How to fill your pantry with healthy foods on a budget

One of the biggest reasons people often say they struggle to eat healthy is because it is too expensive. They say it doesn't fit into their budget and it is cheaper to buy unhealthy food. While it's true, that if you buy all organic produce, everything imported and out of season and want to have heaps of variety all the time, it may indeed be pretty expensive. But if you stick to items that are on sale, in season and don't go overboard with how much you buy, you will likely find it costs the same, if not cheaper to stock your pantry and fridge with healthy foods. The next time you go to the grocery store, set a budget and use these tips to get healthy food within your means.
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  • Shop the bargain shelf

  • Often grocery stores will have a shelf where they put discounted items such as produce that is bruised, items that are about to expire or products that are no longer going to be stocked. Have a look at this when you go shopping and you may be surprised what you find! Often the produce is still in great shape minus a few bruises or blemishes, which you can cut off, and the items that are near expiry are great to get as long as you use them up quickly. It is also a great chance to try something new that you may not buy otherwise because it is more expensive or because you are unsure of how to use it in your cooking. If it is on the markdown shelf, challenge yourself to figure out how to use it and take advantage of the bargain at the same time!
  • Stick to what's on sale

  • Check the sales flyers every week and see what is on sale and then plan your meals and shopping accordingly. If you have access to more than one grocery store, view the flyers for each one and shop at the store that seems to have better sales that week, or more items on sale that you are likely to use. If need be, and if it is an option for you, split your shopping and go to both stores, purchasing according to the sales for each one. Just be careful not to overspend at either so that the total of what you spend doesn't end up being more than what you would if you shopped at one alone!
  • Plan ahead

  • Each week, before you go shopping for groceries, sit down and plan out what you are going to have for meals that week. Use the sales flyer to plan your meals around what is on sale and then make a complete list based on your ingredients. Doing this ensures you don't buy excess food at the grocery store that is likely to go to waste, and it also helps to ensure that you have everything you need when it comes time to cook and you can't make any excuses as to why you can't cook dinner tonight.
  • Avoid premade foods and make your own instead

  • One of the biggest money sucks is buying things that are premade, prepackaged, or packaged for convenience. Things like individually packaged dinners, individually packaged protein and smoothie packs, or premade products that you could just make yourself. One of the best ways to stay on budget while eating healthy, is to simply buy ingredients. Buy all your veggies and fruit whole, not the ones that the store precuts for you, and buy your oats and grains as an ingredient, not the ones that are combined in the package with other things like chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried fruit etc. You can make those cereals at home cheaper and in a far larger quantity by just buying your own ingredients and combining them together.
  • Don't be afraid to buy no-name products

  • Many products are the same regardless of whether they are the brand name or no name selection. For example things like food wraps, foil and food storage bags aren't that different whether they are the expensive brand or not. Certain staples like baking powder, flour, oats and dried fruits, you may also find to be no different regardless of the brand. Experiment yourself with purchasing both the name brand and no name brand of products and see if you notice a difference and if it is worth it to buy the more expensive option in the future.
  • Buy only what you need or commit to buying in bulk

  • You can either shop on a week to week basis, buying small quantifies of items that you know you will use up by the end of the week, or shop less frequently and buy things in larger quantities. The upfront cost will obviously be greater for the latter option, but you won't shop as often so it will likely work out to be the same. The caveat is that buying in bulk means you have to be okay to eat those same foods for quite a period of time, versus buying in smaller quantifies where things are gone within a few days and you can have some new food options to try. Do whichever one suits your lifestyle best, or whichever one you find you are able to save more!
  • Shop local and in season when possible

  • Often the local, in-season fruits and vegetables will be cheaper, especially if you are able to get them at your local farmers market. Depending on where you live and what your seasons are like, this may not be possible in terms of availability or access to local fruits and vegetables. Also, sometimes local foods aren't necessarily that much cheaper and you may have to make a choice as to whether it is better to buy local or simply shop at the grocery store. Regardless check out your local market and see what you find!
  • Cut down on waste

  • One of the best things you can do to reduce how much you spend is to increase how much you use. We are used to throwing out an item if it is slightly bruised, or throwing out parts of fruit and veggies that we think are just the scraps. Start making better use of the whole food and aim for minimal to no waste. For example, if you buy a bag of carrots, some celery and cucumber, you can use them for eating raw, to make a juice and the first two as the basis of a pureed soup. When you make the juice you can use the pulp for homemade crackers or a quickbread, and when you make your soup, you can make a stock using the carrots and celery as the base, and them add them back in the soup before you puree it. Get creative with your food and figure out how you can waste less so you can save more!

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