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I don’t know what it is when you become a first time parent- but fear cups your entire body and it’s almost paralyzing. I took some food and nutrition classes in college that opened my eyes to our entire food system. Before I met my husband who has Type 1 Diabetes I was blinded to what the illness was.
I got a taste of living with diabetes when I had to take insulin shots during both pregnancies. My brother nearly died suffering from a mystery illness that they can now only say some type of colitis. Sometimes you wonder- Am I Taking My Health For Granted?
Food is a huge part of our lives. We consume it every day. During our spending freeze it was the only thing other than bills we were buying. We need it.
So how can we fit healthier options into a budget?
How can we feed our families nutritious food when we are living paycheck to paycheck?
I have a few tips that have worked for us and I believe can help you too.
If you consider yourself a healthy person who lives life on a budget I think you will agree you follow many of the tips below.
If you are someone who wants to eat healthier on a budget consider the following tips:
MAKE A BUDGET
First, you must have a budget. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend money it simply means- You are telling your money where to go.
Without a budget, you will have no idea how much money you have to spend on your groceries. When making a budget you need to figure out all the things you must pay each month- like your bills. Then you go from there. Groceries are usually right after that because it’s something we need weekly. I recommend using one of these budget forms.
SHOP FROM PANTRY
If you are just starting to become aware of your finances and looking at what you are buying at the grocery store you may just have a good amount of food in your pantry. You can make dinners with just noodles and tomatoes. You can make dinners with cans of tuna and beans. Stop and really look at what you have and
Stop and really look at what you have and search online for recipes using those ingredients. A simple meal made at home not only saves your hard earned cash- but it saves your waistline as well. Many meals we consume at restaurants are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Come up with all the recipes you can using items from your pantry.
Of course, this is on my list and pretty much every money saving list I have. Why? Because this truly is just the key to being able to feed your family healthier food for less. Unless you are going out to these 5-star restaurants where everything they use is organic or fresh you are getting frozen food served to you for more than double the cost.
Not to say you can’t enjoy a night off from cooking but when finances are tight and your health is a concern, this is a must. Use your recipes from items in your pantry to get started on your menu for the week. Take 10-20 minutes one day a week to write all the dinners you are going to make. If you struggle to come up with 7 dinners allow yourself one night out.
Do your best to really get creative and come up with at least 4 meals to prepare. When the week is over and you stayed within your budget- the feeling of accomplishment will fill you up to get you to do it again the following week.
USE YOUR COUPON MATCHUP LIST
You can scroll these lists for items that fit a healthier lifestyle. For example, you don’t have to buy the pre-made frozen dinners (although they are cheaper still than going out to eat).
Use the lists to add in what you need after you have shopped from your pantry. Do you need a protein this week? Check to see which store has the best price. Do you need eggs? Make sure the items you need you are using the matchups list to see who has it cheaper.
ONLY BUY MEAT ON SALE
The meat in your weekly dinners can be a budget breaker. You must shop the sales and compare prices for the best deal. I have done a few price comparisons on meat and found in our area BJ’s is the cheapest. If you are not a BJ’s shopper Aldi was second and Tops ties in second when they have sales. Make your menu based on the meat that is on sale.
MAKE A LIST
Once you have all your meals figured out and the protein you are going to buy on sale. Write it down! You must shop with a list to stick to your budget. You must have a budget otherwise, all these steps will serve no purpose.
You can’t spend $200 on groceries even if you did a whole week’s worth of meal planning but you only have $100 to spend. Only write on your list the items that you need. This will probably be a meat on sale unless you hit a great sale where you can buy extra meat to store in the freezer, produce, and some dairy products. A list keeps you focused. When you start it may be helpful to cross off items as you go.
CHECK LIST FOR PROCESSED FOOD
After you have made your list take a second look to see if you have processed food on there. If you do- don’t get upset that is ok. When it comes to a lifestyle change baby steps are key. Just take one processed food off your list. Maybe you have frozen pizza on there.
It is actually really simple to make your own pizza dough. Did you know the dough only has these ingredients in it? Water, Oil, Sugar, Flour, Yeast, Salt? When you find the processed food you want to remove from your list- ask yourself ” How Could I Create a Healthier version?”
Pizza, was our first processed food we cut out. Go slow. I would try to cut the same processed food out for at least one whole month before you eliminate another one. You do not want to get overwhelmed or discouraged. If it takes you more than 3 months to continue to just cut out one processed food that is ok. Master eliminating one then move onto another one.
DON’T SHOP FROM HABIT
How many times do you hit the grocery store just kind of having an idea of what you want? Or you add the same items every week because well, it’s been a habit. Wake yourself up and stop to think- Why am I buying this? It doesn’t just go for our purchasing of clothing or home decor.
Many times it is harder to question our food choices because we view food as a need. It’s food- we’ll eat it, so why not? But challenge yourself and truly ask Why?
I have to limit the amount of cereal we have in the house. It’s the one processed food we cut back on but not out. Yet when I buy more than 5 boxes at a time- it’s all everyone including me wants to snack on. So I have to challenge myself when I know there are sales- Why?
If I know the week before we ate tons of cereal I will try to cut back the next week. Or if I buy cereal I will choose ones that are more nutritious. If you are couponing you know we can get our sugary cereal for a $1 or less pretty often so the challenge is certainly there to cut back.
STOP BUYING PRE-MADE FROZEN DINNERS
If you are in the habit of hitting the frozen food section and grabbing the very convenient pre-made dinners turn the package around and look at the ingredient list. We all know processed foods are NOT the best nutrition for our bodies.
The general rule is 11 or more ingredients pass on by. But I want you to look at what is in there. Of course, there are preservatives you don’t add when you make it at home but if you break it down and just take a minute to look you will realize that you could make that dinner at home for less.
How many frozen entrees does it take to feed your family? You can easily make a Bertolli Skillet meal with a box of noodles a chicken breast, some peppers and add your own seasonings all for less than a $1 per serving. The catch with those entrees are the serving sizes are small.
CUT OUT JUICE AND SODA
So many times we grab a soda for the kids to take for lunch or for the way home from work- but if you just take a minute to look at the ingredients you will see there are on average 30 g. of sugar in ONE Can. Folks- that is just too much sugar to be consuming on a daily basis.
Try flavoring your water if it doesn’t have appeal. You could even add in some cane sugar to sweeten it up a touch to help you adjust to drinking water. When you want to cut back your grocery budget juice and soda can be the first to go. Why? You can have a beverage for FREE- water!
Juice is trickier because you have such a wide variety that some are better than others. Look at the sugar content in your juice as well. If you hit a great sale on a juice that has too much sugar per serving water it down. The kids won’t notice if you don’t make a big deal about it.
SHOP AT A FARMER’S MARKET
Buying your produce in season is the key to big savings. You will save money even at the grocery store when you are buying produce in season, but if you shop at the Farmer’s market you will save even more! My favorite thing to do at the Farmer’s market is getting there early and grab the second pickings. These are marked down sometimes as much as 50% less than the others. For a list of Farmer’s markets in our area go here.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
I became crazy with our first daughter in what I was feeding her. It’s like the whole world was new to me. It doesn’t help that we google anytime we have a question. You have to find your balance and you have to give yourself grace.
As moms, we have a lot on our shoulders. If the kids are all at sports practice one evening and you ended up working late and you forgot to pull out some meat to thaw- do what you have to do in that moment to feed your family.
Learn from it and move on. It will not do anyone any good to sit and dwell on the dinner you served your family. Don’t think you have to buy everything organic. Just because it’s not organic doesn’t mean it’s not nutritious.
HAVE A NEW MINDSET
It seems we set ourselves up for either misery or joy each day by the mindset we have toward the things in our life. Mindsets are patterns in which our mind normally operates toward a certain determination.
You may be looking at your schedule today or even for the week and see there is far too much to do. But if we choose the mindset that God will help us through it, we will enjoy watching how it all comes together.
Decide today to not dread what must be done. Start each day with an attitude of gratitude. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy this new challenge. Get ready to be on a brighter path to financial freedom.