How I Balance Healthy Eating with Frugal Living

I've recently started making changes to the way we eat.   After reading 100 Days of Real Food for the past several months, I realized that I wanted our family to have a healthier diet, but when I think of eating healthier I immediately associate it with a larger grocery bill.

I've asked myself many times if it really is possible to combine healthy eating with our frugal lifestyle. Do I have to sacrifice one at the expense of the other?

My answer is definitely not!  Here are a few ideas that have helped me balance healthy eating with our frugal lifestyle:

1.  One of the most important ways to keep the grocery bill from getting out of control is to have a budget and stick with it.  This is so, so important.  Before heading to the grocery store, I know how much I can afford to spend in order to make wise decisions about what to purchase (or not).

2.  A helpful way to keep spending within a budget is by leaving the debit card at home and taking cash to the grocery store.  I put the cash in an envelope and that is what I can spend on groceries for the whole week.  This sometimes takes extra time and planning, but is a great way to have accountability when it comes to grocery spending. 

3.  Once I knew how much I could spend each week I set priorities.  I knew that I couldn't afford to completely follow a real food diet, but I could make changes to our diet based on what I felt was most important while taking our budget into account.  For instance, I decided that it was very important that we eat real butter instead of margarine, but paying an extra $1 per gallon for milk that is labeled "no growth hormones" wasn't as much of a priority right now.  Fruits and vegetables are much healthier snacks than crackers; I buy more fruits and vegetables and only buy crackers when it fits into my budget.

4.  Instead of trying to make many changes all at once, I have made just a few small changes each month.  I have found that it is easy to make small changes as we use things up and replace them with healthier alternatives.  I have replaced bleached flour with unbleached, regular baking powder with aluminum free, regular ketchup for HFCS-free ketchup, etc.

5.  Instead of making elaborate dishes with many ingredients, I keep our meals very simple.  Many meals can be made throughout the week from one whole chicken that I buy when it is on sale.  Roasted chicken with veggies and potato or rice, chicken noodle soup (with homemade chicken broth) and chicken pot pie are a few of the simple chicken meals that are healthy and frugal.  Another way I am able to save is to eat pasta at least once a week.

6.  There are several things that can be made that are both healthy and frugal!  I have started making my own chicken and turkey broth. Oatmeal and granola cereal are much healthier and more frugal than buying cereal. Bread, yogurt, crackers, seasoning mixes, and sauces are just a few of the many foods that can be made inexpensively, but are also much healthier than buying them in the store.

Changing to a healthier diet (and especially a real food diet) can be very overwhelming.  Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned is to change my attitude.  Instead of focusing on all the things I can't do and getting discouraged, I focus on what I can do.  It also helps to remember what I am always telling my children, "just do your best!"

What is your favorite frugal meal?  Do you have any tips for healthy eating on a budget?

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Christina Morley said...

It's wonderful to know that one family at a time can begin to change mind-sets about food. Thanks for sharing! It's healthier and cheaper to cook at home instead of eating fast food, so you save there too. Also, buy seasonal fruits and veggies and have a vegetarian dinner once in a while to save more. Visiting from Mom's Library.

Tina - American mom raising 4 kids in South Africa

Vanessa M. said...

I am still learning about eating healthier, but it feels good to make even small changes and do the best I can for my family. Buying fruits and veggies in season is a great tip! Thanks for your comment.

Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook said...

This is great advice! Another way to save is to eat less meat so that when you do buy meat, you can buy the healthier kinds.

One of my favorite really frugal meals is Honey Baked Lentils which are made from very affordable ingredients that are shelf-stable so you can buy in bulk and keep them in stock. It takes an hour to bake, but the actual prep time is very short (and easy!) so it's a great "emergency back-up" main dish. Bake sweet potatoes or squash alongside it for a complete meal.

Vanessa M. said...

Becca - yes, eating less meat is definitely a good way to save at the grocery store. We are working on eating less meat even though my hubby likes meat and would prefer to have it at every meal.

Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'll have to give it a try sometime.

KC said...

These are great ideas. Frugal living goes hand in hand with healthy eating in my own humble opinion. The more you lean towards keeping your body fit and healthy means saving also. I especially like the "have a budget and stick with it". This is so true. Plus, it would also help if you don't bring your children along.

Vanessa M. said...

KC - Bringing my children to the grocery store has caused me to give in at times and buy them something that I didn't intend to buy, but more often than not, it has been a good opportunity to teach my children that they can't always have everything they want.