Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

One of the questions I am most frequently asked regarding eating clean and meal planning is "How do you do it on a budget?"  It does take some planning but it is absolutely doable.  We are a family of five, our kids are 7, 4 and 2,  and believe me, they eat a lot.  I stick to a $100/week max budget and what I have leftover we put away for splurges or Costco trips. Below are some tips and tricks to help you stay clean, stay healthy, and stay budget-friendly each week!

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Building your Pantry:

The key to making a list and sticking to it is having a menu to follow.  I usually do my meal planning on Sunday mornings and make my list off of that.  We like variety here and there but we're content with sticking to similar foods, staples, and go-to recipes that we make ourselves.  Rarely do I not make something from scratch and honestly can't remember the last time we've had take out.  It's far cheaper to make a clean meal at home (and less distressing on your waistline) than to spend 3-4 meals worth of groceries on one "easy and cheap" meal out.

That being said, you can always double a recipe and freeze it for an easy meal to pop in the oven or throw into the crockpot when you know it's going to be a busy day.

The key here is having some good pantry staples that you can build off of.  An ideal meal for us has protein (chicken/ground turkey/elk/deer- my husband hunts, or some kind of beans/lentils) carbs, and veggies.  Snacks are as fresh as they come and we try to keep only healthy food in the house.  If you keep good food in your fridge and pantry, then you'll eat good food!  We avoid processed foods as much as we can.  If you eliminate buying chips and dips and cookies and other various snacks you'll save easily $20-30 each week.  I usually can go every other week without buying everything below and I watch for sales and if so then I stock up.

Pantry/Fridge Staples:
Instant brown rice  (so much easier/quicker to make)        
Whole grain pasta
Lentils- packed with protein and super yummy
Quinoa (I like to cook a big batch on Sunday and use throughout the week)
Whole grain wraps/sandwich thins
Quick oats (easy breakfast and for homemade cookie bites/granola bars)
Rice cakes
Peanut butter
Apples/Apple sauce pouches for baking and for the kids snacks
Carrot/celery sticks and hummus
Sweet potatoes
Lowfat greek/vanilla yogurt
Mini Peppers
Canned beans (garbanzo, kidney, black, northern)
Frozen veggies (whatever is on sale)
Frozen chicken/ground turkey/ground chicken 

Creating a Menu:
Think about foods you enjoy.  What can't you live without? I love fajitas or chicken and rice bowls.  I try to make a batch weekly. Taco bar Tuesday? Homemade pizza on Sunday's?  Find some favorites and rotate them through.  I do use Pinterest for some recipe ideas but I also like to take popular meals and "clean" them up and sub in healthier ingredients.  I do try to add in a new recipe every week or every other week to see how my kids and husband like it and for some variety too.  (Check out my clean eating recipes tab for more of my favorites.)
So- plan to make a meal at least 4 nights out of the week so then you have leftovers for lunch the following day or for dinner the following night if you're short on time.  A lot of things can be dumped into a crock pot if you're at work all day.  One of my favorites:  4 frozen chicken breasts, various veggies (celery, carrots, peas, onion, garlic) a cup of chicken broth, and when you get home, add some instant rice and a little plain greek yogurt to make it creamy!
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Staple menu items:

Spaghetti squash spaghetti with ground turkey and marinara
Turkey meatballs
Baked chicken with roasted veggies
Chicken fajita lettuce wraps
Turkey tacos
Sandwich thin mini pizzas
Salads with various toppings
Stuffed sweet potatoes
Elk (or turkey/burger) chili
Baked fish with rice and veggies
Turkey burgers, baked sweet potato fries, salad
Egg and veggie omlettes/quiche
Lentil Tacos/soup
Rosted veggies/potatoes

Making a List: 

Once I build my menu then I can create my list.  I know what I'm going to make for the week so then I go get it.  If I have rice and beans already in the pantry, there's no need to buy extra unless they're on sale in which I will.  I also pay close attention to the sales at the stores and when certain meats are on sale I stock up there too.  Some weeks I'll buy 4 lbs of ground turkey and freeze it all until I'm ready to use it, especially if it's on sale.  Once you get to the store, try to stick to the outer aisles.  That's where the healthiest options are.  Your fresh produce, meats, dairy, are all around the outer edge, when you start to wander into the middle aisles is where you get yourself into trouble!  As a mom, I understand that children are picky.  It has taken us nearly a year but now our 3 year old eats chicken- not in the nugget form!  Small victories!  And I've gone from making various things for everyone each night to making one meal and now they know that's what we're having and they'll eat it if they're hungry!  Believe me, I didn't imagine that beef and butternut squash stew would be a favorite between my kids but they love when it's on the menu and eat every last bite!  It does take time to switch over to clean, healthy, and non-processed foods, but it's completely worth it and absolutely capable to do on a budget.  Please comment below if you have any questions and feel free to share if there's anyone you know who may benefit!  Thank you and happy meal prepping!

As a clean eater and nutrition and wellness coach, I run monthly accountability groups to help you learn more about eating clean, incorporating healthy living and fitness into your life.  I am a busy working at home mom to 3 girls, a nurse, nursing student, and enjoy working with other women/moms to help you create that balance of health and wellness in your home too.  If you're interested in joining my next accountability group please complete the following application below or message me on Facebook!

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