa1D1AC4 .
5. Plan a menu ahead of time. I am not a fan of ‘meal planning’, (i.e., making food in bulk and eating it over the next few days), I enjoy variety as it keeps me creative and interested in healthy eating. What I do encourage is planning your menu for the next few days at the very least. It takes away the mental stress of thinking about what to cook every single day, encourages you to purchase ingredients specific to your menu, prevents getting hungry and opting for takeout or snacking – all in all, helps you save money and use it in buying healthier ingredients.
6. Eat vegetarian meals at least twice a week. I cook a dhaal and a vegetable soup at least 3 times a week to enable a higher allowance for organic meat/poultry.
7. Use coupons, promo codes, student discounts and loyalty cards! This means we get our groceries from several different stores: Waitrose (they give at least £8 off your total bill every few months), Tesco (clubcard points always knock off a few pounds), My Gluten Free Bakery (always offer discount codes). It can be frustrating to shop at different stores but honestly, it is worth it. Please note that these coupons are used by supermarkets to track your purchases and increase sales, so use them mindfully and only when truly needed.
8. Based on the above, do not be brand loyal. Be open to trying other cheaper or more expensive when possible.
9. Limit take-aways. It could be once a week or twice a month but eating out is crazy expensive. With constant offers from Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat, you are encouraged to spend money on food that is often full of trans fats, sugars and table salt. I love the occasional cheeky Nando’s and late-night gluten-free chocolate cakes, but after calculating how much we spend on takeaways in 2018, we knew we needed a budget, which meant limiting take-aways to 3 times per month.
10. Know your healthy recipe staples. If you are the cook in your family, there is often a set numbers of recipes that you typically rotate. Allow yourself to try a new recipe once or twice a month, but generally, stick to the recipes you know and love. This will allow your grocery budget to stay the same every month.
11. Get fruits and vegetables from your local produce vendor. Even though the area I live in is one of the poorest in London, on my high street, there are at least 4 fresh produce vendors, and they are super cheap. It is not organic, but it is healthier for the body than getting convenience foods.
12. Eat before going shopping.
13. Be aware yourself on the sneaky marketing tricks and techniques that supermarkets use to get you to spend more money or buy more than you need to. There are a ton of free resources online which highlight the surprising ways supermarkets get customers to spend more money, such as this.