Food is important. We all know that. And without it we obviously couldn’t survive. That doesn’t mean that it can’t cost a pretty penny though.
In fact, food is one of most American’s major expenses. Recent research shows that the average American family of four spends between $150 and $250 per week on their total food spendings. That’s a lot of money, especially when you consider all of the other monthly expenses and necessities that need to be paid for.
A topic related to food and money that is often hotly debated is healthy eating. Many people believe that health foods are more expensive than their less healthy, often-processed counterparts. Though there is no doubt that healthy foods are much better for the human body, many people shy away from them simply because they are afraid they will have to fork over a little extra cash on an already tight budget.
This is especially true for those attempting to make monthly payments for loans, mortgages, or credit cards. It is even truer for those that have already fallen behind on such payments and are struggling with overwhelming personal debt.
Luckily, however, it is possible to eat healthy on a budget. In many ways buying and eating healthy foods is not only good for your body but also for your bank account. Below we look at several ways that you can make high-quality yet frugal food purchases, keeping your monthly expenses in check and reducing your personal debt in the process.
Set a Budget Plan
The single best thing that you can do to keep your monthly spendings on food in line is to create a budget plan. Your budget plan should cover not just your food expenses but all of your other expenses as well. Sort out all of your major ones and then assign a reasonable monthly amount to each one. This figure is the money amount that you need to stay under for each purchase.
The overall total value of all of your expenses on your budget plan needs to be lower than your total monthly income. If it isn’t, then you’re not going to be able to pay for anything and you will fall even deeper into debt. Better yet, leave a sliver of extra room between your overall monthly spendings and your total monthly income. Use this extra money to put towards your debt payments.
To open up even more room in your monthly budget, set a goal to spend less on food. It is one of the major monthly expenses but also one that is easiest to pare down spendings on. Set a goal of say, $100 per week (or lower), and stick to that. Put any leftover money towards your personal debts so that you can pay them off more quickly.
And check out our previous post on little known budgeting tips for even more effective ways to cut down your monthly spendings.
When it comes to saving money on food, eating in is the best strategy. Just think about it: a $20 meal at a mediocre restaurant can be made for $5 (or less at home). And while that $20 at the restaurant might serve only you, the $5 at home could serve your whole family or give you a few lunches worth of leftovers.
Eating in is nearly always a healthier choice than eating out, even if you go to a so-called ‘health foods’ restaurant. You know what the ingredients are that you are putting into your home creation and you can control them. You can pick your own portion sizes and limit condiments and sauces and other unhealthy ingredients.
The best types of food to buy for your health are non-processed foods. In all honesty, you should stay away from anything that is processed. This includes products like high-calories snack foods (chips, candies, etc), pastas and breads containing white flour instead of whole grains, frozen dinner meals, and processed meats. Basically anything that contains more than five ingredients is processed in some way. Furthermore, if any food with less than five ingredients contains one that you can’t pronounce, it should be avoided.
Luckily, finding non-processed healthy foods is relatively easy in most cities (even in many of America’s smallest). A great way to start is by scouring your local grocery store or supermarket for low prices. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables in place of meats, cheeses, other dairy products, and packaged foods will save you a bundle of money. And these savings will allow you to buy higher-quality lean meats as well. Your local farmer’s market is another great place to look for cheap yet healthy food products.
Of course, not everybody has the time to slave away in the kitchen all day long. That’s what quick recipes like these twenty minute dinner meal recipes from Eating Well are for.
As I mentioned above, eating out is much more expensive than eating in. However, eating in every single night of the month is just not doable for most people! Eating out can be convenient and, more importantly, enjoyable. It gives you the option of trying something new, socializing with friends, or just getting out of the house for a few hours.
Your best bet to keep your eating out expenses in check is by going out only a set number of times per month. Say once per week at most (and that includes lunch and dinner!). Limiting yourself like this will help you keep your spendings in line and provide health benefits too.
Because you are only going out once a week, you don’t have to be as careful about the food that you are eating. If you want to have a treat, do it. If not, then don’t. (But, really now, healthy restaurants do exist and they are often more filling and scrumptious than their less healthy counterparts.)
Another side of food expenses that many people don’t consider is drinks. When attempting to keep your bank account in check and your options healthy, things can get a little tricky.
Obviously, your best bet, both health-wise and finance-wise, is to drink water. Water is cheap and readily available in the United States. Better yet, it keeps you hydrated and can actually improve your overall health and even help you lose weight and get into better shape.
Many people that I know claim that tap water is dirty, disgusting and that bottled water is much better for you. Unless you live in an area that is known to have dirty water (if there was an old mining, milling, etc industry in the past), then I’d say that you are fine. Local governments aren’t going to stand to have polluted water going to their citizens.
And, shoot, at $2.50 (or more) per bottle, bottled water is outrageously expensive. It is best to stay away from unless you are traveling. If you are still worried about using your tap, consider buying a filter. You can buy filters that go on the actual faucet itself or in a pitcher.
Of course, there are drinks besides water too. It is best to limit these both for your own health and to save money. Sports drinks, juices, and sodas can all be tasty but they shouldn’t be your go-to drinks. Water should be. The same goes for coffee and tea. It is alright to drink them in moderation.
Finally, we have alcoholic beverages. This is where the money really goes down the drain for some people. Even having a few drinks a handful of nights per week can add up. Especially if you are out at a drinking establishment like a bar.
Your best bet here is to drink at home and only go out for drinks on an occasional basis. Doing this will save you a lot of money in both the short and long term. And when you are drinking at home, limit the amount that you drink. Alcohol contains a lot of calories and isn’t the best thing to be putting into your body on a regular basis.
In addition, it is altogether easier to go overboard with greasy/unhealthy eating when you are drunk or hung-over.
It really is possible to make high-quality food purchases while sticking to a budget plan. It definitely is possible to eat a healthy diet while also saving money.
By following the tips and suggestions discussed above you can do both of these things. You can improve your overall health and save money at the same time. In addition to saving money by buying healthier food, you will also be setting yourself up for even more savings in the future. Poor diets often lead to expensive health problems. Good diets help you avoid these.
Remember that if you are in debt, your leftover savings from spending less on food shouldn’t just go towards any old thing. Rather, you should make sure that they go towards your debt payments, especially those that are late. Getting out of debt as quickly as possible is the key to a healthy and debt-free future.