One of the myths about eating healthier that people believe is that it is actually much more expensive than not to. This often works as an excuse to not eat healthier, because one simply cannot afford it.
The USDA provides a spreadsheet detailing the average cost of food at home on four levels (thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal). According to this data I should have a monthly grocery budget of about $260. I actually set mine to $200. While now in the winter I go to the local Jewel Osco which is somewhat expensive, as soon as the weather gets bette rI will get on my bike and do my grocery shopping at Aldi’s which should keep me easily within this budget.
Here is a list of tips/ strategies I employed to eat healthy while sticking to a budget.
1. Set a realistic budget
Creating a budget can be hard and especially budgeting for expenses that you cannot determine beforehand. However, use your past experience to set a realistic grocery budget and adjust it when you start realizing that it is not sufficient or maybe too much.
In the past when I was studying abroad here in the U.S. my roommate and I spend about $85 per week on groceries. But we bought a lot of snack food. Using this past experience, our diet goals, I determined $50 would be a realistic budget. .
2. Only use cash
What helps me tremendously to stick to my budget is the use of a designated wallet. Using this systems helps me to not overspend which is so easy when you can just use your credit card.
3. Check the Weekly Ads
This point kind of ties into the next one, where you establish a price tracking system. I browse the weekly adds for my grocery stores and see what items are currently on sale. This helps me to determine which items I should buy this week and from which store.
4. Keep track
I am a very organized person (some might even go as far as saying an organization freak) and have basically spreadsheets for everything.
In the beginning I had a spread sheet outlining the prices of my standard items at different stores I would go to. This would help me determine where I can buy something the cheapest and if a sale is really good or not.
5. Strategize before going shopping
Before going grocery shopping you should make a shopping list of items you need to buy for the week, such items include produce, protein and so forth. Based on your list determine the cost of the items at the different grocery stores using the grocery store comparison list and the weekly ads. Once you have determined that you have to decide if it is really worth splitting your main grocery shopping up onto two stores or if the savings aren’t that great.
6. Set a budget for the shopping trip
Once you made your shopping list and determined where you want to buy the item you can calculate the approximate cost of the trip by using the weekly ads and the lists you maintain. While you might not be able to determine the price for every item on your list before going to the store you still get a pretty good idea of how much you will spend at the store. Based on this idea you can set a budget for the particular trip.
7. Stick to your list and calculate
When in the store stick to your list and only buy items on it. Have you smartphone at hand to enter the prices of the items as you go which helps you keep track of the amount especially when you have multiple items where you guesstimated the prices.
8. Only get extras if the budget allows for it
This one is pretty simple: after you have set the budget for your grocery shopping and put all the items from your list in your cart you can see if you still have money left for that trip by referring to your phone’s calculator. If you still have money left it is up to you if you want to spend it for impulse purchases or save it and use it the next week or at some other time.
9. Maintain a log
This last step kind of forms a loop to step 4. After returning from your trip, log the costs into your spreadsheet and update your price trackers.