Eat at Home
I’m not naive enough to think that, with our busy schedules, we can cook every night of the week. However with a little planning ahead, eating most of your meals at home can be easier than you think. Preparing your own meals not only saves money but allows you to control the ingredients that are in your food.
Planning ahead is the key to being successful with any healthy diet plan, as with any sort of investment. If you buy silver bars online – you’re not buying them willy nilly, you do research with exact expected outcome for when you’re planning to sell them. And it’s the same with a proper diet, without a plan, we may fall victim to the “quick supermarket dash” or worse – the drive thru; both of which will cost you more in the end, I recommend getting health tips from the Mayo Clinic for those want to become healthier.
Use these easy steps to plan ahead for one or two weeks of at-home meals:
1. Print out a blank calendar template or use your online calendar. Take note of how many days you absolutely can NOT eat an at-home meal. (NOTE – you do not have to be at home to eat a meal that you prepared yourself – bringing leftovers instead of paying for lunch everyday will save you a ton of money).
2. Choose as many meals as days that you have to fill on your calendar. Deciding on healthy meals for your family has become so much easier with the introduction to sites like Pinterest. You simply pin or repin recipes that you find on the web on your “healthy meals” board. Of course, if you’re like me you will also have lots of recipe books and magazines to search as well.
3. When choosing meals, pick a few recipes with like ingredients so that there will be no waste when using specialized items (ex. Coconut Milk, Turmeric – items you may not use often). Also, plan a few meals that use less meat (like salads or soups) or no meat.
4. Make a list of items that you need to buy along with the increments needed. This will prevent you from overbuying.
5. Fill in your calendar with your planned meals.
Saving at the Store
The best way to save is to buy what’s on sale at a few different stores. I know, I know driving around town doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of fun but if you can schedule one day to hit 2 or 3 stores it will save you more money than you think. Make sure you keep it to only 1-3 to keep fuel costs down.
For those times that you just can’t fit in such a trip, shopping for Organics and natural foods at one store will save you time but may not save the most money.
Visit online sites like Coupons.com to print internet coupons and clip coupons from your Sunday paper. When possible, pair your coupons with sales. Natural food stores like Whole Foods also have their own store coupons.
Shop Local and Seasonal
We are very fortunate to have many great Farmer’s and Produce Markets in and around Baton Rouge. Buying fresh/seasonal produce and dairy items from local farmers not only helps support the local economy but almost always guarantees a lower price than like items at natural food stores. Local items are also fresher and therefore last longer than items that are shipped from across the country or imported from other countries.
When you can’t buy local and seasonal, frozen fruits and veggies are a great substitute. If you have a green thumb, growing your own produce is a an even better option.
Buy Cheap Proteins
Unless you come across a major meat sale, save the steaks and fresh tuna for special occasions. Plan your meals around frozen chicken breasts (Walmart carries a line of hormone-free free range chicken for around $8 for 2.5lbs), canned fish, frozen Tilapia, ground beef, eggs, beans, pork, etc.
Buy Store Brands
Most stores carry a line of their own brand name items. Natural food stores such as Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and Trader Joes each have their own line of dairy, canned goods, grains, broths and more that are very cost effective.
For instance, Whole Foods line of 365 Organic items can be cheaper or around the same price as their conventional counterparts in other stores. Their hormone-free cheeses are the same price as Kraft most of the time – and better for your body AND better tasting.
Buy in Bulk
Some natural food stores, such as Whole Foods, have a large bulk section of grains, beans, spices and more. Because these items are NOT prepacked, you save money. You can buy a pound of brown rice in the bulk section for as little as $1.00 compared to almost twice that price in the packaged section.
Another advantage to buying from the bulk section – buying only the amount that you need.
On a recent trip I purchased 2 Tbsp of Organic Turmeric, 2 Tbsp of Organic Brown Mustard Seeds, 1 Tbsp of Organic Curry Powder and 1/3 cup grated natural coconut (the exact amount that I needed for a few recipes). I paid on average $0.10 for the spices and $0.23 for the coconut. It would have cost me $5-$10 for a whole bottle of each of the spices and $3-$4 for a whole bag of coconut and I may not have ever used it all.
Stock Up On Items You Use The Most
Simply put, when you find a good sale – stock up on the items that your family uses most. I recently found an amazing deal on Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and now I have enough for at least 6 months and only paid a fraction of the price.
Drink Tap Water
Invest in a filtration water pitcher to save on bottled water.
Cook in Larger Batches
Cooking in larger batches than you’re used to will give you healthy meals when you’re on-the-go or for those days that you just don’t feel like cooking. I know we could all use a little more time with the family on weekends. 😉