Guest post by the Frugal Foodies
Life is full of frivolous spending.
Shoes, shows, lattes, happy hours are all fun things to drop a few dollars on. But life will continue on if you don’t get a midday coffee or that really cute jacket you saw. But eating healthy one a budget isn’t frivolous.
Because you know what you can’t live without? Food.
Food is a necessary expense, and we have to have it to perform, dance, lift, walk, breath, and, well, survive. You’re a savvy dancer who lifts, so you already know how important fueling your body is. This means you probably know how quickly money can go when you prioritize making healthy, smart food choices.
While food may be your most important expense, it doesn’t have to be your biggest.
I’m here to help!
Here are 5 tips for eating healthy on a budget…and getting hot in the process.
Cool it on Eating out
Eating out is THE number one wallet drainer when it comes to food expenses. Realistically, you’ll get the guac to share, an entrée, and that second round of drinks. Next thing you know, $50 of hard-earned money is being swiped away. That’s almost an entire week’s worth of groceries!
With that being said, I love eating out – it’s all about making smart choices. Here are some tips to help keep the bill down when you’re eating healthy on a budget:
Pick between eating or drinking, but not both.
Suggest meeting for a happy hour and plan on eating beforehand. Or, try out that cool new restaurant and share some wine in your apartment first.
You’ll save at least $15 and you’ll be less likely to over indulge. What a great way to reach your health and budget goals!
Get a happy drink and share an entrée.
Amber and I are avid sharers and, more often than not, we both leave feeling full because restaurant portion sizes can be ridiculously large. Plus, it can stop you from overeating when the voice saying “I’m full!!!!” can’t be heard over the music and fun ambiance.
Do your research and scope out the prices ahead of time.
Or just check out thefrugalfoodies.com … we have started a series called 30 under 30, which features dinners for two in NYC for under $30 before tax and tip!
Make eating out a special thing that you can look forward to.
I love researching restaurants, marking the calendar, putting on nice clothes, and having an experience, not just food.
Each month, I’d rather have one epic $80 night than 2-3 forgettable meals that I could have cooked at home. If you want some personalized recommendations, send your girl an email!
Order Groceries Online
I’ll start by saying, I’m a rare soul who loves grocery shopping. In fact, one of my side hustles a couple years ago was being a professional grocery shopper with Instacart.
Despite my love of wandering the aisles and obsession with Trader Joes, I am also outrageously frugal and have realized the best way to keep the food bill low is getting my groceries delivered.
It not only saves time and the hassle of lugging bags through the streets of New York, but it also helps you make better choices when trying to eat healthy on a budget.
Perk One: You can avoid running out of food
Coming home to an empty fridge after an exhausting day of work will inevitably lead to blowing $15 on Seamless for food that you could have whipped up for $3.50. Seemingly harmless $15 food orders once a week can add up to $720 a year.
By getting your groceries delivered, you don’t have the excuse of not having time to make it to the store. What’s more, your cart isn’t limited to what you’re able to carry home. You can get those extra bags of frozen veggies and cartons of eggs to ensure your fridge is stocked, and wallet stays full.
Perk Two: You aren’t tempted to make impulse buys
I do it. You do it. We all do. The grocery store “treat”. I, personally, am a sucker for hot sauce with a cool label, new flavored oreos, and cereals with trigger word packaging making it look like eating a bowl is basically like eating a salad.
I also get roped into any sort of sale or BOGO promotion, and the next thing I know I have 10 boxes of veggie pasta, cheese sticks, and a candle.
Impulse buying not only impacts your health goals, but it quickly adds up and can boost your bill by $10 a trip – which is $480 a year. Not ideal for eating healthy on a budget.
Ordering online helps fight this diet and wallet buster, and you won’t end up with those “why did I get this again?” items.
Perk Three: It is easier to stick to your budget and health goals
Buying your weekly groceries in one fell swoop is the easiest way to stick to the budget.
When I go to the grocery store, I never can find/remember/carry everything I need for the week, and I inevitably have to go a couple times. Not only is there lost opportunity cost for what I could be doing with my time, but I also succumb to impulse buying, resulting in spending more on food than originally planned.
Buying groceries online is also the easiest, most efficient way to fill your home with foods you need so you can crush your health goals. Assess what you need to fuel your week (Check out this DWL macro calculator). Then, make your online cart without the frozen pizza calling your name as you walk down the aisle and BAM, all the yummy nutrients you need for the week will arrive at your doorstep.
Tip for my fellow grocery store lovers:
If I pass by a Trader Joes, I’ll stop in to get cheap staples such as eggs, spinach, coffee, spices, and frozen brussel sprouts.
I can get my grocery store fix while making smart budget choices. Then, if I happen to see a delicious looking item for under $5 (still obsessed with the cauliflower gnocchi), I treat myself!
Life is short, and $5 is still less than eating out or ordering in.
Services to use:
Amazon Prime offers grocery delivery with no fees, and many grocery stores and apps offer promotions and deals that make the service affordable.
Invest in some good Tupperware
A good, trusty Tupperware set is a food and wallet life saver when eating healthy on a budget.
Not only can you pack meals to avoid spending money out, but you can also extend the life of your leftovers at home.
When deciding on what type of Tupperware to get, be sure to check if it is microwave and freezer safe, and take into consideration storage and stack-ability.
While there are some amazing deals on 20-set pieces at TJ Maxx and Home Goods, the 5 itty bitty “snack sized” ones will end up just raining down on you every time you open the cupboard. Focus on a few quality pieces that are practical sizes for food storage and on the go meals.
Now that you have your groceries and solid Tupperware, put it all to use and do some meal prepping.
Opting to eat lunch out a mere twice a week will conservatively knock you back $20. That’s $1,040 a year!
And don’t worry about having to eat the same thing every day. You don’t have to individually prep 7 days’ worth of food.
Simply cooking chicken, hardboiled eggs, sautéed veggies, and other staples gives you mix and match components that are easy to throw together in a pinch.
**I love cooking big pots of soup and large oven bakes to portion off and stick in the freezer for quick easy diners in upcoming weeks that I know may be busier.**
Always have a snack in your bag
New York has some awesome food. This can be deadly to your commitment to eating healthy on a budget if you have an unexpected snack attack.
When you’re hungry, in a rush (and most likely stressed) it’s hard to pass by the delicious smelling pizza, giant cookies, and other tempting treats. But these will only provide a short-lived energy and dopamine boost.
A spontaneous bagel is an unnecessary $5 expense that won’t actually sustain you. Plus, you’re likely to scarf it down before that “I’m full!!!” voice has a chance to speak up.
Dropping $10 a week on little snacks to get you through the day seems like pennies at the time, but that adds up to $520 a year.
You can fight the snack attacks by always having a protein bar, piece of fruit, or other snack of choice in your bag to put the hunger monster at bay until you get home for a full meal.
It’s also handy to have in the event of getting held up by a stopped train, extra time at work, or callback.
Final Thoughts ……..
The moral of the story is that spending money on food adds up, but it doesn’t have to!
Following these food buying tips can easily save you $2,760 a year, and you’ll hardly notice a difference.
Trust me, in a year you aren’t going to remember that bowl of ramen you ordered from Seamless, but your wallet will.
In addition to saving money, you’re also setting yourself up for success to make good nutritional choices and crush your DWL goals!
It’s a win win!
Comments, questions, concerns?
Katie Askegaard is a Virginia born, New York residing dancer, travel enthusiast, gym addict, foodie, and lover of discounts and deals. Since graduating from George Mason University with a BFA in dance and BS in economics, Katie has performed at Hershey Park, onboard Holland America Line cruise ships, at events in the tri-state area, and most recently she was part of the Christmas Wonderland 2019 National Tour. In her free time, Katie hunts down the best food at the lowest prices with the help of her boyfriend, Jeremy, and you can follow their food findings at thefrugalfoodies.com
IG / DM: @the.frugal.foodies