I’ve talked about the myth before. You know the one about how eating healthy is expensive? Blah, I get so frustrated about this myth and how it just won’t go away! This is one of the excuses I hear way too often, and we need to keep working until it’s gone. Maybe it’s one that you have believed, too?
The biggest, best way to eat healthy on a budget is to cook from scratch at home. When you cook from scratch at home you can control both the cost of your ingredients and the quality, and adjust both to fit your budget.
To cook at home effectively, you need to have a plan. That’s why I recommend a service like Real Plans. It’s a simple way to quickly put together a healthy meal plan and shopping list. Life is so busy, use this to make it super simple and save both time and money!
Years ago when Marquis and I were just sparkly-eyed newlyweds who didn’t realize we didn’t know anything about life, we did meal planning a little differently. I was a terrible, terrible cook, so neither of us wanted me in the kitchen. Marquis has always been a wonderful cook, so each day on his way home from work he would stop at the grocery store to see what looked good and what he felt like cooking. He would grab a few things and head home, to the tune of $10-$25 per day, sometimes more if we also needed toothpaste or milk. A little bit of math will tell you that that is just nuts, way too much money to spend on just two adults and sometimes a little girl! Spending this way was simply not sustainable, so it didn’t last long. After that, we switched to weekly filling the cart with breakfast cereal and frozen pizza, with a little bit of chicken or ground beef thrown in for good measure. It was a bit cheaper, but definitely not healthier. This is what went on for years in our house, all because I too was caught in the trap of thinking that eating healthy meant breaking the budget.
Here are a few ways meal planning saves you money:
- Fewer trips to the store: I don’t know about you, but I just can’t seem to get out of the grocery store without picking up at least one extra item. The stores are designed this way on purpose; they put the essentials like milk at the back of the store, so you have to walk past all the possible impulse purchases to get what you need. The more often you go to the store, the more often you are picking up those extras, and it can really add up! We try to go once a week. We do a bigger shopping trip the first week (right after payday), and then a smaller one the next week to pick up milk and more produce.
- Eat out/order in less: It makes me laugh when people tell me they just can’t afford to eat healthy food, and then as we start to talk about what they have been eating, I find out they have been hitting a fast food drive through every night. For our family of four, a trip through the drive-through would cost about $20-$30 per night. If I am cooking at home, I can make two or three meals with that same $30, maybe even four if we got really creative and did a meatless meal one of those nights.
- Less waste: If you have a plan for everything you buy, you can make sure that it gets used. If you just buy what looks good in the moment, it is more likely to be forgotten in the back of the fridge, only to be discovered when it is covered in something green and fuzzy. I hate wasting food!
- Lower health care costs: Ok, so this is a long run kind of thing, but stick with me. Cooking at home is a lot healthier than eating out or eating processed packaged food. Healthier food means a healthier you, which means fewer visits to the doctor, which means you aren’t paying as much for copays, medications, insurance, and procedures. I know when you only have a few dollars to feed your family, at that moment you are only worried about how to keep bellies full and not about if you might have to pay for diabetes care 10 years down the road. I’ve been there, I know! But the fact is that healthier eating saves you tons of money in the long run on medical expenses.
Have you ever tried a service like Real Plans? What has your experience been? And what is your normal meal planning process?
Make sure to sign up for the free trial, it’s a great way to see just how much money meal planning can save you!