How to afford healthy food
Unbeatable strategies for shopping smart and avoiding food waste, while making better choices for your health
In 2021, the average price of a dozen conventional eggs in the U.S. shot up from $1.64 to $2.94. Beef is following the same trajectory, rising 20% in the last year. Anecdotally, in our local grocery store near Senza headquarters in Utah, a bag of keto-friendly groceries that used to cost about $50 a year ago, runs nearly twice that today.
Food prices are likely to get worse before they stabilize because growers face looming input shortages and rising energy costs. But you don’t have to stand by while all this goes down. Follow these steps to get control over your food spend, without compromising your standards, or your health.
Create a food budget
The first step to saving money is knowing what you typically spend and understanding how much you can allocate to this basic need each week or month. It helps to use a financial tool to categorize expenses and break down your total food spend into categories for groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. When assessing overall lifestyle expenses, take a long-term view and remember that money well spent on food that heals your body may prevent costly medical expenses in the future.
Know your macros
Understand your body’s nutritional requirements and prioritize protein first, then add in quality fats and produce to make sure you are getting all the essential micronutrients for optimal health, while also enjoying a variety of flavors and textures.
Adults on average need at least 0.8 grams of protein per lb of lean body mass to maintain existing muscle. (Athletes who are training to build muscle will need 1.0-1.2 grams per lb of lean body mass.) If you’re using the Senza app for keto, you can open the built-in macro calculator under your profile to see and adjust your daily protein requirement. Convert that number into servings of certain meats to get an idea how much to buy.
For example, a 3-oz serving of cooked grass-fed ground beef will provide 22g, the same amount of braised pork shoulder has 21g, and a bone-in chicken thigh with skin contains 32g of this macronutrient. If your protein target is 68g/day, you’ll need to budget for about 9oz of meat per day to meet your body’s needs. Repeat this process for each member of the household, even if some are not doing keto, to come up with a ballpark amount of meat to buy.
Plan your meals
Meal planning is an essential strategy for saving money on food. Every few days, grab a notebook, favorite cookbook, or just your phone and decide what meals you want to have next. For our keto community, the Senza Feed with its searchable recipe directory and The Planet Keto Blog feature countless meal suggestions. Our Meal Plan Advice service is available on the Order page for a few personalized ideas at a time.
Once you’ve decided what to eat, take stock of what’s on hand, so you don’t let perishables spoil or overbuy key ingredients that you will have to find a way to use up later. Now, make a detailed list of everything you will need to purchase during this trip to the store. (Factor in how many people you will be feeding, so you can get the correct amounts.) Take that beautifully detailed list along with you and stick to it. No impulse buys allowed!
Cook at home
Prepare simple meals in your own kitchen, by mixing and matching the Top 100 Keto Foods. You’ll save considerably when you stop eating out and wasting money on convenience items, most of which contain inflammatory ingredients and lack essential micronutrients your body needs to thrive.
Double or triple the recipe for a favorite stew or casserole and freeze the leftovers to enjoy another day. This saves time as well as money!
Eat the leftovers
Don’t waste the food you’ve prepared. Have leftovers for breakfast, bring them for lunch, or reserve extra portions for a weeknight dinner when there’s no time to cook.
Bring your lunch to work or school
Buy a fun container for bringing homemade salads, deli meat plates, grain-free muffins, and the like to your work or school campus. Resist the urge to hit the cafeteria.
Go to Fridge Zero: Every so often, make a point of eating down whatever has been neglected in the fridge. Then give the appliance a thorough cleaning! Make every food dollar count, while getting a fresh start on your refrigerated essentials.
Good intentions, and carefully planned budgets, often fall apart at the supermarket. Try these strategies to avoid overspending on your healthy grocery haul:
Buy in bulk
Canned foods, stock, and other dry goods often are available in bulk since they have a longer shelf life. Produce like tomatoes, peppers, fruit, and even leafy greens is worth buying in bulk if you make time to prep and freeze or can the extras right away or have a bigger family and know you will use it up in time. Lastly, meat, cheese, and some vegetables are less expensive when you buy in larger quantities. Invest in a chest freezer and fill it up!
Don’t assume the promos in your inbox offer the best deals – or that the price you paid before is the lowest price now. Look around at physical and online stores to find the best deals of the day.
Shop the sales
This might be an obvious one, but those weekly ads they have at the entrance of the grocery stores, grab them! Find out what will be on sale the following week, so you can plan for meals that use those ingredients. These ads also often contain coupons, which you can save and use for the upcoming week.
Follow what’s in season
Produce is not only fresher but also more affordable when it’s in season. Your local farmer or the USDA can provide a seasonal produce guide, so you can know when to expect the best prices on certain fruits and vegetables.
Local food co-ops often have better prices on quality brands than mainstream supermarket chains.
Show your produce some love
When you get home from the market, wash, dry, cut, peel (if needed) and store perishables with care. Prep will be different for each vegetable or fruit, but ensuring that they are stored correctly will make them last longer before spoiling and also faster for you to get meals ready. Most vegetables are best when stored in the crisper of the fridge, and separated from fruit to prevent ripening too quickly.
Choose value cuts of meat
You don’t need to eat ribeye and New York strip every night. Other cuts offer superior nutrition, at more affordable prices. Learn to appreciate the whole animal and seek out large roasts, bone-in cuts, and offal. Meats that can be slow-cooked are usually your best bet and can provide enough meat for several people or several meals. Chuck steak, whole chicken, ground meat or pork roasts are a few of the more affordable cuts of meat that work well in casseroles, soups, tacos. Deli meat is also a great option and can be prepared lots of ways as well - omelets, as a snack, on pizza, and even in soup!
Buy local and sustainable
When you buy mass-produced foods, you’re paying extra for the inputs (fertilizer and pesticides), labor, transportation, and other rising costs of industrial agriculture. Small growers located close to you don’t face the same economic pressures, (although they do face many other challenges), so they often can pivot more easily as markets shift. Give them your support!
Join a CSA
Community-supported agriculture has been trending for some time, but it is not a well understood concept. When you join a CSA program, you purchase a share or subscription to the farm’s harvest, usually a weekly box of meat and/or produce. For example:
Pasture 42 in the Capay Valley of northern California was an all-time favorite program for Senza’s cofounders when we lived close enough for weekly deliveries of farm eggs, raw milk, fresh cream, grass-fed beef, and milk-fed pork - not to mention the farm’s own extra virgin olive oil!
Since moving to Utah, we’ve partnered with Canyon Meadows Ranch to offer boxes and subscriptions of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef to the Senza community.
The Beef Initiative ships nationwide and accepts Bitcoin as payment, for a truly decentralized way to source your food from independent ranchers.
Ever thought about homesteading?
If you have the space, a backyard garden, chicken coop, or even a few containers on the porch, are great ways to get off the mainstream food grid. Get creative with what you grow and harvest, then barter with your neighbors. Peer-to-peer food is going to be the building block of a decentralized system that will be far more resilient in years to come.
Keeping food costs under control during times of inflation can feel like an impossible task. Make a promise to yourself to try at least one of these money-saving steps right away. Besides a more predictable food budget, you’ll benefit from less time shopping, cooking, and eating out – all while making healthier food choices. The story just might have a happy ending after all.
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Love this post! Gives me some ways in which I can improve my food budget. One thing that has been really helpful for me is not only planning my meals out, but keeping them really SIMPLE. I find that many recipes are SO complex and require so many different ingredients. The more I've simplified my diet, the more affordable it is and easier to plan. For example, each meal always includes a source of protein/fat like meat, seafood, eggs, etc and some type of veggie/carb. I always use things like butter, sea salt, spices or the occasional sauce to mix it up but for the most part, it's really simple.
I had so much fun pulling these tips together! I realized there are such small/minor things that we can do that can have such a large impact on our spending. I would love to hear any advice on what we may have missed in this article, any extra tips you guys might add?