8 ways to cut your costs without compromising your get-lean diet
Grocery shopping shouldn’t give us buyer’s remorse. A hard working body needs clean fare, but it can do without the sticker shock that often accompanies “organic,” “grass-fed,” “superfood,” and the other buzzwords emblazoned on a growing number of everyday products.
Thankfully, there are ways to shop for groceries without taking out a second mortgage on your home. These eight tips will help cut costs as you work toward those universal yet often-conflicting goals: a lean physique and a fat wallet.
Yes, we know: What a drag. However, if you don’t know how much you can spend, you’re bound to exceed your limits. To build a budget, work backward: Start with your total take-home pay. Subtract your standing expenses … the roof over your head, your electricity and internet, your car payment, and any other bills that come every month — as well as an amount toward savings, since everyone should pay themselves too and not just their creditors.
At this point, you are hopefully still well within positive territory. You’ll divide what’s left into your remaining expenses, one of which is groceries. That’s the budget you’ll need to work within to stock your kitchen.
2. Plan and stick to the list
“Oftentimes, we over-purchase and bulk up on ingredients we already have, wasting money,” says John Rowley, Director of Wellness for the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Instead, he suggests mapping out your weekly menu with a basic meal plan then, examining your pantry and fridge to determine what you have on hand as you make a list of things you need. When you get to the store, don’t let the savvy retail marketers have their way with your willpower: only purchase what is on the list.
3. Buy in bulk
Let’s face it. There are certain things that you eat a lot of…ahem, chicken breast. For items like these, look to the jumbo pack, as the price per pound is usually less. Other things to consider buying in large quantities are staples such as brown rice, oatmeal, olive oil, sweet potatoes and beans.
Use weekends or days off to prep your healthy meals in large quantities, then section them into smaller meals and freeze everything you’re not eating that day. (These Lékué’s Fresh Bags will store everything.) “Preparing healthy meals ahead of time will guarantee you always have a healthy meal on hand, without having to cook each night,” Rowley says. “Creating in bulk also allows you to buy in bulk and grocery shop once, so you will save money.”
Carefully portioning out your meals ahead of time will insure that you aren’t eating too much and reducing the dietary coverage you expect from your shopping trip. To do this, gauge your meal amounts either with a scale (like this one) or measuring cups.
6. Avoid eating out
“Home meal prep ensures that you’re only eating clean, fresh meals — and restaurants can get expensive,” Rowley says. “Pack a bagged lunch and avoid grabbing dinner out during the week. It will cut costs and make sure you stick to your healthy eating plan.” You can tote your food in something like this.
7. Rethink your idea of refreshment
Beverages are a billion-dollar industry because these sugar-laden body bombs are enticing. “I’m thirsty — hey, here’s something tasty I can drink now.” Instead, drink water. You can carry either plain water with a bottle like this, or infuse your water with a dash of fresh fruit using this one.
8. Comparison shop
Newsflash: your nearest grocery store may not offer the best deals on your food. Look at flyers, shop at different stores (and online), install a deals app like “Grocery IQ” and “SavingStar” on your smartphone, sign up for your store’s saver clubs (no matter how much you hate those annoying key fobs), and save your receipts over time so you can take a couple of hours one lazy afternoon to compare and contrast where the best prices are for all your regular essentials. You may find that it is cheaper to get your meat at Trader Joe’s, your vegetables at the local green grocer, and staples at the big box store. Notate those observations and use that knowledge wisely when it’s time to restock.
By Carey Rossi