How to Eat Healthy with Little Money
There are many reasons why I believe that cooking your own meals in bulk can radically enhance your quality of your life.
That may sound like a bold statement, but when you cook your own meals from scratch you are eating potentially fewer processed foods. That means less chemicals, preservatives, added sugars and other modified ingredients.
Besides saving so much time not having to cook every single meal, one of the best reasons for cooking in bulk is that you can eat healthy on a budget.
I know this is true from my own experience.
For the last couple of years I haven’t had a lot of extra money. I’m grateful for the fact that I have the knowledge and ability to cook well. I went to cooking school for a year when I was 20, but I don’t care for making fancy meals. I don’t care about cooking five course dinners. I don’t like making a meal that takes 2 to 3 hours to prepare. Who has time for that?
Not that I can’t or won’t take the time to make a special meal – just this weekend I found a delicious recipe from Food and Drink magazine published by the LCBO. It was a Greek pasta dish called Pastitsio, which required three distinct steps to put everything together and an hour of cooking time in the oven. The Pastitsio took a lot of time to prepare (2.5 hours), but it didn’t cost me anything more than what I usually spend on my weekly grocery bill.
I cook for two hungry, active guys – myself and my partner. Our lives are made so much easier by the fact that when it’s time for lunch or dinner we only have to open the fridge, pull out a few storage containers, arrange a meal on a plate and then heat it up. For breakfasts we usually make an omelette with different vegetables and I will sometimes eat oatmeal.
We are both on very restrictive financial budgets. My partner is a graduate student and I am working part-time while building my blog and online business. Saving money, reducing expenses and staying true to a budget is of paramount importance for me.
I refuse to compromise on eating healthy
I wanted to write this article because I firmly believe that there is no need to compromise on healthy eating. It’s affordable if you can buy the raw ingredients and cook your own meals. Nor does cooking have to be a complicated process
Cooking your own food is simply more nutritious than anything store-bought
The tighter your budget, the more creative you become. I know there are some people who live in extremely dire circumstances and eating healthy might be truly difficult. But that could be content for another article, i.e. how do you eat minimally well when your income is at or below the poverty level.
How to Eat Healthy with Little Money
- Buy on sale
- Use coupons
- Download a coupon app to your smart phone
- Buy in bulk, e.g. buy the so-called “family pack” size
- Shop at bulk type savings stores. In Canada you can shop for a family at Costco and save a lot of money by buying food items in bulk sizes.
Buying on sale, using coupons, and buying bulk are the first steps to saving money and reducing the cost of your monthly food bill.
This is what I’ve been doing –I’ve been using the Presidents Choice PC-Plus app every time I buy groceries, which works at Loblaw’s and No-Frills grocery stores in Canada.
Each week the app provides a list of promoted items. Some are processed or packaged foods, which I generally avoid. However, a good 60% or more of the specials are frozen fruit, fresh meat, and produce. For each item you buy, or for a set amount that you spend on an item, you receive points. If you’re shopping for two or more people the points add up quickly. For every 20,000 points I received a $20 discount towards my next grocery purchase.
Two weekends ago there was a points special that was too good to pass up. I needed to spend $125 in store to receive 12,000 points. It was a huge number of points and I was able to spend that much – my bill for that shop was $167.50 and with points awarded on other items I accumulated 15,200 points (remember I only need 20,000 to get a $20 discount!).
Whenever I go to the grocery store I open the app in advance and load any new offers. On average I’ve been able to redeem a $20 savings every 3 to 4 weeks. Note that I am shopping at a discount grocery store and still getting a discount!
Choose the grocery store that offers the best overall savings
This is an important point to make: if I were to shop at Loblaw’s (the parent company of No Frills) I would spend 25-30% more on my total bill. While there is certainly more variety at Loblaw’s, No Frills carries the same products. So why spend 25% more? Based on my weekly grocery spending I’m saving $1,700-$2,000 per year shopping at the discount grocery chain.
But what about quality and freshness?
I prefer to buy my fruits and vegetables from the Asian vegetable market near my home, because the quality is better, there is more variety and the produce is generally cheaper than everywhere else. While I do try to do my shopping based on what saves us the most money, spending a few dollars more on vegetables is not out of our reach.
How much money you can save by cooking your own meals?
Our average grocery shopping bill for the week is $130 for two people. That includes purchases like toilet paper, Kleenex, mineral water and every once in a while basic household supplies like sponges or dish soap.
That’s $65 per person/week which gives us breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Last week we went out for dinner at one of our favourite neighbourhood restaurants, The House on Parliament. We enjoyed a delicious dinner that consisted of me having a beer and an entrée and Christiaan enjoying an appetizer and an entrée. We couldn’t help ourselves so we enjoyed a dessert each. The bill was $90 after taxes and tip.
That’s $45 per person for a single meal.
Just for fun let’s do the math and to keep it simple I will omit snacks.
Three meals per day multiplied by seven days per week equals 21 meals.
21 meals divided by $65 (our per person grocery bill) equals $3.10/meal.
Compared that to $45 for a single restaurant meal.
$45 is equivalent to the cost of 14.5 home-cooked meals!
As I wrote that out I thought to myself, why the hell do I eat out at restaurants? That’s easy enough to answer – it’s a treat; it’s a break; it’s a way to socialize and to even escape.
But if eating out is not in your budget then ask yourself why you’re spending that kind of money in the first place. Are there alternatives? Could you eat out at a less expensive restaurant? Not order any alcohol with your meal? Or get takeout and bring it home, which would be cheaper.
Cooking your own meals at home, and cooking meals in bulk once a week will save you time and much money
The result? More peace of mind and less stress. Oh! And don’t forget full and happy bellies!
Want to learn how you can also benefit from cooking a week’s worth of meals – click here to buy Cook a Week of Meals in 4 Hours.
Eat well to be well!