Raise the Rates campaigns have been in the news recently. While most of us are fortunate enough to not have to turn to the social safety net, it’s still important to know that healthy living on a budget is entirely possible. Keeping food costs low while looking after health is an essential life skill, but one that few of us are taught at school.
Here are four tips for healthy living on a budget to help your family practice mindful spending while prioritizing health:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
It can’t be said enough. If you have a plan and stick to it, you can dramatically cut food waste and outlandish expenses.
Start by designating a time, perhaps before grocery shopping, to work out a meal plan for the week ahead. Write down all the groceries you need to meet that meal plan, and any pantry items that need refilling. Head to the store and only get what is on your list.
When planning, opt for meals you can prepare in bulk, such as chilli, soups, casseroles, or curry. This will allow you to take advantage of economy size packs, saving you money while cutting down on food waste. It’s also a big timesaver, as you can freeze extra batches for a quick meal later.
2. Shop the Edges
Hitting the grocery store with a list is one of the best ways to stay healthy on a budget, but it also pays to shop the edges at the store. In most large grocery stores, this means sticking to the fresh food aisles, bulk and dried goods, and the bakery.
If you know your kids get peckish and demanding at the store, plan distractions. This might mean taking a healthy snack for them to eat, or allowing them to listen to music through headphones. Whatever you do, don’t give them their own cart unless you assign them specific items to track down for you. This will also help avoid the middle of the grocery store where the highly processed and packaged foods tend to lay in wait.
3. Build Stronger Communities through Sharing Food
If you’re shopping for just yourself or a small family, it can be hard to take advantage of bulk discounts. You may also find that without careful planning you tend to generate a lot of food waste. One way to tackle both costly problems is to set up a network of friends who share food.
This could mean forming an organized buying club that shops for specific goods at certain times of year. It could also be a less formal arrangement where you take extra food over to a friend’s place to share when you have it. Or, it could simply be getting together with friends to cook a large, shared meal.
Preparing healthy communal meals can be a fun, social way to avoid the cost and temptation of restaurant fare. Sharing food is also a great way to form close friendships and build stronger communities, allowing everyone’s resources to stretch a little further when times are hard.
4. Pack a Picnic
Piggy-backing on the idea of sharing cooking responsibilities, packing a picnic is another great way to stay healthy on a budget. If you are going for a hike, a stroll in the park, a day at the beach, or even to the movies, packing your own snacks and meals is almost guaranteed to be cheaper and healthier than anything you pick up. Below are some great, healthy options for a picnic:
- Homemade granola bars
- Raw veggies and hummus
- Rice crackers with almond butter and banana slices
- Homemade popcorn with nutritional yeast and olive oil
Whatever you choose to pack, you’ll be avoiding overpriced, heavily salted, fatty, and sugary food that can hurt your health and your bank balance.