Eating healthy doesn't have to mean high grocery bills. The recipes in my book "The Dashing Dish" are designed to be simple, quick, delicious, and made with a few ingredients that are unprocessed and easy to keep on hand. And believe it or not, this can all be accomplished on a budget. When you follow a few simple guidelines, eating clean can be as friendly to your pocketbook as it is to your body.
Make a grocery list and stick to it. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to plan what you need before you go to the store. That way, you're not tempted to buy things that you don't need. Establishing a list of staples for your pantry, fridge and freezer will help keep you on track with grocery spending.
2. Buy In-Season and Local
Food that's in-season is is not only more affordable, but also better-tasting. Look for cauliflower, beets, winter squash, broccoli and hearty greens, like collards, in the winter; apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and leeks in the fall; and spinach, peppers, tomatoes and berries in the summer. Most farmers markets offer better deals on clean, pesticide-free produce than grocery stores.
3. Buy Frozen
Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great bargain and are a close second to buying fresh. Not only will buying frozen fruits and veggies save you money, but it will also prevent waste by allowing you to use just what you need.
4. Buy Generic
Name brands often have higher prices not because they're higher in quality but because of higher packaging and advertising costs. Some of my favorites to buy off-brand are dairy items, like low-fat cottage cheese and plain low-fat Greek yogurt. Another great item is old-fashioned oats, which I grind into flour in my food processor and use for baking.
5. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is a great option for items that keep well in the pantry and that you use regularly. For me, whole-grain rice, quinoa and a variety of beans, such as Garbanzo, kidney, black and white, are must-haves. They store easily, and I can often get a better deal by purchasing larger quantities. The same goes for almonds, which I grind into flour with my food processor and keep in an air-tight container.
6. Shop Sales
Sign up for newsletters at the stores where you frequently shop to learn about deals and specials. Just a few minutes clipping and printing coupons each week can mean huge savings on key staples, especially meat and seafood. I always keep my freezer full of lean ground turkey and beef, boneless skinless chicken breasts, salmon and tilapia.
7. Get the Customer Card
Many grocery stores hold sales and specials for customer cardholders only. Signing up for costumer cards is often free and takes just a few moments.
8. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle—And Use It!
Don't spend money on soft drinks, juices or bottled water. Instead, invest in a few nice water bottles and refill them. Not only is it cheaper, it will save you tons of sugar and calories.
If you happen to have leftover ingredients when you're making a dish, don't throw them away. Put them to good use later by freezing them or trying them in a new recipe the next day. Check out my recipe site DashingDish.com for ideas on how to use leftover ingredients.
10. Plan Ahead
Pack lunches and snacks ahead of time, and eat at home before going grocery shopping. This will save you time and money because you'll make fewer impulse food purchases when you shop on a full stomach.
Katie Farrell is the author of "The Dashing Dish: 100 Simple & Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating" and the creator of DashingDish.com