Friday, 29 January 2016

How To: Shop Healthy on a Budget

If there is one thing I have learned from the past few months of living as a couple on one pay check, it's how to shop healthy on a budget (and I am talking tight budget!).

We normally only have about $100-$150 (sometimes even less)  per week to spend on groceries between us so we have learned how to be super strict with our choices of food and how to make the money we have stretch to get the most out of it we possibly can.

Here are some tips we have been following for the past few months to get us through. I have also included a few others for those of you who may not be as tight as us but are looking for a few tips to save some money as well.

*Obviously, this is only (hopefully) temporary for us. When we have some extra money come in, more variety and as much fresh produce will be incorporated in to our daily diets, these are just tips on how to make it through a tough time whilst still maintaining your health as it can be easy to think that fast food is cheap and eating healthy is expensive... 

Keep it simple

Eating healthy can be really simple. It's not about cacao,açaí bowls, green smoothies and kale. It's about giving your body what it needs. A good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats which can all be found in very simple and inexpensive ingredients.  Examples of these are: chicken, turkey mince, tuna, eggs, milk, Greek yoghurt, brown rice and fruits and vegetables.

Make a list ... and stick to it


I am honestly the worst for this and it's honestly the reason I have barely saved any money in the past. I will always go to the shop with a list or a few things in mind that I need but I get distracted by sales and good looking foods. Ben cottoned on to this pretty quickly and given how short we are on cash, he started sending me with a clear list and JUST enough money to cover the things we needed to avoid any extra spending.
If you're on a tight budget, you need to be focused on what you need - not what you want (and I've learned this has to be applied to everything, not just food). Write a list, head to the shops and get exactly what you need and leave. No going in to unnecessary aisles or looking at things that aren't on your list.

Plan & Prep

 Knowing what we are going to eat for the week is really important. It allows us to write out our list of the things we need and check the pantry and fridge to see what we already have. When you're on a budget, be prepared to eat the same thing for the week. You can mix it up from week to week but it makes it easier if you have the same thing for the week so you can buy and make in bulk and save yourself some money. For example, one week, you can have chicken for your main meals and the next turkey and so on. Depending on your preferences, you can prep for either the next day or the whole week. We prefer to just prep for the next day as food always tastes best when it's fresh (of course) but if you're stuck for time, prep for the whole week and you're sorted. This ensures you have your food for the week ready to take with you and you'll avoid spending money on eating out.

Don't eat out

There are PLENTY of healthy take out places these days that are really lovely to eat at. Unfortunately, they are also super expensive and definitely do not fit it in to a tight budget. It's always lovely to meet up with friends and head out for a special evening with your lover but try to limit eating out to once or twice a month. - Ben and I have been on one date in the last 6 months (and that was to celebrate my birthday)... you have to make sacrifices (although there are lots of other fun things you can do as a couple that don't cost anything). We treat ourselves to a donut once a month with spare coins we have laying around the house. You really do appreciate the treats when you have them less often and hey... it keeps you pretty damn healthy when you limit yourself to your meal prep plans.

Don't buy drinks

Ok so even though I am pregnant and completely off coffee (although I crave it every single day haha)... I totally understand your need for your daily coffee fix. Beyond that though, any other drinks you're buying is wasting your money (excluding milk). You don't need juices, you don't need soft drink or energy drinks and you don't need to be buying bottled water. Carry around a water bottle with you and fill it where you can. Tap water won't kill you, I promise, although there are water coolers around most places and in most work offices that offer filtered water.

You don't NEED supplements

Whilst supplements can be super handy at times to help to reach protein levels and help with performance, they are not a necessity and can be really expensive. Most of the cheaper supplement brands fill their products with cheaper ingredients like nitrogen powder or amino acids, which both register as protein when tested for protein content. This, while very misleading, isn't always illegal. A handy check would be the question "is this too good to be true?". If a bag of protein powder costs $20 a kg, it is more than likely using fillers. Some very good protein brands are a little more expensive, however, like everything in life, you get what you pay for. I (Ben) personally am a big believer in JD Neutraceuticals and Cyborg, both Australian companies that make very high quality products. Just keep in mind that all supplements, whether it is a pre workout, a protein, or any of the other numerous options is exactly that. A supplement. It is the last ten percent of what you need, and can in no way replace a good diet. You CAN and WILL get good results from eating well, without supplements. Use supplements carefully, consult with your Dr if you are an at risk patient, and don't worry if you can't take them.

 Don't be afraid of frozen

Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are the best and taste the best however, frozen vegetables, more often than not have just as many nutrients in them if frozen correctly and are much easier on the wallet! At the moment, we buy a few bags of frozen vegetables a week. They taste pretty good if you ask us and are a great way to save some money while you don't have much.

Shop for fruit and vegetables at your local market (just before closing time)

 At the moment, we don't even have the luxury of shopping at the markets (we are all about the frozen vegetables and whatever fruit we can get on sale) but when you have a little extra cash, it's always great to support local farmers. Going just before closing gives you a better chance of getting what you need at a cheaper price as the more they sell, the less they have to cart back with them. I've been known to request a few things at a cheaper price if I know they are packing up and more often than not, they will give it to me at a lower price (you've obviously got to be super nice about it and it also helps if you go back to the same vendor a few times as well so they get to know your face).

Buy Generic

 Don't be afraid of the generic brands. Ben and I exclusively shop at Coles as we find them to be of better quality than other supermarkets in our area and we often buy Coles brand products and they're quite good quality. The money you can save just by buying a few generic products can be quite significant. Things we buy in Coles brands: Condiments, chicken, oil, herbs and spices, flour, cheese, milk, bread, cleaning products etc.

We really hope these tips help you get through the times you have to be on a tight budget whilst still keeping healthy!

What are your tips for shopping on a budget?

Keep smiling!

Ben and Tahana x


  1. Yay!!! I loved all of these tips. I am so bad for buying random things based on pretty packaging that I don't often end up eating like healthy muesli or quinoa things hehe. I like your idea of sticking with the same protein for the whole week!

    Sarah | Bows & Pleats

  2. Meal planning is definitely the key!
    We try and carry some fresh produce through all the meals so your not buying a bag of spinach and only eating one salad, we might make a risotto or quiche too.
    Also never go shopping hungry :)

  3. These are great tips! I agree with going to any food places near the end of the day - they always have special deals or prices on. We stopped by a cafe to pick up a muffin for a treat after a day of shopping and got 4 for the price of 1, which was awesome! :)

    Sticking to a list is really important too - I'm such an impulse buyer if I don't have a list!

    Away From The Blue Blog

  4. Great tips! Very helpful post. Thank you.
    Xo, Christianne

  5. Making a list is must. Also, I can't take hubby shopping with me as he loves the sweet stuff haha! Eating out is sooo expensive and it's difficult when we have lots of gathering with friends. We love frozen veggies too and the generic brands!

    xo Kat @ Katness

  6. Great tips! I certainly agree with supplements, Shannon and I currently don't have jobs so I am going to email him this blog post! Thanks Ben + Tahana ! xxx

    1. You're most very welcome! Glad we can help! Being on a budget is tough!! <3

  7. Great Tips Hun, Very helpful and informative. I love making lists and I need one to function for my shopping otherwise I tend to over do it or just buy stuff we really didn't need and end up wasting money.

    Nicole xx |

    1. I am the absolute worst for wasting money! I am ridiculous and sometimes out of control so I feel you haha <3

  8. I love all of these tips!! I think that eating healthy on a budget can be really tricky, so I'm after all the tips I can get!! I still don't understand how or why they would junk food and processed items more affordable than a lot of healthy options - it's so bad! Love your meal prep too, this is something I've been doing a lot of with my partner and it's made a huge difference! oxoxo

    Christel |

    1. Processed foods are cheaper because they are cheaper to make. Made in big factories in bulk. Fresh produce takes time and much more labour. For me, it's worth paying a bit more to be healthy but you can still do it on a budget if need be. Glad you liked the post :-)

      Tahana <3