I got an idea for a post about budget food shopping from one of my favorite food blogs. Because groceries are something we all need to spend money on, I decided to gather all my best tips on this post. Staying on a budget with food shopping is good for not only you but it can also help to reduce food waste.
1. Defining a budget
You really can’t stick to a budget if you don’t have one. To define one, you should first find out how much you spend on food shopping approximately on weekly and monthly basis. Try to figure out how often you eat out or get takeaway or pre-made dinners from a supermarket. And then figure out how much money you spend on everyday food shopping. This figure is most likely going to be higher if you buy a little bit of something everyday.
I usually transfer some money on a separate debit card that I use only for food shopping. That way it’s easier for me to track my budget and stay on it. For example last fall I tried to stay on a 150 euro monthly budget (plus I transferred 60 euros every moth on my student card which I paid my UniCafe lunches with).
2. Plan your meals and write a shopping list
I hate having to do multiple food shops every week so I much rather do just one big shop weekly. But it, of course, requires lots more planning. Before going to the shops I will have planned all my meals and know what I’m going to cook during the following days. And I will always have a shopping list with me since otherwise I’d always forget something. I know that if I forget something I have to go back to the shops and I’d probably end up buying lots of unnecessary and expensive stuff and some too many treats.
When you have planned your meals, you always know what you are going to cook and the likelihood of getting takeaway or eating out will be lower.
3. Meal prepping
Along with having to do multiple food shops every week, I hate having to cook everyday for myself. What works for me, is cooking lots of food at once, and as boring as it is, eating the same dish on multiple days. My favorite everyday dishes are nourishing, healthy and filling salads. I always have cooked quinoa and beans, feta cheese (or for example fried eggplant) as well as roasted veggies in my fridge. Those ingredients make a very yummy salad together with lettuce or kale and some tomatoes. Just toss some olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on the top and you’re ready to go!
And how does meal prepping help you save money? Because when you have food ready to eat in your fridge, you’re less likely to spend money on expensive takeaways or premiered meals.
4. Go vegetarian
Or at least partly/mostly vegetarian. The most expensive part of an average person’s grocery shop bill is meat/fish so cutting down meat consumption will help you to reduce food expenses (and save the planet). Being a vegetarian does absolutely not mean replacing your meat with canned beans, in my opinion they are disgusting. Today we have so many vegetarian options in supermarkets and most of them are super yummy yet not too processed. However, the newest inventions can be quite expensive.
The best way to save money, and to make vegetarian food more delicious, is buying raw beans/chick peas/lentils. The only thing you have to do, is soaking them in water (not the lentils, though) for 8 hours and cook them for 10-60 minutes. My favorites are chick peas, mungbeans and red lentils but they definitely need to be cooked with a vegetable stock cube. You can add the cooked beans in salads, sauces and pasta or use them to make veggie steaks.
I could probably never be a vegan. I think eating wouldn’t be fun anymore since I can’t eat gluten either. But one thing I’m staying away as much as possible is dairy because too many research results show how it just isn’t good for humans.
5. Buy seasonal veggies
Especially in Finland and other countries where lots of vegetables are imported it’s important to favor the ones in season. During the fall months you can find so many locally produced vegetables very cheap. For example parsnips, beetroots and carrots are super yummy when they’re in season in Finland. However, a mistake that lot’s of people make, is always favoring locally produced vegetables. Now in the winter for example tomato and cucumber are super expensive but lots of people still buy them because they believe they are better than the imported ones. The problem is, that growing vegetables like these in freezing Finland requires so much electricity and natural resources, that it probably would be better for the environment to import them from warmer climates.
6. Treat yourself
Always have very small amounts of treats at home to stay sane. If you’re eating too restrictively, it will backfire. Be kind to yourself and let yourself enjoy life. Go eat out every once in a while or cook something a bit more special once a week. I couldn’t live without always having some dark chocolate in my drawer. Some other things I try to go for are avocado toasts, port wine and some super foods (for example chia seeds and green powders) that will last long.