Saturday, June 26, 2010

Savvy Shopping

Recently my husband and I have started a "new" budget--much more strict than the previous one. My biggest concern (aside from no shopping! gasp!) was would our food quality suffer? I now know that being on a budget does not mean we have to sacrifice eating well! I thought I'd share some of the tips I've come across through friends, family, and my own experience for shopping healthy on a budget.

The biggest things I have learned are to plan ahead, stick to my shopping list, and always have the essentials on hand. The best way to eat healthy & spend less? Cook at home, no more take out!

I use a lovely chart like these, which you can download here or make your own.

  • Plan for the week before you go grocery shopping. Map out each meal, for each day. Know what ingredients/food you will need to purchase and add them to your list. Need recipe ideas? Try these sites: Barefoot Contessa, Gluten-Free Goddess, Cooking Lite Or sign up for cooking classes in your area! Remember your budget while planning your meals
*I personally go to the store a few times a week.  I like to buy my vegetables the day of/before I use them because, otherwise, I find they go to waste or spoil before I get the chance to use them. If this is not ideal for you, be sure to pick perishables that you know will last.
  • To get the most bang for my buck, I plan meals that have the same ingredients so that nothing goes to waste! (example: if the sauce for your chicken calls for sage, find another recipe (or two!) that also call for sage so that you can use up all of it before it goes bad, while saving money from having to buy different ingredients for each meal). Do this with as many of your meals as possible, you will end up spending much less and not wasting any food.
  • Keeping it healthy is the main priority next to staying on budget. Be sure to include PLENTY of fruits and vegetables in every single meal when doing your planning. I've found that shopping at my farmer's market is the best way to do this. I get tons of veggies/fruits for cheaper than at the grocery store! Plus, it's also a great way to support your local farmers. 
  • Stick to your list! Don't go to the store and grab anything that looks good, you'll end up spending way more than you want & have only snacks instead of meals.  If you enjoy snacking, plan it on your meal chart & buy snacks that you can also use in your meals (so nothing goes to waste!) 

*Something that I do after I make my list & before the store is Edit. I look over my list. Do I have any "extras" that aren't necessary? That went to waste last time? Will this meet my budget? I also make sure, for healthy reasons, that I do not buy too much, if any, sugars/desserts- if it's not in the house we wont eat it. 

Join a Co-Op (Google to see if there are any in your area!)
Grow it yourself 
Farmers Market
Buy into a Community Growers Program 

My mother in law, Linda, runs lovely cooking classes in LA (if you're in the area they are a must! Delicious recipes, tons of learning, and a fun night out!) You can visit her site for more information here :
The Organic Kitchen.  The list below is a list she gives her students and I thought it was so handy (most of which I already do myself!) so I wanted to share it with you--she calls it her Pantry Must Haves!

Pantry must haves
Maldons Flaked Sea Salt (Whole Foods)~ Sea salts, unlike ordinary table salt, are not made with iodine and bitter tasting chemicals to make it flow. They have a 'clean' taste. If you use regular table salt, you are probably so used to the bitter taste you don't even notice it. Once you switch to a clean tasting sea salt, you will notice the difference! Always use just enough sea salt to enhance the flavor of the food, without making it taste salty!
Fresh Garlic~ Keep fresh garlic on hand. Not only does it add flavor to foods, it lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and kills intestinal parasites!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil ~Preferably organic, always first cold pressed! Olive oil is a heart healthy fat that is also great for the skin and the brain! Good fats help to regulate hormones...ladies... you know what I 'm talkin' about...and it makes everything taste better! Olive oil also slows digestion, making you feel full longer.

Balsamic Vinegars~ get a few good quality balsamics. I suggest Gourmet Blends Balsamic. They are aged for up to 25 years and have a variety of amazing flavored vinegars to choose from. They are sold in stores or order online at I also love the JR Cohn white balsamic I order online from This site also carries some of our favorite kitchen tools, vanilla paste, salts and home products! Good quality balsamic vinegars can be a little pricey but when it comes to balsamics, you get what you pay for...I'm just sayin'....

Other Pantry Essentials 
Grains~ Keep a variety of dried grains such as pastas, rices, quinoa, couscous, barley, oats etc... used with the ingredients mentioned above, you will always have a side dish on hand!

Nuts, Seeds and dried berries~ Add these to salads, oats, pastas etc.

Vanilla Paste~ Yum! Thicker than vanilla extract without the strong alcohol flavor. Available at Bristal farms, or cheaper at (see below).

Fridge Necessities
Fruits and Veggies~ In this case I believe less is more. Make several trips to the store each week  to buy small amounts of fruits and veggies. Otherwise they spoil and you waste your money. Bagged lettuces, sweet bell peppers and avocados are essentials! Always have lemons!

Cream, Eggs and Parmesan

Kitchen Tools
A good quality chefs knife~ Makes life easier... and cooking more enjoyable!

A good quality wood cutting board~ No plastic or bamboo, bad for the aforementioned knife!

Microplane~ Used for zesting, grating parmesan or garlic. (Bed Bath Beyond)

Hand Held Juice Squeezers~ They come in 3 sizes and corresponding colors, orange (orange size), yellow (lemon size) and green (lime size) available everywhere. Super cheap and you will use them all the time!

To get any of these items cheaper go to the website, their store is not up and running yet but you can email them and they will ship items to you. They have the cheapest prices around! 

Another great way to save money is to buy all your meat/fish at Costco. I know, none of us prefer frozen meat--but I've found if you buy it fresh and then freeze it yourself it doesn't seem to  have a huge taste/quality difference. Always thaw your meat/fish early in the day--don't wait until right before and throw it in the microwave! Pull it out early and place in a container with warm water or just on the counter top,  so it can thaw nice and slow. I buy enough chicken/fish to last us one month (which at Costco basically means I buy 1 pack of each). It's cheap and healthy-wohoo!

After you do your shopping come home and organize your fridge. Cut up any large fruits, melons, vegetables and put in containers--make them easy to eat/access (for a healthy snack, to save time when preparing dinners,etc.)

And of course, you should pick yourself up some reusable shopping bags! 
(it wouldn't be me if I didn't say something about being 'Green', right? :) ).

Very Happy & Healthy Wishes to You,


  1. Wow cute post! Such great ideas. Love that you girls are eating well even while on "Newlywed" budgets! When people argue that eating well costs more I love to point out that if they spent on fruits and veggies what they spend on soda and snack food their money would go further and they will save on sick days and doctors visits! Pay now, or pay big time later...

  2. I LOVE all this. I felt the same way when we started budgeting, but now I don't, you can eat healthy and be on a strict budget. I make mostly everything from scratch and we save so much money. I buy raw milk and eggs from a local farmer, and produce from a coop. Meat in bulk from local farmer so I don't have to go to the store very much.

  3. WOW! What a great post! I am on a kick to get my family to eat more healthy....and the tips for staying in your budget are great! Thank you, thank you! I just wish we had a Whole Foods closer to where we live :( I did find a local co-op that I will be trying out on Saturday and I started up my own garden....look at me!

  4. Love it, love it, love it. These are the only ways I have found that we are able to consistently eat healthily on a budget. Great tips and ideas. I wish everyone in the world would read this and apply it to their lives. Think of how much healthier the world would be, in every way. Great post!