There’s a long-held belief that eating healthy means having to spend a lot of money.
And while it’s certainly possible to blow your budget by loading up on every new trendy health craze, it’s also possible to stock up on fresh vegetables and whole grains without going broke.
CNBC has rounded up six easy ways to slash your food budget and make room for healthy eats.
Say it with me: No more lunches out. Brown-bagging it is an easy way to cut your spending by $10 to $15 a day.
Self-made millionaire Scott Alan Turner touts homemade lunches as his No. 1 money-saving tip. “My biggest [savings tip] I learned from my parents,” he told CNBC. “My dad worked for the town his whole life. He packed a lunch every day and brought it to work. In our small town upbringing, we didn’t have restaurants and we didn’t go out to eat all the time; we might have gone out to eat once every couple of months. I carried that over into my own life.”
Though he worked a corporate job for over 10 years, Turner only bought lunch out a handful of times. Instead, he prepared large batches of food on Sunday to eat throughout the week.
Even the best intentions can fail when it comes to bringing your lunch to work every day or cooking a healthy dinner instead of ordering takeout. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the bouts of busyness — or laziness — that are bound to arise by spending a few hours over the weekend meal prepping for the upcoming week.
To squeeze as much out of your grocery dollars as possible, utilize what’s already in your pantry, create a specific grocery list and commit to your plan for the week. For more tips, check out this simple meal planning strategy that will help you save money and reduce waste.
Repurpose your leftovers
Don’t let expensive ingredients go to waste, even if you can’t bear to eat another serving of the chicken you prepped on Sunday.
Stockpile easy recipes that incorporate ingredients you frequently have on hand, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Monday’s grilled chicken can be chopped up for Tuesday’s salad. Wednesday’s leftover quinoa can become the base of Thursday’s stir-fry.
Invest in spices
Spices pack in flavor without adding extra calories. Splurge on a few that will punch up plain vegetables or add zest to whole grains. A little goes a long way, so a $5 investment up front can liven up your meals for weeks.
Going generic is an easy way to save money over time. As Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue reports in his 2016 book, “Pogue’s Basics: Money,” “store brands cost around 30 percent less than national brands.”
You don’t have to buy generic for every ingredient. Identify what’s really important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice — then, buy brand-name for the stuff you care about and go generic for everything else. With most foods, you won’t even be able to tell: A can of beans is a can of beans, after all.
Go cash only
Force yourself to stick to your grocery budget by withdrawing a certain amount of cash and ditching your plastic when you head to the store. Without the temptation to swipe your credit card, you’ll have to restrict yourself to buying only what you need.
CNBC reporter Kathleen Elkins has used this trick to keep her grocery bill under $30 a week.
Ditch the meat
Poultry and lean cuts of red meat can be part of a healthy diet when done right, but they’re also pricey, especially if you serve meat at every meal. Trim the fat from your grocery bill even further by substituting legumes, quinoa or another vegetarian protein for meat at least once a week instead.
After a while, you might not even miss the meat.