My husband LOOOOVES the dollar menu. He has it memorized at every fast-food-grease-ball-drive-thru in town. And I HATE that he loves it! Yes...it's cheap. But COME ON...are you really saving that much money by ordering THREE spicy-chicken-fried-in-oil-and-soaked-in-mayonnaise sandwiches? Gross! Cheap or not, I want my husband around for the long haul. He's helping me learn what it means to live on a budget, so I'm helping him learn that living on a budget can still mean being healthy. Here are some of my tips!
- Set time aside to PLAN. I have saved SO MUCH money just by making a grocery list, and a bi-weekly menu. My trips to the store are much more productive, and I come home with food that I know I'll be using, and when I'll be using it.
- Stock up on foods that are easy to cook with, easy on the wallet, and good for you! Examples: beans and lentils (canned or dried), brown rice, whole-wheat pasta. Cheap, versatile, and healthy.
- Buy frozen produce. It's just as nutritious as fresh, and may actually be more nutritious than those found in the produce section. These fruits and veggies are processed at peak ripeness, blanched (which causes minimal loss of soluble vitamins), then flash-frozen within hours of being picked. "Fresh" produce, however, is picked before reaching full ripeness. Exposure to oxygen, heat, and light, results in the loss of important vitamins. I'm a fan of frozen vegetables, but especially love adding frozen fruit to, well, everything...pancakes, breads, muffins, oatmeal, and smoothies!
- Plan ahead and prepare healthy snacks! If I'm thinking ahead, I'll make a batch of healthy muffins for my kids to snack on. Or I'll cut up celery, and spread peanut butter on it. Or I'll have yogurt and homemade granola on hand. Avoid processed snacks whenever possible (and short-cut meals...homemade is usually cheaper...and ALWAYS better!) If you must eat cookies (and I know it really is a MUST on occasion), make your own! I actually add garbanzo beans to chocolate chip cookies, and feel great giving them to my kids. You can't taste them...try it! I dare you!
- Make meals based on the deals! I've never been a good ad-shopper. This site has helped me save money, AND cook healthy meals based on what's on sale!
- Build up your food storage. When something's on sale, stock up! That way you always have what you need, and you never spend more money on your everyday items! My food storage wheat helped me make it through the month without going over my budget!
- If you need to eat out, find the deals. (And not just dollar-menu deals...yuck!) I come from a family that LOVES eating out. But eating out often is not easy on the wallet! My husband, however, is great at saving coupons. Restaurants are also suffering in this economy, so they're actually offering some pretty screaming deals right now. My DH keeps a "coupon folder." When we're thinking of eating out, we look through the deals, and usually make our decision based on that.
- Grow your own! If you have any tips for planting a garden, let me know (guest post?) I failed miserably last year, but would really love to succeed!
- Don't go to the store more than once a week! Every time I go to the store, I think of more things that I "need." If I don't go, I don't miss the things I don't really need.
- Have fun! Living on a budget is surprisingly liberating. I feel great stepping up to the check-out counter, knowing I've planned for everything in the cart, knowing I'm getting the best deals I can, knowing my family will be eating nutritiously, and knowing I have the cash in my wallet.
What are your tips for sticking to a budget, while still being healthy?