Healthy eating for families, my 9 tips to stay on a budget
You know how much I love healthy food, nourishing food. I am a strong believer that food is medicines. But I also am aware of the fact that healthy eating can be tricky for families for many different reasons. Even more so knowing that healthy food is commonly far more expensive as most other food choices.
I am not going to lie, my food budget is above average, because high-quality food is important to us and I see it as an investment in our health.
In this post, I will give you some tips I am using to make sure to stay within my budget and not go bananas on healthy food. And in total transparency, my husband Yan and I share the cooking duties, therefore we have a slightly different organisation as described but this is the guideline we are following. (Also, this post contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.)
It hasn’t always been like that!
You see, when I decided to become a stay at home mum (almost 16 years ago) I was looking at things very differently. Our budget had diminished drastically with only one income source at that time and my two focus points were: feeding the family and shop as cheap as possible. Healthy was not on the top of my priority. I mean, it wasn’t bad but they were a lot of things I had no idea about. Frankly, I was trusting our system enough to think that was on offer at the shops was actually good for us. Like so many others, I had zero ideas about how the industry works, how studies are mostly funded by the company who produces the product in the first place, how it is all a money game. And that consumer’s health is not necessarily the companies and supermarket’s first priority.
Since then it has changed yet I still have a budget and try to keep our food shopping to the lowest possible but fitting into my health ideals.
How I see things now:
Food is medicine in my opinion. Therefore, I do not mind paying more for good products. Our expenses have progressively changed “category wise”. Where I used to shop for as cheap as possible and have other expenses to add like doctor bills and medications, I now spend more on quality products making us healthier. And I spend less on medicals, A LOT LESS! Something I am very proud of.
So here we go with my tips to stay within my allocated budget
I am not going to go into details about our diet or our budget, as that could be the subject for another post. However, see those tips as little helpers you can apply to literally any diet and budget. And if you’d like to have a taste of what we love eating, have a look at my recipe album called Food is medicine, where I am sharing some favourites with you every Wednesday.
But before we really get into it, I want you to start thinking differently. This is my tip zero, the base of my strategy if you will.
Are you ready? … IMAGINE you are meal planning not based on your envies, but BASED ON WHAT YOU STILL HAVE IN YOUR FRIDGE! This will help avoid wasting food and will save you money. Now build from there.
Healthy eating for families doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are my 9 tips to stay on a budget!
Tip 1: Make a list with a twist! Based on that meal plan
Before heading out on your shopping trip, prepare a list of the needed groceries to match your meal plan. You won’t have to buy many ingredients for the first meals of the week since you are eating up what was left in the fridge.
Example: You have 1 random half of cauliflower and 3 potatoes sitting there pretty. Instead of them going to waste, your first meal on the list could be a cauliflower/potato soup. And this leftover cooked rice could be turned into a rice salad by adding some beans and veggies to it. Boom!
Tip 2: Only buy what you need!
Your list should only contain the ingredients you will need to stick to your meal plan.
But it’s not easy to stick to the list at shops, I am hearing you… so here comes my next tip!
Tip 3: Pay cash
Estimate how much you will have to spend on your shopping trip and make sure to only have this amount of cash and no cards with you. Yes, it does involve some counting initially and being mindful about what goes in the cart and what doesn’t but it is something we quickly can get used to. And the counting will become less stressful!
When we pay by card, it doesn’t feel like real money and soon we have added a few items here and there. Something we wouldn’t do if we were paying cash right?
Tip 4: Shop for specials
I am not spending as much time on this as I used to, tracking savings and going to 6 different shops to get my groceries done to save a few bucks. It is not leveraging my time. Nowadays, since I am my own boss, money producing activities have a higher level of priority in my schedule. Food shopping is something I want to have done while my kids are at school or at training, therefore this is also the time I could be working. Therefore, looking at the bigger picture, I compare how much my time is worth when I am working compared to my potential savings on groceries. Time leveraging has become a big part of my life, I will soon write a blog post about it.
But this being said, I still like to shop for savings if it is convenient time wise.
Example: I might swap my meal plan slightly if I run into a nice special I can swap for something on my list. Or I might buy 24 litres of milk if my go-to favourite non-dairy milk is on special half price. I also know my local supermarket has regular sales on coconut water or our favourite frozen berries. This is when I stock up.
Tip 5: Buy in bulk
Organize your pantry with only ingredients you are actually using. No fluff that will sit there for ages and never be used. And a big part of those ingredients can be purchased in bulk for cheaper.
Example: Rice, nuts, dates, beans, chickpeas, oats, shredded coconut, olive and coconut oil, cacao, seeds… and the list goes on.
Tip 6: Eat seasonal produces
This is not only important for your food budget but also for our planet. There really is no good in eating things that aren’t now in seasons as they are not going to give your body what it needs now anyway. Furthermore, the carbon impact of transporting those produces really can’t be justified nowadays. We need to become smarter again, as our ancestors used to be before food shopping became this unrealistic jungle with idiotic expectations.
In winter eat plenty of soups and stews, they aren’t expensive. And in summer eat lots of salads.
Seasonal food is cheaper and better for you. It just makes sense. Full stop.
Tip 7: Make your own, especially snacks!
Baking a cake really doesn’t take that long and can usually be integrated into the process while cooking dinner. Bake a cake, freeze it into ready to go portions. That will save you money by not having to buy muffins or afternoon snacks. Cheaper and healthier!
Buy popcorn kernels and make your own popcorn, sprinkle some Himalayan salt on it. Easy, quick and cheap!
Ready to go snacks are either extremely expensive or real crap. This is not a game I am ready to play. With a little bit of organization, we save lots on snacks and afternoon tea time.
Tip 8: Fill those tummies
We like to use plenty of non-expensive but healthy and nutritious fillers like beans and chickpeas. Also, we add them into tomato sauce, salads, curries,… Be creative. They provide a good source of protein at very low cost and fill those tummies up.
Tip 9: Maximise your food!
Food wastage is a real thing. And it’s a shame. Maximizing your food will help you save money and precious time.
- Keep your broccoli stalks aside and use them in a soup.
- Use overripe fruits in smoothies. If you are not making a smoothie right now, freeze your ripe fruit!
- Use up leftovers to create healthy lunches. Mix up leftover veggies to a small tomato sauce leftover, add a can of chickpeas or some quinoa and you’ve got yourself a delicious salad. We don’t do meat, but if you do, leftover chicken is perfect in salads or sandwiches. Use a leftover of tomato sauce in a wrap or sandwich along with grilled eggplants or zucchinis, it’s delicious. The list could go on forever, just be creative and adventurous.
- Have a clear glass container in your fridge for leftover (cooked) veggies. Add them as you go during the week and create an awesome salad by adding quinoa or rice as an idea. Alternatively, you can quickly mix up a plain savoury muffin batter and add those veggies in. Easy.
- Leftover mash potato is super complicated to reheat, but what if you take a small dish, and a create a mini Sheppard pie alike dish by adding whatever other leftovers you have on the top and reheat it all in your oven. It’s delicious with some Mexican toppings left over from your taco night or mushroom sauce, really whatever you have.
- We add leftovers quinoa to smoothies for extra protein or literally in just any salad.
There is no perfect way, just go with what works for you and your family!
There is no right and no wrong. Sometimes, trying something new, even though we end up no applying the entire method, might inspire us a new way of doing things. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. Get inspired and improvise is the key!
Also if you like the idea of maximizing your food and time, this book is a treasure for every time savvy mum or dad looking to prepare healthy meals without spending their week in the kitchen. Cook Once Eat All Week by Cassie Jones Garcia.
Now I’d love to know…what’s your way of saving when it comes to healthy food? Comment below to inspire others!
About the Author:
Natascha is firstly a wife and mum of 3, originally Swiss and a French native speaker, she lives in Queensland Australia. She also is a passionate online entrepreneur and author.
Natascha’s passion is to share the message of Living a Life of Purpose.
Her mission is to help other mums create more freedom to live their dream life while becoming healthier and happier!
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