Oh hey there friends. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with eating better (and within budget) since starting this debt payoff journey. The need to stick to my food budget got a little harder last weekend, when I decided to take the Whole 30 challenge. Essentially, you’re supposed to eat almost entirely organic, whole, foods…while eliminating a lot of cheap fillers like beans and quinoa. For more information and/or to be inspired to take your own Whole 30 Challenge, read It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.
I’m doing Whole 30 mostly because of some physical symptoms I’ve been having that I thought might be related to a food intolerance, but I also thought it might help me become more disciplined with my groceries and eating out. Since I cannot easily eat out at restaurants, I figured my budget could take the hit to groceries in the hopes that I’d be saving a ton by not eating out or buying drinks (alcohol is off limits too). Anyways, after two weeks of buying Whole 30 ingredients, I thought I’d share some tips on how to do the Whole 30 without using your whole wallet.
Plan ALL of Your Meals
…and then make a grocery list. Seriously though, this is might sound obvious, but there is nothing like driving home from an exhausting day at work and trying to convince yourself that you both need to invent a meal out of ground turkey and frozen broccoli AND you need to cook it. Make a list of various meals you are going to make, buy the necessary ingredients, and make your like way easier.
Meal planning also allows you to stretch your budget by being able to account for leftovers, ingredients you can use for more than one meal, and buying the precise amount of things you’ll actually need. Don’t forget to plan for weekend lunches when you normally brunch with friends too. You likely won’t be eating out much during your Whole 30.
Wholesale Retailers are Your Friend
I’m sure a lot of you already know this, but Costco has a ton of organic meat and produce, way more than I realized. While I don’t often buy perishables in bulk (due to my single chef status), I definitely stocked up before my Whole 30. Whether you’re freezing meat, getting huge bottles of coconut oil, or getting lots of eggs – you’ll use them! – places like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s club can really help with your monthly food budget.
Always check ingredients, but you can find a ton of organic produce, grass-fed/organic ground meat, the only Whole 30-compliant sausage I’ve seen (Aidells Chicken & Apple Sausages), coconut oil, almond flour, compliant tomato sauce, and the best deal on eggs. If you’re worried about buying too much, don’t be – you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll blow through two pounds of sausage, two dozen eggs, and one of those giant spinach containers you only dreamed of using before it wilted.
Pro-tip: if you’re like me and don’t have a Costco membership, see if a friend or relative is willing to go with you so you can stock up!
Keep Things Simple
Don’t stress yourself out trying to come up with elaborate Whole 30-compliant meals. Just pick a protein, two vegetable sides, and potentially a fruit if you really want it. The simpler the meal, the cheaper it will be…and the more likely you are to actually cook it. Omelettes or roasted meat/veggie/potatoes are really the way to go during the month. No need for buying expensive ghee or grass-fed/uncured/no sugar added bacon if you don’t actually need to cook with it.
Maximize Your Money
The goal is eliminating sugar and all the junk from your diet. So if you can’t afford the cage-free, free-range, organic eggs in multi-color, then don’t buy them. You need to take a step. A baby step. And in doing so, you can get better as you go along if you wish, learning to reallocate money where it needs to be moved. To make the most of your budget, buy the best meats you can afford, then the veggies/fruit, then anything else. For produce, stick to buying organic for the “Dirty Dozen” and generic for the rest. You are likely already going to be eating way better than you were before the Whole 30, so if frozen broccoli is on sale for $1 a bag…go for it (just make sure it’s only broccoli – no sauce). Keep in mind you’ll likely be eating out way less than normal so your budget may be a little bigger than usual.
For me, doing the Whole 30 was about taking back control over my sugar cravings, my nutrition, and my eating habits, but it’s actually helped me learn to control my food budget too. Nothing like 30 days of home-cooked lunches to make you realize how easy it is to not eat out every day. 😛 Hopefully, I can keep up my new-found cooking habits going into these next few months of paying down my credit card.
Tell me, what are your best money-saving secrets when it comes to buying healthy/organic/non-processed foods?