A Nonexpert Opinion: Healthy Eating on a Budget.

I recently posed a question on Instagram, "Is anyone interested in how we eat 'healthy' on a budget?" The response was overwhelming!


I'd love to share some of my methods for saving money on healthier foods and meals. As always, this is what is specifically working for my family at the moment, and is subject to change. This comes from a place of encouragement and never a place of "shoulding".

It seems many of us aspire to live healthier lives these days. For me, healthy living, specifically within the bounds of food and nutrition, is important. Yet I often feel:

Too ignorant and inadequate to implement positive changes 
(I went to law school partly to avoid any career dealing with math and science *shrugs*)

Overwhelmed by all of the information out there
 ("Now 'THEY' (the so-called nutritionist-powers-that be) are saying the protein powder I LITERALLY JUST learned about/splurged on isn't so good for me anymore?!")

Frustrated with the cost and investment of time 
(Some days it would be much easier to eat the same 'ole way using the same 'ole comforting recipes)

I am STILL learning what "healthy" looks like for me. I am so fortunate to have kind, gifted, educated friends, family, and professionals that I can lean in to, ask advice of, and share with often. I've learned to give myself patience and grace, which has been crucial to a healthier lifestyle.

So my first method is not really a method but more a piece of "advice", which is also two-fold. I hope it offers some freedom:

 One, your health and well-being are investments worth making. 

If you feel the need to make changes, absolutely go for it. If you're having some body issues and want an opinion (or a second or third), feel freedom to seek that. If you want to splurge on a new cookbook, or a personal trainer, or a healthy subscription box- jump in, girlfriend. If you feel it's best to be under the care of a chiropractor, a dietician, a naturopath, a holistic doctor, a midwife...you pick what's important to you and roll with it! The rest of us will cheer you on and champion you on your journey.

While we are (BEYOND) fortunate not to have any health issues, our family wants to stay healthy and active for as long as possible. This means purchasing supplements that cost more than my B1G1 Free bargain-brand days in college. This looks like sacrificing in other areas of our budget to buy certain (not all) organics and grass-fed meats. This looks like allowing margin for workouts and books and healthy splurges.


Salads don't have to be complicated nor boring. Check out the post here.

By the same token, don't feel the need or pressure to stick to, or fully invest financially in, one specific "plan"at a rapid-fire pace.

The majority of my "healthy thinking" time revolves around food. For one, I feel like we are an active family and my workout regimen is in a healthy place. But mostly, I just really love to eat and to cook. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen as a family and with friends.

So, some of our meals are Paleo, many Trim Healthy Mama,  and some even vegan. Yet we also still love our traditional southern meals, too! I loved completing a Whole 30, and learned a ton that I often implement, yet I do not live and die by its principles. I'm always open to hearing, and even trying, new supplements and super foods, yet I've learned not to get lost in the weeds or to be hard on myself through the learning process.

If your focus on healthier living is causing you internal stress, it's ok to take it back a few notches. It's ok to take things piece by piece. It's ok to figure things out slowly.  It's ok that your journey looks different than others. It's ok to learn and re-learn. IT IS OKAY to ignore your tenth direct-sales-(insert name of estranged high school friend's company she now wants you to join here) Facebook message request this week if you don't feel comfortable investing in all the products before investigating.

You are your best health advocate and will know what the "right" choices are. Good enough is good enough, sisters.


 Deliciously frothy and healthy coffee. Read how to make it here

Now with my two excessive pieces of unsolicited advice out of the way, LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOD. Awww yeeeaaa.



Make-ahead smoothie packs (just add greens and milk of choice) are great for on-the-go.

Like I've shared with y'all before, sister here runs a tight ship when it comes to our family budget. I do this because we desire to pay off debt quickly and be as generous as totally possible. All that to say, man cannot live on cornbread alone. Here are some things to consider if you share my two mindsets, which often conflict with one another:

 Plan out your meals based on what's in season or on sale and keep it simple. 

This method is what has proven to be the most advantageous for eating healthier on a budget. Meal planning is a lifesaver for me! Quickly scanning grocery store ads online, making a plan and a list, and trying to stay as close to that as possible is wonderful. We rarely make meals with more than a handful of ingredients, and except for the weekends, keep things relatively light and simple. Yet I feel that we eat well and despite the same recipes being on rotation often, it's never boring.


Taco salads with homemade lime dressing over greens and slaw mix for added crunch.

Purchase your meat in bulk, if possible.

One thing that makes weekly meal planning so easy is already having meat options stored in the freezer. Our store often runs grass-fed beef for under $5.00 per pound. When this happens I purchase about five packages. The same goes for chicken and fish (we don't eat much pork). After Thanksgiving I purchased and cooked some turkey breasts, vacuum sealed them, and we just finished the last batch in lettuce wraps the other evening. I'm not saying go and purchase so much that you have to have an extra freezer, but a few packages at a time can last a small family awhile.


By way of example, our weekly meal plan may often look like this:

Monday - Burrito bowls or stir fry (meatless with lots of veggies, add bone broth to sauces for a protein kick)

Tuesday - Meatballs (using freezer ground beef) over zucchini noodles, simple salad

Wednesday - Grilled BBQ chicken salads, crusty sprouted bread (freezer)

Thursday - Salmon (bought fresh) sheet pan dinner or on the grill with sweet potatoes and assorted vegetables

Friday - Homemade grilled pizzas and simple salads

Saturday - Typically out for dinner or a "splurge" meal made at home using special ingredients

Sunday - Clean out the fridge frittata and a simple salad OR make one of the meals planned for earlier in the week that didn't happen (because, life!)

Breakfasts: Smoothies, frittata (we often make a large one on sunday), egg scrambles, homemade larabars, oatmeal
 Snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, cheeses and lunch meats (mainly for A post-workout), veggies and dip, more smoothies
Lunches: Wraps, mason jar salads, leftovers, soup from freezer stock 

Many of my recipes come from Pinterest, which you can follow along here. Also, my favorite cookbooks are Trim Healthy Table, Pioneer Woman Cooks, Meals Made Simple, and The Wellness Mama

 
Stick to your normal grocery store if you want!

The only things I've purchased from Whole Foods are a latte and a make-it-yourself salad, on two separate occasions. I am by no means criticizing Whole Foods (one of my best girlfriend's wedding cake was from there and was the best wedding cake I've ever eaten!), but I will say in today's market I find it unnecessary for those of us living normal lives. So many grocery stores now carry organic, healthier options for reasonable prices. Honestly my favorite place to purchase these items is ALDI (I wrote a whole post about it here) and my new-found favorite, Walmart Grocery Pickup! I absolutely love Kroger and how they've grown their health food sections, but alas, there is no Kroger in our town. SAD.

Be sure to check the "clearance" aisle at your store. Our Walmart has a section with marked-down items. This is where I LOVE to buy organic sprouted bread (I buy them all and freeze them - they're already "firmer" so you cannot tell a difference when thawed) and Joseph's pita and wraps.



Try more vegetarian or vegan meals. 

I recently posted that one of our favorite dinners is beans and rice with taco toppings. This includes a pot of black beans (sometimes pinto), a pot of brown rice or quinoa, a heap of near-death veggies found in the fridge and sauteed in a bit of avocado or coconut oil, and a variety of taco bar toppings (cilantro, avocado, pico de gallo, fresh lime). This was a go-to newlywed days meal for us, and also a staple on our Dominican Republic mission trips.

Andrew, my often carnivorous husband, loves this meal - as does our daughter, Maggie. I estimate the entire meal (not just per serving) costs around $5, and is full of fiber (as well all know from the song we learned in 2nd grade), healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory foods. YAS HONEY.



Consider cooking or baking more from scratch.

Our family really loves Lara and RX bars, especially Maggie! The costs of these add up, so I looked into recipes for making some at home. One pan of these peanut butter Lara bars cost so much less than buying the prepackaged. You can also freeze them, but we never have enough leftover to do that! Andrew loves peanut butter balls, which are a rolled-up version of "Perfect Bars". Once you purchase the items to make these treats, you'll see that the money stretches much further.

Easy, protein-packed blender muffins. Learn how to make them here.

Try out your local farmers market or a CSA share...or grow your own! 

As Meredith and I talked about during our podcast a few months ago, buying from local farmers is a wonderful way to support local businesses and agriculture. Andrew purchases 18 farm-fresh eggs per week from a friend at work, which we love. We also have a wonderful market that is open during the summer, and the prices are extremely reasonable.  It's a win-win all the way around.

We spent around $30 on plants earlier in April (Home Depot spring sale..they happen often!) and expect to harvest several tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, and fresh herbs. I love using our garden to make salads and side dishes in the summer.


Handful of goodies from TJ Maxx.

Look into online retailers. 

Amazon is one favorite place to purchase supplements, like these probiotics and carrier oils for making essential oil blends. Just make sure they're from a verified seller and come sealed properly (I've never had an issue). Even though we do a lot of homemade snacks, Larabars and RX bars are super convenient and are at their best price through them.

Also, Thrive Market is wonderful! I recently signed up through a friend and not only are the prices great, I love the mission behind the company. It's worth paying a little more knowing families in need are being helped. You can use this link to save 25% off your first order - yea!

Don't forget about drugstores. 

I signed up for emails from CVS, where I often pick up picture prints and baby items. They regularly send me "40% off coupons", which I love to use on supplements that are hardly ever on sale. Last week, I picked up our Natural Calm Magnesium for only $8! A few weeks before that I was able to purchase Rainbow Light Prenatals (no I'm not pregnant!) for more than half-off retail.

A recent haul from BigLots.

And definitely don't forget about "bargain" stores.

I recently found one-liter bottles of organic apple cider vinegar at Ross for $1! TJ Maxx and HomeGoods have some of the best shelf-stable ingredients like paleo flour, avocado oil, and nutritional yeast (it tastes like parmesan cheese!). BigLots is my absolute favorite place to buy the pouches Maggie likes when we travel. Granted, all of these places are very close to home, so it's no extra time or expense to pop in for a few things.

 


To wrap things up, please know making healthier choices CAN be done in small steps, and without breaking the bank. I'd love to chat more with you about this, so please feel free to DM me on social media!

What tips and tricks do you have for eating well on budget? I hope some of these methods prove to be helpful.

Happy eating, sweet friends!

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