Total Nutrition Technology
Saturday, October 3, 2015

Health Educator, Stacey Gretka, posted an answer on her Q&A that is getting a lot of attention. We wanted to share her budget-friendly health tips here: 

My family of five (two adults, two children under 5, and 1 dog) eat on an average of $500 per month. This includes paper goods, dog food, and cleaning supplies as well as our food. We have an eating out budget of $100 per month, and rarely reach, let alone exceed, that amount. Saving money is important to us because we love to entertain. We want to be able to provide unforgettable hospitality to our friends and family without worrying about how we’re going to pay for it, and yet, obviously, good health is equally as important to me. It makes no sense to be able to feed my friends and family if we cannot enjoy their company with energy and enthusiasm. I offer you my tips, but depending on your situation, you may need a more intense “fix” – please feel free to reach out if you need me to expound upon any of these or if you need a customized plan to help you reach your health and financial goals. 

The real keys to healthy eating on a tighter or stricter budget are:

1) Planning – this allows you to eat only what you purchased (no extra, unplanned outings means no extra, or unexpected spending), and purchase only what you’re going to eat (rather than extras that will either go bad, or encourage unnecessary snacking). Try making a chart for the whole family, that indicates when and what they’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. If they’re over 7, they should participate in the planning process. The most important part of the planning process is execution. Stick to your plan at all costs. The consistency of doing so is what will save you big bucks in the long-run.

2) Prepping – making healthy foods easy to use means they’ll be less likely to go to waste, which means a) you won’t waste your money on spoiled produce, or buying new produce and b) you’ll be filling up on less expensive foods rather than pricey, pre-made snacks. Try washing and cutting peppers, carrots, celery and jicama in sticks and store in plastic containers in the fridge for up to one week. If you intend on having salad for lunch or dinner, wash, cut, and thoroughly dry salad greens (like spinach, mesclun, romaine, etc.) and store in a plastic container lined with paper towel for up to 5 days. Wipe out the excess moisture or condensation and remove any rotting or wilting leaves as soon as you see these signs.

3) Portions – pay attention to your (and your family member’s) portions. Some people eat 8 ounces of meat/poultry for dinner, when in reality each night they should only be having four (possibly five or six depending on the person). By recognizing proper portions, you can literally double, sometimes triple your money. Equally as impactful, by consuming the right amount of starches/grains, fruits, and dairy (not to mention snack foods), you’ll save a ton! To determine your specific needs, contact your local Health Educator. This always seems to be the big surprise for my clients: how much money they save simply by eating the amount their bodies actually need of the foods their bodies actually need.

4) Process your own – pre-processed foods are actually more expensive than their homemade counterparts, if a) you have the time to do it yourself and b) you have the proper tools and spices already on hand. When people buy all of the ingredients they need for one fancy meal or one go at homemade protein bars, they’ll definitely end up overspending and they’ll definitely believe the myth that healthy eating is more expensive. However, I can make a complete, homemade meal for under $2.00 per serving – you can’t even beat that with fast food. This comes from paying attention to sales, investing in great deals, and dividing/repackaging/freezing when appropriate. It also means setting aside a couple of hours each week for, you guessed it, planning, prepping, and portioning.  

I also strongly recommend the following:

1) Set a deadline and goal – Have a specific goal in mind: to save x amount of dollars by y date so that we can do z. A common example: save $1000 dollars by March so we can go on a beach vacation. (This one works well because in addition to having the money for a new swimsuit, you’ll have the body to rock it!). Another great goal: “save $500 by December so we can pay off our credit card.” Either way, the first step here is to look back at your bank statements (most online banking will have a summary by category) and determine how many dollars you need to cut back each month to reach your goal. For example, if you typically spend $1000 per month on groceries, and you want to save $1000. In ten month’s you’ll need to cut off $100 from your monthly grocery bill. Then set a realistic deadline for yourself.

2) Set reasonable expectations – Note that in the example above, I did not try and cut $500 from each month over two months. If you’re used to eating and living a certain way, it’s not reasonable to cut that budget in half. You must also consider: the number of eaters in your household, the ages of those eaters, the cost of living for your area, and your current schedule (if you have three vacations scheduled this month, you’ll need to consider that the eating out budget will likely be a bit higher). It is pretty reasonable to expect a 10% cut as do-able. 

3) Don’t forget to take advantage of subscription services and sales – Many people get their toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, napkins, etc. from the grocery store, yet with a little math, you can determine your family’s needs for these items and commit to a subscription service which can save you up to 15% on these items. Amazon Subscribe and Save is a great option and you currently do not need a Prime Membership to utilize this service. We get our diapers, wipes, napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, and even Goldfish crackers from Amazon! Keep your eyes open for circulars, store coupons, coupon books, and even Kids Eat Free deals! 

4) Don’t be brand loyal for no reason – I get the commitment to brands you respect or believe in, but if it’s just for taste, or worse - for habit, this is sucking your wallet dry. For example, we believe that brand name paper towels are more effective than store brand (we actually use the store brand faster, and therefore end up spending less with the brand name), but for the most part, for example, Uncle Ben doesn’t have anything special in his rice that Food Lion doesn’t. For nearly a dollar difference per box, this sort of swap adds up very quickly. 

5) Be veggie savvy – certain veggies simply don’t last all week and if you can’t make a second dedicated trip (without stocking up on unnecessary extras), you’ll need to come up with another option: frozen or canned veggies (check for no added sodium). I love throwing frozen peas into pasta, canned carrots into smoothies, and frozen green beans (with a little lemon pepper seasoning) make a fantastic stand-alone side!

If you need more help on any of these items, don't hesitate to reach out to our amazing team of RDs and Health Educators. We're here to support you - contact and we'll get you on the right path to a healthy, affordable lifestyle! 

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