This post is part of our 21 Days to a Better Budget Series! To view all the posts in our series, please click here.
It’s no secret that my family prefers clean eating, but how does this affect our all-cash grocery budget?
Two years ago, after I started following the blog 100 Days of Real Food (I highly recommend Lisa’s book of the same name for some amazing recipes and inspiration! ) I decided that I couldn’t willingly feed my family over half of what was in our pantry and fridge.
This all happened within days after my husband stayed up late watching the documentary Food Matters that we made the crazy (okay, crazy to this former coupon Queen and frugal living enthusiast) decision to throw away almost every piece of food in our home.
No joke. We really did that.
But I didn’t feel as horrible about it as I thought I would. I knew it would take some adjusting to and at the time, there was very little help in figuring out this whole clean eating thing. This was part of the reason behind my decision to start using Erin Chase’s FreezEasy Clean Eating freezer meal plans to help take some of the stress of figuring out what to cook for dinner off my plate.
How to Make Choosing “Cleaner” Food Options Easier
I’ll be honest, your grocery budget may at first take a hit when you switch to a more clean diet because you won’t be using nearly the same amount of coupons but with time, you can get your grocery budget back to normal (and maybe even lower than before!).
I’m a huge fan of Aldi and they make eating fresh produce and organic a lot easier on our family’s grocery budget. Aldi definitely has some quirks to it, which is why I think so many people are opposed to shopping there, but if you’re on a tight budget and want to make the switch to eating clean, I highly recommend you start at Aldi.
I use a few shopping apps that help us earn cash back on the produce we buy. My two favorites are Checkout 51 and Ibotta – Ibotta being my favorite. Also, if you have a Kroger or one of its affiliates near you, make sure you download their app as you can upload coupons to your Plus Card making it easier to shop there.
Stick to the Basics
We purchase mostly the same stuff every week – whole wheat tortillas, all-natural peanut butter, noodles (still working on convincing myself that whole wheat noodles taste better….), real butter, whole milk, frozen veggies and fruits, sour cream, and snacks for my boys like yogurt, cheese, grapes, and minimally processed “junk” food like graham crackers.
Sticking to items that I’ve already researched and label-read every week, helps me to be able to stick to our grocery budget and avoid going over.
By far, the best investment that I have made for my kitchen to date is my bread machine . This bad boy cost me $70 but I use it almost every day. We no longer purchase store bought bread and instead make all our bread by hand.
These are a few of the recipes for the breads that we make:
Another thing that we now make homemade is sauces. We make our spaghetti/lasagna sauce from scratch (just peppers, ground beef, tomato sauce, tomatoes, dried herbs, and garlic), salsa from scratch, all those “cream of ________ soups” from scratch, and cheese sauce for our macaroni and cheese (the recipe is found here with our Homestyle Mac-n-Cheese post).
One of the biggest struggles that you will more than likely face when you start eating clean is that the food isn’t really prepared for you. Like snacks – you want to snack on that block of cheese you bought with the apples but that requires you to cut up the apples and cut up the block of cheese.
It’s easier to just grab the junk food than to prepare the healthy option when you’re hungry. So, right after you get home from the grocery store, cut up the block of cheese in snack size portions, cut up strawberries and other fruits and veggies, throw the chicken in the slow cooker and then shred it so you can have shredded chicken ready to go for a salad or wrap for lunch.
Make it easier on yourself by preparing your snack options as soon as you get home. This will also make packing your kids’ lunches easier and helps them to reach for healthier snack options as well.
Do you ever buy the “bad” stuff?
Yes. We’re not perfect and there are definitely times when we purchase foods that we know for a fact are really bad for us. Sometimes I feel pretty guilty over it, but I keep reminding myself that by making the habit of purchasing better food options a priority, avoiding the processed junk is a whole lot easier.
This isn’t a fool-proof system but this is what has worked to keep our cash grocery budget low. Buy in season, freeze what you can (like fruits and veggies), make things from scratch, and prepare your food as soon as you get home from the store.
What is your tip for making clean eating easier on your grocery budget?
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