Do you find yourself having to choose between your bank account and your belly?
It can seem like you have to spend a fortune to keep your fridge and pantry full, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or reside in a food desert.
Wish it weren’t so? Keep scrolling to find out how to overcome these obstacles and more, proving you don’t need to bust your budget to eat well.
1. Living Paycheck to Paycheck
The biggest barrier to putting food on the table is money. If you don’t earn enough, you might struggle to eat well. You may even forgo a meal to make sure you can stretch your paycheck another week.
Living paycheck to paycheck means you’re putting all your income into paying the essentials — things like rent, utilities, and insurance. By the end of the month, you don’t have much cash left over to spend on groceries or put away in savings.
In an emergency, online direct lenders might help you in a tough spot. But according to MoneyKey, online direct lender installment loans are designed for unexpected expenses.
Your appetite is a regular, expected expense. You should never borrow online direct lender installment loans to fill your cart.
The Solution: A Budget
A budget is a spending plan that helps you work with what you have without dipping into installment loans. It helps you understand where your money goes each month. And a detailed look might reveal you’re not spending your money wisely.
Once you track your expenses, you can catch impulsive or uninformed spending habits that steal money away from more important things, like groceries.
A well-balanced budget prioritizes groceries with essential housing costs. It also makes sure you’re putting money into savings so that you don’t have to turn to installment loans in emergencies.
If your budget shows you still can’t afford groceries after trimming the fat, this could be a sign you need to move (i.e., find a place with cheaper rent) or get a new job (i.e., boost your income).
2. Busy Schedule
There’s a saying that everyone has the same 24 hours. But this guilt-inducing mantra doesn’t account for the truth. A billionaire with multiple personal assistants doesn’t experience 24 hours in the same way as a single mom who has two jobs.
Although both may be busy, they’re busy in different ways. If the billionaire can’t find time to meal prep, they can pay a cook to do it for them or get takeout without worrying about paying the bills.
The single mom, who might be paying off an installment loan, doesn’t have the same resources.
The Solution: Batch Cooking
If you lead a busy life, cooking dinner every day might not be in your capacity. Instead, try batch cooking when you have free time
Batch cooking involves preparing multiple large meals at once. Things like a big pot of chilli and lasagna are good ideas because they’re easy to freeze. Just pull them out one night to reheat, and you’ve got a quick homemade meal ready.
For extra savings, follow these recipes to find meals that are easy to cook at the same time. This will cut down on how long you spend in the kitchen.
3. Out-of-Season Produce
Winter heaps on costs because many fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season.
If you live anywhere that gets snow, your grocery store has to import most of its produce from warmer climates. These transportation costs trickle down to shoppers, so you can expect to pay more for your leafy greens.
These prices hit a record high this winter, as you’ll also be battling historic inflation rates. Thanks to this inflation, you’re paying four percent more for groceries than you did last year.
The Solution: Shop Wisely
You may not be able to do anything to fix inflation on your own. However, you can change the way you shop so that you aren’t paying a fortune at the till.
- Buy Frozen or Canned Produce: Frozen vegetables have the same nutritional content as fresh produce. But on the upside, they’re cheaper. More still, they last a lot longer so you can avoid wasting food.
- Stick to In-Season Veg: Some root vegetables hit their prime in the winter. Check out this list to see what’s in season and cheaper.
- Buy in Bulk Sparingly: Sometimes, you’ll get a huge deal on bulk food items. But other times, you’ll pay roughly the same price for an oversized serving that might go bad before you can use it. If you buy in bulk, stick to non-perishable items or fresh items you know you can use quickly. You can also split a bulk order with a friend or family member.
- Stay Away from Brand Names: There’s usually little difference between the taste or quality of generic vs brand name food items. Grocers usually put brand items at eye level on the shelves, so look above and below to find the cheaper alternatives.
- Don’t Shop Hungry: A recent study shows people spend 64 percent more on food when they’re hungry. You can prevent impulsively buying snacks and other costly ingredients simply by shopping after you eat.
- Use Apps to Find Savings: You can find extra savings by using a coupon app at the store, then upload your bill to an app that provides rebates when you shop with their affiliates.
4. Living in a Food Desert
Out-of-season produce may not make a big difference to your shopping if you live in a food desert. Here, your fresh veg and fruit options are limited all year round.
The Food Empowerment Project defines a food desert as an area that doesn’t offer affordable fresh options. It might look like an urban neighborhood where the closest store is the bodega that sells bananas for twice the price of a grocery store. It’s also a rural location where the nearest grocery store is an hour’s drive or more away.
Food deserts tend to overlap with food swaps. Here, there’s an abundance of fast food and convenience stores. In food swamps, these unhealthy options outnumber the grocery stores that are available.
The Solution: A Grassroots Approach
Anyone living in a food desert can take advantage of the tips shared above to combat out-of-season produce. But for long-term results, you’ll need to change your relationship with food.
If the grocery stores aren’t providing fresh produce you can afford, try to grow your own. Anyone can grow vegetables, no matter where they live.
Living in an apartment with no green space? Check out this guide on how to start an urban garden with nothing but recycled containers, a bit of dirt, and vegetable scraps or seeds.
If you have more space available, you can fill up your balcony with pots or make use of a garden bed. You can also fight to create a community garden that your neighbors can use. Take a look at this guide for ideas on how to kickstart this project.
Eating well on a budget isn’t easy for everyone. You could struggle to make healthful choices if you live paycheck to paycheck, use installment loans, live in a food desert, or simply struggle with out-of-season produce.
But luckily, even these tough hurdles have solutions. With time and a lot of effort, you can change the way you shop so that you can fill your cupboards without breaking the bank.