I’ve been thinking a lot about 2020 and all of the things I want this year to be. One thing Sam and I have decided is that this is the year we want to make a serious dent in our debt and start to experience a taste of financial freedom.
One of the things that makes it feel REALLY hard to do this is our food budget!
I’m sure you can relate if you have chronic health issues. Food is medicine and you don’t want to compromise on the food you’re buying just to save some cash.
But — when Sam and I realized we were spending $800 – $1,000 a month on food… we knew that was WAY too much for the two of us. So, we decided we’d try to go down to $600 a month on groceries and we’d have a $50 budget for eating out on the nights I was just too fatigued to cook (or we wanted to do a date night).
With the help of these tips, we have been pretty successful at staying in our budget over the last 6 months!
Our new goal is $400 a month – and we’re going to keep working on these tips to get there.
Here are 10 ways we’re still following a healing diet on a budget (and how you can too).
1. Track Your Spending and Make a Budget
When Sam and I first got married, we just grabbed food and supplements off of the grocery shelf without looking twice at it. I justified it as food being part of my healthcare. I needed food that was organic because I was extremely sensitive to everything it seemed like!
Putting your health first isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to at least track what you’re currently spending.
If you try to jump from a grocery budget of $1,000 to $400 a month – it’s going to be a drastic change and you’ll likely be so discouraged with it, you’ll give up.
Track your spending and figure out what a realistic goal is for you. Sam and I made a goal to jump from spending $800 to $600 a month. This was really do-able for us because it wasn’t huge and we used some of these other tips to make the jump. Now that we’re pretty used to spending $600 a month, we can begin to experiment with how we can drop to $400 a month.
Here’s the app we use to budget everything.
2. You Don’t HAVE to Eat Organic
Yes, pesticides are bad. They can have ill-adversed effects on our health, but eating a non-organic potato is a heck of a lot better than eating an organic box of Mac n Cheese.
It is easy to let enthusiastic medical professionals convince you that if you eat non-organic foods, you’re going to die or develop some sort of terminal illness, but the reality is that non-organic food is cheaper. In a perfect world, we’d be able to eat all organic foods, but just making the switch from less processed foods to healthier foods that grow on trees or in the ground is a HUGE step towards wellness!
It’s not all or nothing either. You can pick and choose what you’d like to get organic!
I am pretty strict about my meats having to be organic. I won’t buy non-organic meat ever because of the antibiotic and hormone content found in them.
You can also take a look at the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen and go by this when shopping for produce.
These are lists of foods that are more laced with pesticides than others. I have a free printable and download of this here if you want to use it while you’re grocery shopping.
3. Go to Multiple Stores
Have you ever noticed that almond butter is $6 at one store and $12 at another?
There is not one store that has the cheapest EVERYTHING. Something will always be lower priced somewhere else. Trust me – I have tried them all. When you’re grocery shopping, you’re paying for the convenience of shopping at one store or location.
If you’re physically capable of it, shopping at two grocery stores is a big way to save on your food budget. You can make the most of getting cheaper things at each place.
My favorite stores to shop at are Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
We buy the bulk of our groceries from Trader Joe’s as it is so budget-friendly, but I will also grab a few select items that are unavailable at Trader Joe’s (i.e. salad dressing, organic grapes, etc.)
4. Use a Calculator in the Store
(I’m a Southerner now, lol.)
This is the most effective method to stop you from buying things you don’t need.
Every time you put something in your cart, you will add how much that item costs in your calculator and round up to the dollar or half-dollar.
I know it sounds tedious and it is, but this will SERIOUSLY make you think twice before you just throw stuff in your cart because it’s gluten-free. Just try it. When your first grocery bill is WAY under budget, you’ll thank me.
5. Meal Plan Beforehand
Some weeks I’ve gone to the grocery store with no meal plan in hand (because meal planning for a healing diet is so exhausting to me personally).
It is SO hard to stay in your budget when you don’t know what you’re buying before you get there. It’s probably crowded – especially if you’re at Trader Joe’s – and you don’t want to be there for hours.
I started meal planning on Pinterest and it’s been a great place to get new ideas for gut healing recipes. I have an idea board just for my meals here if you’d like to get started with some AIP and paleo ideas.
I’ll make my grocery list on Google Keep and write down what we’re having for the week on a meal planning notepad or just on my notes app on my phone!
6. Utilize Frozen Fruits + Veggies
Fresh food is great, but unwasted food is even better!
Frozen fruits and veggies are SUCH a great way to add some nutritional density to your meals AND you a great way to not waste any food! You can build up your frozen veggies and spend less on groceries over time. It’s also a nice treat when you forget you had something and you can add it to really make a meal better or when you’re too fatigued to wash and cut everything yourself.
7. Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast hits different at night. It feels like such a treat…
…..and it’s WAY cheaper! Eggs, sausages, veggies, banana pancakes (gluten-free of course), smoothies, or a breakfast hash are relatively inexpensive and an affordable way to get a meal in without it being a big plate of protein and carbs.
Try adding a breakfast meal 1-2x a week on your weekly meal plan to keep your grocery budget down.
8. Skip Out on the “Extras”
When you go from eating a Standard American Diet to cutting out higher inflammatory foods or going on an elimination diet, it is REALLY exciting to go to a health food store.
All of a sudden, you can find your favorite foods that were made allergy-friendly.
There’s allergy-friendly pizza, bread, chocolates, and chips galore!
While I’m all for treating yourself, a lot of these “extras” can be what really eats up your grocery budget. Instead of $5 gluten-free chips… can you snack on $2 carrots instead? Or how about a $2.99 spaghetti squash instead of an $8 gluten-free pasta?
See where I’m going?
When you’re trying to stick to a budget, keep these items as “treats”, not something you HAVE to get every week. This will cut a huge chunk of your grocery budget down!
9. Research, Research, Research
Each “niche” has their own guru when it comes to recipes and how to budget for that particular diet.
Use things like Facebook groups, YouTube, and Google to search for others who are eating a similar diet as you and learn from them!
One of my favorite allergy-friendly, healthy YouTube creators who makes a TON of videos about eating healthy on a budget is Bobby Parish. He’s got so many budget meal prep videos and even did one at Aldi with a $125 monthly grocery budget. If the thought of meal planning food you can eat for a lower cost is daunting to you, watch his videos to get started! You’ll probably find some other good creators along the way.
10. Make 2 Meals with 1 (Meal Prep)
Adding a little extra protein or veggies to a meal is a great way to double or triple it.
Do what you can to create leftovers for the week (or meal prep so you have the same meal for lunches and different ones for dinner). You run into expenses when you try to have a different meal every single night of the week.
When you’re meal planning, make sure to review what’s in your fridge and use what you have!
BONUS TIP: Use the Drop App
I’m not a huge fan of clipping coupons or having to scan my receipt every time I grocery shop (to each his own), but I LOVE this app called Drop to save money because it links to your debit or credit card, so you don’t have to do a thing!
You grocery shop, like you normally would, and you get points back to spend on whatever your heart desires (they have a Whole Foods gift card so you can just put that back into your grocery budget).