One of the hardest parts of eating healthy for me and my family is budget. Some people don’t really know what is like to be low income, but my family does. We spent the last 6 months living on a take home pay of under $1000 a month. I don’t say this for any other reason than to say–I understand how hard eating healthy can be when you are poor.
I am happy to say that other streams of income are coming in the last couple of months, and I pray that continues, but health issues, job losses, etc… can really make a grocery budget non-existent.
I do want to point out that we are more blessed than some, as we have very little debt, including a house that is paid for, so I know there are many out there who have it much harder.
When I know I need to eat healthy in order to control my autoimmune responses, but I have a hard time affording the food I need. If I eat food that is bad for me, my autoimmune response will keep me from being able to work and increase our families income–well you get the point. It is a vicious cycle that I believe many deal with everyday. I’ve had those weeks where I barely had enough to buy ramen noodles, let alone something healthy.
For me, the answer to healthy eating is more of a formula.
- Where to shop
- Accepting that I won’t always get what I want
I started bullet journaling for my shopping lists and menus. I plan out meals for 30 days–3 meals a day. This includes planning for left-overs. It is so nice to have something ready to reheat for breakfast or lunch anyway, so DO plan to make an extra serving or two for left overs, and when you shop STICK TO THE LIST!
When I plan, I start by thinking if there is something new I want to try or something I don’t have all that often and add those in first. Then I figure how many other meals I need to make and fill that in with my “go-to” meals. For us, we will always eat: tacos on lettuce wraps or on salad with homemade taco seasoning; a variety of chicken stir fry; curry; pepper steak; Spanish style cauliflower rice; clean bacon (Alee likes it for breakfast–not so much my thing); homemade tomato soup; salmon or tuna; and whatever hot-dish (whatever veggies or meat on hand tossed together).
Plan around what is on sale and if that means you need to plan bi-weekly rather than monthly, do that. For instance, if chicken is really cheap, I will make more stir-fry. Tuna Steaks (frozen wild caught) were cheap this month so I got a couple packages–I would pass if it was not on sale.
YOU MUST PREP! Preparation helps to ensure you don’t waste food (and you aren’t stuck with nothing to eat when you are really hungry). When you are on a super tight budget, food waste simply is not an option. One example is that if I have roasted chicken one night, I will be making a chicken and veggie soup with the left over chicken in the next day or two (you can make your own bone broth too! YUM). Veggie cuttings work great to flavor broths–or if you garden you can compost any cuttings to help your crop! One big prep I do is cook up 5 or 6 pounds of hamburger at a time, make taco meat and freeze it in small batches. This makes for a quick meal on days we are in a hurry. Heat it up and toss in on some salad, or other veggies. It also means that I don’t waste any leftover meat because it is frozen in small, easy to manage batches. No matter what works for you, just be sure to prep so you don’t waste time or groceries!
Where to shop–this is big for me. Locally, groceries are so expensive! I actually travel over an hour to Aldi to get affordable groceries each month. If you have a discount food store that carries quality groceries, GO THERE! Even having to travel once a month, the money I save there is massive. For things that are hard to find, I shop at Thrive Market online (this is a referral link*, whether you use it or not, I would recommend that you check them out). Thrive Market has a lot of things I use to cook healthily at a much lower cost than I can get them anywhere else. For instance, I use a LOT of coconut aminos since we do a lot of stir fry. I save about $3.00 a bottle from Thrive over anywhere else, plus they offer percent off discounts pretty regularly.
There is a membership required with Thrive, but if you shop there regularly, you will save more than that rather quickly. Your membership with Thrive Market will also pay for a free membership for a low income family to help them save money on healthy items. (If you need a free membership–google Thrive Gives and fill out an application). I am currently reaping the benefits of a free membership, but I will gladly become a paying member as our situation improves.
Lastly, accept that your healthy eating may not always mean you get to eat what you want. You might have to eat a lot of eggs, hamburger, and turkey burger if you are not vegan (and I honestly am not familiar enough with vegan diets to say give an example here)–but you can get creative (also, if you watch–grocery stores often mark roasts and steaks down for quick sale at cheaper prices than hamburger). You won’t starve, and after those pesky cravings are gone, you will find that simple tastes better and you eat more for sustenance than for “what sounds good”. Also, you won’t be able to eat all organic, grass-fed, cage-free everything. Simply make an effort to eat as healthy as you can within your budget.
I wish you luck in your quest to eat healthy. I hope that it does for you what it is doing for me. I feel better, have more energy and my autoimmune responses that have kept me unable to function several days a month are fewer and fewer. I am able to get back to living, and it feels so good.
*This post contains a referral link to Thrive Market. I would not recommend them if I did not love them. If you chose to become a Thrive Market member and use my link, I get a store credit and you get a coupon for a percentage off. If you want to check the out and don’t feel comfortable using a referral, I understand. Simply Google Thrive Market. They offer a 30 day free trial so you can see if you can save money on some healthy staple options. Affiliate links on this site go to Alee’s college fund, but referrals like this one will simply be applied to our families grocery shopping budget.