You wouldn’t throw away a $20 bill into your trash or your garbage disposal, so why are you throwing away produce? It may be tempting to pass on fresh ingredients for cheaper, processed foods. But, you can make healthy and affordable choices by spending just a little bit of time. Here are three things you should do to help you save money on groceries while still enjoying fresh, healthy ingredients.
First, take our advice and stop treating grocery shopping as a long set of impulse buys. If you go without a plan, you’ll end up with junk food and indulgent quick eats. If you’re serious about eating healthy and using fresh ingredients, you need to know what you’re going to the store for.
Planning your recipes not only helps you create your grocery list. It also helps you consciously plan how often you’re willing to cook and how much time you need to dedicate to it. If you want a hands-on meal, great. If you’re looking for something you can set and forget, that’s fine too. Just make sure you’re being honest with yourself so you’re not buying food you don’t need or buying food you won’t end up using.
Know When You’ll Cook
I bet we’ve all optimistically bought a bunch of bananas in an attempt to kickstart our days with a healthy breakfast. Then, after a few days of forgetting to eat them, we told ourselves we’d just make it into banana bread or something. And then, uh oh, a few more days later and those mushy bananas are getting thrown away because, well, it’s “only some bananas” right?
This is why knowing when you’ll cook (or eat) is so important. If you’re doing the work of finding recipes and buying ingredients, make sure you follow through and actually cook or eat what you buy. Healthy, fresh produce has expiration dates. Some fruits and vegetables can last weeks in the fridge (like lemons, oranges and carrots), while other food is best eaten within a week of purchase (like cucumbers, lettuce and strawberries). Protein however, has a shorter shelf life. Fresh poultry should be eaten within 1 to 2 days, while ground or fresh beef or pork can be eaten within 3 to 5 days.
You can save money on groceries by buying what you need when you’ll need it. If you buy too far ahead, or even too much, you’ll end up with wasted food and wasted money.
Buy What You Need and Use It
Now, you have your list and you know when you’re going to cook. It’s important that you stick to your list when you walk into that grocery store. It can be tempting to take advantage of a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” sale or buy extra snacks “just in case you’re hungry,” but these kinds of impulse buys can lead to blowing your budget.
Once you have everything you need, hold yourself accountable to cooking. Fresh ingredients are rich with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. That’s why you’re buying them. If you ever find yourself with a little bit extra, you can also find a way to stretch your dollar by repurposing leftover ingredients. A great example is by using leftover produce for meat or vegetable stocks that you can use in other dishes.
Buying healthy, fresh ingredients can play a huge role in helping live a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to save money on groceries while eating well. If you can take the time to plan, only buy what you need, and use everything you bought, you’ll find that a healthy lifestyle can be quite affordable.