Healthy(ish) cooking on a Budget(ish)

What do I mean by Budget(ish)?

What do I mean by Budget(ish)?

Last week I talked about what I meant by saying my recipes are healthy(ish), check it out here! The second half of my tagline is “on a budget(ish)”, what do I mean by that? Well let me explain!

I follow a lot of food bloggers, even more now that I’ve started my own food blog. One trend I see A LOT in the “healthy food blog” category is bloggers that only shop at Whole Foods or other specialty organic stores. Everyone has their own values and preferences on health and what they are willing to pay for, I get that! While I’m not judging (if I had unlimited money, I probably would too!), I know that this doesn’t appeal to the general public.

You most likely fall into one of three categories if you are reading this blog:

  1. You probably make a normal living wage like me (or a student!) and don’t have a large food budget.
  2. You could have a large food budget, but you choose to save some money for other reasons.
  3. You live in a small town with not a lot of options locally (shout out to my hometown of Brookings with only two grocery stores!!)

 For me, budget(ish) means that my ingredients can usually be found at your local grocery store. Selection may vary by location, but I shop at Trader Joes, QFC (owned by Kroger), and Haggen’s (owned by Albertson’s) for most of my ingredients.

Shopping on a Budget

Even within these grocery stores, prices can vary based on your choices. I leave my recipes vague for that purpose! If I put 1lb of ground beef, you have the option of using the 73% lean ground beef (cheapest), the 96% lean ground beef (average cost), or the organic ground beef (most expensive). You decide what your budget is and what is most important for you!

Is organic produce your thing? Go for it.

Only want free range chicken? Grab it!

Need the dairy free cheese? I feel you.

Recipe calls for dairy free cheese and you think it’s disgusting? Buy the real stuff!

Whole Foods is the closest grocery store to you and you love it? No problem! Grab me one of their fruit pies while you’re there!

Another aspect of budget(ish) that I try to incorporate on this blog is only using common ingredients that aren’t super expensive, rare, or come in large bottles that you are never going to use again. Whenever I see a recipe with a bunch of ingredients I know I can’t find at QFC, I try to alter the recipe using ingredients I have or know I can find.

Occasionally I will share a recipe with a weird ingredient (most Thai recipes have at least one odd sauce!). I only include it if I think that ingredient is super important! Buy that bottle of oyster sauce and now you don’t know what to do with the rest of it? Just email me and I’ll point you in the direction of plenty of other recipes with that ingredient!

What’s my personal story?

I grew up grocery shopping with my mom, I remember going to Trader Joe’s and Henry’s in San Diego when I was super young and begging my mom to buy my favorite foods. In college, I continued to grocery shop instead of eating at the cafeteria because that food was nasty (to be frank). I had a budget of $50 a week in college, which included any eating out as well. I stuck to the vegetarian basics back then, splurging on meat when it was on sale and fresh fruits in the summer.

Once I graduated and moved to Seattle, my budget went away. I was no longer a broke college kid! I shopped at Whole Foods because I convinced myself that it was healthier. I bought $40 of produce from the farmer’s market because it looked pretty. I made huge dishes and would only finish half of them. Oops.

Fast forward a year, I was dating Matt. Matt loves Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, McDonalds, and my cooking (in that order I think). I started doing the grocery shopping for both of us. Those huge dishes started getting eaten, I cut down on my farmer’s market hauls, and I started shopping at the normal grocery stores. I realized that we like to eat out as a social thing and I started factoring that into my meal planning. And best of all, we started splitting the grocery bill.

So the secret is out…to save money on groceries: get a significant other to help pay for it.

Shopping on a Budget

Just kidding, just kidding. But it does help! And food no longer goes to waste. Our current budget is between $60-$80 a week between the two of us. This includes 4-5 dinners, 5 lunches (for both of us), breakfast goods, and usually chips & salsa to snack on while I put the groceries away.  How do I budget for this number?

  • I try to shop the meat and produce sales. If chicken in on sale, I’ll do a chicken meal or two.
  • I do meal plan! It makes it easier when it comes to dinner time. And I can use ingredients more than once in the same week!
  • I keep breakfast and lunch simple. Eggs & fruit, smoothies, and chicken with roasted veggies are always great.
  • Now that I’ve been shopping at the same grocery stores for a while, I know which ingredients are cheaper and where. I know that frozen fruit is a steal at Trader Joe’s, but avocados are a little pricey there.
  • I keep track of prices as I grocery shop. It allows me to keep track of how the price is adding up I go. I have a “wants” column where I list things like dessert or snacks, I keep track of their cost and if I have room in the budget at the end, I take them home!
  • I buy fresh fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market if possible. I can buy fruits they don’t sell at Trader Joes and organic veggies on the cheap. And beautiful flowers for $5! All the while, I’m supporting local businesses.

Check out my blank grocery list PDF! Feel free to print it out and try it for yourself!

Hopefully this gives you a good idea of what I mean by budget(ish)!

Drop a comment below to let me know your thoughts.

Do you budget for grocery shopping?
Is it lumped into a monthly food budget?
What’s your favorite tips and tricks for saving?
Do you only shop at Whole Foods? Why?

Think budgets are dumb? Share your opinion!

Shopping on a Budget

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