We are all busy and the idea of adding healthy eating to the mix can sometimes feel downright daunting. Picking up some frozen entrees, ordering a pizza or swinging through the drive-thru is about all the time you have. Your waistline has probably started to see the effects, your energy level has bottomed out or your seeing other not-so-good changes too. Eating on a budget doesn't have to be overly time consuming. A little organization and getting a plan will save you time, money and your well-being (not to mention your sanity).
Before you even step foot in a grocery store there are a few things that you need to think about to make your trip as efficient as possible.
How often do you plan on going grocery shopping? Once a week or every other week? I try to go every week with a few pit stops to get fresh veggies or something I forgot for a recipe. But for the most part I shoot to shop every week with a big pantry stock up once every four to six weeks. Here are some tips to keep you eating yummy meals, spending less time in the kitchen or grocery store and staying on your food budget.
· Meal Planning: This is where it all starts. If you don't know what you're making, then you'll aimlessly wonder the grocery store ending up in front of frozen pizzas or even worse. I don't actually cook everyday, but rather food prep components of meals once or twice a week. I'll get my meal ideas online, cookbooks or just what sounds good. I usually include a slow cooker soup or stew in there because it will last all week and makes a quick and easy meal.
· Create your list: Obviously, if you don't have a list you will have no idea what you need. I keep a running list on my phone at all times and as I run out of something or found a recipe I want to make I write down the ingredients I don't already have. I also have my grocery list staples like fruit, veggies, pantry items, fridge and freezer. We'll talk more about the staples in a second. Use your list as your guide at the store and try not to buy things that aren't on the list. This is where we get into trouble. If the Cheetos aren't on the list, then put them back and step away.
· Refill the staples: I have found that I can extend my big grocery shop out if I make sure to restock my staples. As I mentioned I will do a big pantry restock every four to six weeks. Lately I have been using Thrive Market (www.thrivemarket.com) which is an online organic discount store (think a cheaper Whole Foods). I also make sure to keep my freezer stocked with meats, fruit, bone broth/stock, some veggies and some healthy quick frozen meals. If I see a deal on something I can freeze or I know will last for awhile I will add it to my basket.
· Buy in bulk & store brands: I don't always buy in bulk because a lot of things I get I can usually find on sale. However, there are some things I do buy bulk like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dried herbs and spices. Remember to buy what you need though. Just because it's in bulk don't mean the cost doesn't add up quickly.
I also try to buy store brands whenever I can. There are some things that I prefer a specific brand because of the quality and that's fine. When that brand goes on sale - game on! I stock up like nobody's business!
· Shop seasonally: Eating seasonal items is so much cheaper than buying out of season. One reason those seasonal items are in abundance which keeps the costs down and usually you can get them locally. If you're game, shop for fruits and veggies at your local year-round farmer's market or sign up for a CSA box (community supported agriculture box).
· Specialty Items: I currently maintain a more Paleo/Whole 30/Plant-based nutrition protocol. A lot of these items are and can get expensive. So, when I started to shift into this nutrition protocol I did it gradually. I only bought things as I needed them It took me several months to incorporate all the foods, condiment and supplements into my diet but that's OK. I do make sure I buy the best quality I can afford.
So there you have it, meal planning and shopping basics. It may take some time in the beginning to getting more organized and figuring out what you need. But, trust me, in the long run you'll save money, your mind and time. So you have all these wonderful groceries and you still dread going into the kitchen. Be sure to check out the recipes on the Vibrant Life Source, LLC website for inspiration too! Eating healthy can be done on a budget and you can eat better and quicker then ordering takeout.
Until we meet again, live, and eat, vibrantly my Friends!