I am a college student. I am also passionate about grocery shopping. As in my boyfriend won’t go to the grocery store with me anymore because I just like to stand around and look at everything and read all the ingredient labels on things I’m not even interested in buying passionate. I mean, it’s not surprising. I love food, cooking, health–that’s probably become clear to you if you’ve ever read anything on this blog–and grocery shopping is the origin of allllll that good stuff. It’s inspiring to buy new ingredients, to mix things up, to try new brands, to find new things, it’s all the best.
BUT, there’s a catch. I refer you back to the first sentence of this post. I am a college student. As you can imagine, money isn’t exactly…plentiful. Nor is time. So I’ve gotta say, while I don’t consider myself an expert in just about anything, I’d say I may just be an expert in this. I have learned the ins-and-outs of maintaining a Paleo-based, whole foods diet on a tight budget and am here to say that YES, buying healthy groceries on a tight budget is both possible and practical.
Obviously some of the cheapest things in the store are the highly processed “bleck” foods: ramen, cereal, frozen pizzas, all those college classics. I’m not here to tell you they aren’t cheaper. But you know what else isn’t cheap? Ridiculous medical bills fifty years from now. Just throwin’ that out there. But even with those options out there, that does not mean that there aren’t ways to get incredibly nutritious real food for a similar price point! I’d even dare to say that my grocery bills are often less than my friends who buy lots of cheap processed foods, because I’ve learned where to look and how to shop and now I get to share those tips with you! Without further ado:
1. Search Out Your Store
Not all grocery stores are created equal. I repeat, grocery stores vary immensely in prices for the same items! Go search out all the grocery stores in your area and find the one that offers you options you care about for the best price. What that means for me is doing most of my shopping at a place called Aldi (if you have one, GO TO IT) and almost never shopping at places like Whole Foods (though I surely wish I could). That’s right folks, Whole Foods is not the only place to buy healthy, organic, responsibly-grown groceries even though it can be awesome. There will be a store out there for you–and don’t hesitate to search for smaller, independent stores as well! International grocers and markets often sell things you’d be buying already for much lower prices. So put on your explorer hat for a bit and go find the best deal!
2. Shop Seasonally
This is a biggy I only fully realized this past year: produce that is in season is always cheaper. Because the supply is so high, it can be sold for lower prices, and that’s cause for celebration! Strawberries in the summer, squash in the fall, kale in the winter, all that good stuff. Seeing as I’m still learning what’s in season at what time of year, I do a quick google search each season change to see what kinda stuff I’m looking at for the next couple of months. Even if you don’t know off the top of your head when you go to the store, most grocers have seasonal items together or labelled as such. Enjoy the savings & the extra quality boost you get from eating foods grown in their ideal season!
3. Choose When to Buy Organic Wisely
I would love to someday buy everything organic, but that’s simply not possible right now. It’s just more expensive, and sometimes it doesn’t fit the budget. That’s life. What we can do though is shop smart when it comes to what is most important to buy organic: that’s where the dirty dozen comes in! The “dirty dozen” is a list of twelve foods most contaminated by pesticides and all the yuck that comes with nonorganic farming, and therefore is a list of foods considered top priority to buy organically grown. You can find a full list online just about anywhere, but think of it this way: fruits & veggies where the skin is thin & consumed are generally on that list (i.e. berries, sweet peppers, apples). Produce a little less affected by pesticides are fruits & veggies with a thick protective skin that isn’t consumed, like bananas, avocados and oranges. Personally, I also consider things like eggs and meats crucial to buy organically when possible both for quality and for more ethical treatment of animals.
4. Shop the Sales & Buy Cheaper Cuts
If there is a sale on a certain vegetable or meat, I go all in. Stock up if you can! Obviously that’s a little easier with meat since you can freeze it, but I’ve embraced the reality of eating a lot of the same vegetables for a week when it saves me money. Buying cheaper cuts of meat is also a great way to go, and those tend to be bone-in, skin-on type of stuff or–dare I say it–organ meats! That’s a bridge I’m still trying to cross myself. They’re crazy nutritious and so cheap, but it can be scary to attempt at first. I’ve got a package of chicken livers sitting in my fridge waiting to be experimented with…but that’s a story for a different day. Shop sales like there’s no tomorrow!
5. Ditch the Snacks
If you’re on a real tight budget, just ditch the idea of buying the packaged healthy snack food. It can be stupid expensive and is certainly not healthier for you than good ole fashioned real food with no ingredient list. I’d also stray away from any hopes of doing a lot of Paleo baking, because things like nut flours and other ingredients can be very expensive. However, I do indulge in buying some snack foods now and again, and that brings me onto my next point…
6. Buy Online (in Bulk!)
Amazon is a beautiful thing. There are obviously other options when it comes to online stores, but Amazon is my personal favorite. I order all of my bulk pantry goods and snack foods online because it is always cheaper. And seriously, buy in bulk! Buy in bulk buy in bulk buy in bulk! You’ll go through those two pounds of chia seeds eventually–at least I always do–and it’ll be a major money saver in the long run. Plus, you can ensure you’re getting a good product (reviews are awesome) and you can find a ton of organic, raw options that you may not find in stores. Double plus, you don’t even have to put on pants. Tell me this isn’t the best way to go. Tell me.
That’s all I’ve got for now! I hope these tips helped you, and please share your own tips for saving money grocery shopping down below or tell me which of these tips was most helpful!
Hope your next grocery trip is pretty miraculous.
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