Although it seems contradictory, you can save money on food and still eat healthy. Fresh foods are often already more expensive than processed foods. With food prices rising while your wages remain stagnant, it may seem more appealing to stuff your face with cheap junk food. However, you can eat healthy on a food budget of only $100 a month with some work and careful planning. Try to plan your healthy menu by using the United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate program, which helps you determine how much of each food item you should eat at each meal.
Plan your meals for the month. Think about food items that you can use for several meals. For instance, if you decide to have fajitas for one meal, prepare to have another meal that will use the other tortilla shells.
Write a shopping list that includes foods for a week. Include whole grains, produce, dairy and proteins on your list. Add staple items that you may be running low on, like butter, eggs or olive oil. Stick to your list and avoid buying impulse items.
Buy fresh produce that is in season to save on money. You may want to check out local farmers stands or markets. If fresh produce is too expensive or what you need isn't in season, buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Large bags of frozen vegetables are usually cheaper, and you can make one or two bags last for the whole month.
Choose store brands when possible. Buying store brands can save you an average of 25 percent off your bill. Store brands are often similar to name brands in quality and taste, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.
Opt for regular whole grains, such as brown rice or oatmeal, instead of instant varieties. These may take a little longer to cook, but they will save you money. Look for day-old bread, bagels or rolls to save even more money. For healthy options, choose multigrain breads.
Use legumes, such as lentils, split peas or black beans, to replace meat in some of your meals. They are cheaper and, in some cases, healthier than meats. For instance, you can make a burrito with black beans or have lentils with rice. You can use equal amounts of legumes for meat. For instance, if you usually use 1/2 pound of ground beef, you can swap it for 1/2 pound of soybeans. When buying meats, go to the meat counter and buy in bulk.
Buy nonfat dried milk for the cheapest option. If you use regular milk, buy a gallon at a time to save money. Check the expiration date so that the milk can last as long as you need it.
Pass up eating out. Like processed foods, eating out is often unhealthy, and it's costly. If you have to eat out, only eat half of your dish and save the other half for the next day. This will help your budget and waistline.
- Compare prices at different stores to help you save money. Look for sales on items you know you need.
- Look in the newspaper or online for coupons to help you save more money.
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.