The Lifestyle Digs

Balancing Healthy Eating when Money is Tight

Something that I and many others struggle with daily is balancing healthy eating when money is tight.

It’s a common theme with many of my posts, especially when so many people deal with food insecurity. This is reality for many people who struggle to cope with low income or no income.

Where’s the money going to come from to buy groceries?

HAS HEALTHY EATING INCREASED YOUR GROCERY BILL?

A single person only has to worry about finding healthy foods that they can afford and that they’ll like to eat.

A parent has a house full of people with different tastes to try to keep happy and healthy!

Eating healthy doesn’t mean buying high priced foods and organic produce. For sure that will add extra dollars to the grocery bill!

There are many ways to eat healthy on a low income. I’ve shared many tips on this blog how I do it. I managed to lose weight and maintain the weight loss, finding ways to eat healthy and not spend a lot of money on groceries.

THE VEGETARIAN COWGIRL’S GROCERY BILL

A new feature in 2021 for The Lifestyle Digs is the Vegetarian Cowgirl’s grocery bills.

Each month I tally up what I’m buying. It helps keep me accountable that I’m not pigging out on junk food!

Overall I’m surprised at how often I’m shopping. I really thought I’d cut back going inside public places since the pandemic, but I’m shopping 7 or 8 times a month. Not necessarily in big chain grocery stores. I also buy food in drug stores, dollar stores, and independent food sellers like farm fresh eggs and honey from the Honeybee Centre.

My grocery bill seems to be running in the $150 to $200 a month range.

See how the Vegetarian Cowgirl’s grocery bill journey began on January 2021.

BIG GROCERY CHAINS AREN’T ALWAYS THE BEST PRICES

A lot of shoppers seem to be stuck on the idea that Walmart and other big chain grocery stores have the lowest prices. But – it doesn’t hurt to shop around.

Stores that primarily sell produce and small ethnic grocery stores might surprise you with what they’re selling at low prices. I buy organic cinnamon from India in a jar that’s twice the size and half the price of what I can buy at Walmart! I’m not necessarily going out of my way looking for organic cinnamon. I’m all about the price, and I’m willing to try a lesser known brand.

If you’ve been checking out my monthly grocery bills, you’ll notice I shop frequently at a produce store named Fruiticana to help keep the grocery bill down. I also like shopping at the Langley Farm Market, but it’s further away from my house.

Fruiticana sells the same bag of Popeye brand spinach that all the other stores sell, but for a dollar cheaper. Same thing with a bag of Jolly Green Giant baby carrots, about a buck cheaper. A bag of each will give me salad for a week. They also often have 10 pound bags of potatoes on sale, and sometimes tomatoes, grapes, and other produce is on sale.

I also buy dried beans and seasonings at this store. Their regular prices are cheaper than grocery stores.

Click the photo below for suggestions on where to buy cheap groceries.

Best Places to buy Cheap Groceries

CREATE MEALS AROUND YOUR STAPLE ITEMS

You might have noticed the Vegetarian Cowgirl buys a lot of the same shelf staple items.

I have a short grocery list right now but it includes bananas, yogurt, frozen peas, green tea bags, and peanut butter.

I buy a lot of frozen vegetables and fruits. As a single, buying frozen is a big money saver and eliminates wasting food. I can’t always eat fresh produce before it turns bad.

Other things I keep in the house are plant based milk, oatmeal, and baking ingredients like flour, chocolate chips, sugar, and nuts. There’s usually pasta in the house, though I rarely eat it. I always have several types of dried beans and sometimes buy canned beans. In my fridge, I usually keep jars of pickles and sometimes canned seafood. Frozen salmon and shrimp are in my freezer if I found them on sale.

My diet is heavy in fruits and vegetables, either cooked or in salads. I work in other foods around them.

BUY GROCERIES ON SALE

I’m a pescatarian, though I generally follow a plant based diet. Just like meat, seafood is getting expensive, and I can’t afford it. But I watch for it to go on sale. If I see frozen shrimp, salmon, or another fish on sale, I’ll probably buy it. Same deal with cans of tuna. If it’s on sale, I’ll buy. If not, I’ll walk past it.

There are many fruits that I like, but I’ll only buy when they’re on sale. I’m looking at you grapes! Maybe mangoes and watermelon too.

Do I really need portobello mushrooms for that recipe I want to try? Or will regular or canned mushrooms be OK? I don’t need to cook up some fancy dancy dish with expensive ingredients.

For foods that are on sale with a long shelf life, it’s a good plan to stock up.

I love saving money and getting a deal on groceries, and if I can afford it, I’ll buy multiple quantities if I see something on sale that I regularly buy.

It’s not always about the sale prices. Often it’s more about avoiding impulse buys on groceries that aren’t healthy. I work real hard to avoid walking down the aisles where I’ll find candy, cookies, and potato chips.

CONVENIENCE AND PACKAGED FOODS

When it comes to balancing healthy eating when money is tight, there are two good reasons I rarely buy anything in the bakery section of the grocery store.

Calories and price are why I don’t shop in the bakery! I’m quite capable of baking my own treats and controlling the ingredients. My freezer usually has muffins, granola bars, and my chocolate peanut butter crunchies! I usually have to plan in advance if I want something that’s frozen. Less impulsive eating.

I don’t usually buy packaged foods like a box of macaroni and cheese. Though I’ll buy the macaroni and cheese separately and bake it from scratch. Same thing with frozen dinners. I rarely buy them, though if I spot a frozen meal on sale, I might be tempted. Sometimes they’re nice to have on hand in the freezer.

Yeah, we all have those days where we don’t feel like cooking.

SPECIALTY SECTIONS

The deli and meat section of the grocery store are never on my shopping trips. You can probably figure that one out! “Vegetarian” Cowgirl is a big hint!

Specialty foods aisle is another place I don’t spend a lot of time.

I’m talking expensive stuff like caviar!

However, a lot of international foods are in this aisle and they might be cheaper than their North American counterparts in the regular grocery aisles, so it’s worth a cruise down the aisle. In particular, I find coconut oil cheaper in the international foods aisle than in the condiments aisle.

British Columbia grocery stores are now allowed to sell wine. I know, big shocker to you people in the states. American grocery stores and drug stores have been selling alcohol as far back as I remember. I used to stop in at Long’s or Walgreen’s and pick up a bottle to bring home to my parents whenever I traveled south. Only wine sales in some, not all, B.C. grocery stores. No beer or other liquor. I don’t drink, so I’m not tempted to wander down the wine aisle.

WHERE DO YOU SHOP FOR GROCERIES?

If you live almost anywhere else in the world besides Canada and America, your grocery shopping trips would probably take you to several different stores, instead of one large supermarket.

Right now with the pandemic, it’s not recommended to shop at multiple stores. Heading to the Walmart Superstore or the Real Canadian Superstore for one-stop shopping is so much more convenient. Especially if you need to buy clothes, cosmetics, school supplies, or garden tools at the same time.

Smaller stores like produce shops who also stock ethnic groceries, and places like Aldi or No Frills are good choices. They just sell food items and limited hours of operation help keep their costs down. You also have to bag your own groceries.

You do the work and you save money.

BALANCING EATING HEALTHY WHEN MONEY IS TIGHT

Bottom line is you can cook up low cost healthy meals on a low income. Spice things up with different seasonings and toppings to make that healthy low cost food taste even better!

Not too long ago someone asked Hungry Girl for help jazzing up the breakfast oatmeal. See Hungry Girl’s 18 Easy Healthy Oatmeal Add Ins. Caramel dip? Chocolate chips? Yum!

A combination of fresh, canned, frozen, and packaged items in your pantry can help you pull off low cost, healthy meals.

When it comes to nutritional bang for your buck, I found this video on YouTube kind of interesting. If you can buy a dozen donuts for the same price as half a dozen apples, which one is the better deal? Which one is the healthier food choice?

How are you doing with grocery shopping? Follow my lead on the aisles to avoid in the grocery store and the aisles to shop at and you, too, will be saving money and eating healthier!

Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on April 29, 2021.

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MORE READING:

For more ideas on balancing healthy eating when money is tight, click the pictures below for advice, tips, and a shopping list of low cost grocery items you should keep in the house. This is how I live my life shopping for low cost, healthy groceries, cooking, and avoiding food wastage.

14 Tips to eat Healthy on a Budget
Eat Cheap and Healthy on a Budget
13 Tips to Save Money by Reducing Food Wastage

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