I am just going to get straight to the point on this one. I know I am not the only person that has heard someone say it is ‘too expensive’ to eat clean! I understand the reasoning for this thought process, I really do. So many ‘clean’ and ‘organic’ supermarkets have price tags that are far out of reach for the majority of us. But even with those high market tags, the notion that it’s ‘too expensive to eat clean’ is just plain silly! If you just know the right tools and tricks, you can eat clean on a budget- even on a tight one!
I’ll just go ahead and be totally open here, although we normally don’t share exact numbers in our finances. My husband and I spend exactly $80 a week on groceries. We spend no more, and we spend no less. And that food also feeds our baby who now eats solids at every meal with us. Within that $80 budget, we eat as clean as we possibly can. And that $80 budget gives us three meals every single day, as well as our extras (coffee, almond flour for baking, dark chocolate).
Some of you may be thinking “there’s no way that’s possible.” Others may already be there! If you already eat clean on a budget, we want to hear your tricks, too!
In an effort to help my friends and family learn how to manage a clean diet on a small budget, I put together a list of some of my strategies to hopefully make it a bit more simple for you!
First of all, before you can eat clean on a budget, you need to know what clean eating really is! I feel like there is this idea that in order to eat clean you have to be buying maca powder and chia seeds and collagen peptides all the time. I promise… you don’t. Take some time to debunk the myths and learn what clean eating is. That alone will help you! You can read more about clean eating here! If you want a more detailed article, this one is great! Or, you can check out this free clean eating checklist!
Okay, so now that we addressed that, here are my tips for eating clean on a budget
We create a meal plan every single week and then we create a shopping list from that plan. As we create our shopping list, we always go through our pantry to make sure we aren’t buying something we already have. For example, if we already have a jar of brown rice, we don’t need to buy more just because rice is on our meal plan. We only buy exactly what we need. Having a list also helps us stay on track at the grocery store. Our rule is that if it’s not on the list, we don’t buy it unless we get to the end of our list and we are under budget. At that point we can get something fun if we want! Also, when you plan ahead, it gives you time to look for sales. Find the ads for all of your favorite stores and see what organic items are on sale. Then plan your meals around those items! This works especially well for meats!
Plan Meals With Overlapping Ingredients!
On the subject of planning, we always plan meals with overlapping ingredients! Believe it or not, this really helps! If we are having black bean chili, we will plan a second meal with black beans, such as sweet potato black bean tacos. Getting multiple uses out of one ingredient cuts back on the cost big time. We do the same thing with meat. We usually choose two meats a week, and base our meals around those meats. If we choose chicken and ground turkey, we then choose meals that use those ingredients but are different enough that we don’t get bored!
While we are planning, we intentionally plan dishes that are intended for multiple meals. For example, every Monday I make a dish that we will eat again for dinner on Tuesday. Usually I make this meal something like a soup or stew or casserole- basically something that goes a long way. This really helps because, again, less ingredients!
For all you meat lovers, don’t run away! We love meat, too! We simply like to have at least two nights a week where we get our protein elsewhere! Whether it’s breakfast for dinner, black bean soup, or a delicious chana masala, we find ways to have meatless meals! The reality is that meat is already expensive, but even more so when eating free range/organic/grass fed! Even two nights a week without meat makes a drastic difference in the budget!
Buy In Season Produce!
It’s just a no brainer that buying organic fruits and vegetables that are in season is less expensive that buying produce that is imported from somewhere else in the world during off season. Oh, and not only is it better for your budget, it is also better for your health to eat produce that is in season!
Buy In Bulk!
For items that you will be using often, it is sometimes easier to buy in bulk. Some examples of this in our home are whole rolled oats, brown rice, almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and almond butter. We always buy these things in bulk at Costco because the price difference is absurd! We save a ton doing it this way! If you are wondering how we make that work in our weekly budget, here’s what we do: We basically buy our bulk items at the beginning of the month. If the bulk total comes to $40, we subtract that from the monthly total of $320, then divide the remaining $280 by four, and we get $70 a week. So it’s as if we spent $10 a week on those things!
Know Where You Can Compromise!
If you truly don’t feel like you can buy all organic at once, know what is most important! There are some fruits and vegetables that you definitely want to make a priority over others. I have outlined it all in this free clean eating checklist! If you have to pick and choose, just pick and choose wisely! The better you get at eating clean on a budget, the easier it will be to add more and more organic items to your list!
And there you have it! Those are my best tips and tricks! If you don’t already have the clean eating checklist, it truly does help! Not only does it take the guesswork out of clean eating, it also serves as a great master shopping list for stocking your pantry and a great reference for meal planning!