One of the complaints that many people have is that eating healthy can be expensive. The truth, though, is that you don’t need to buy expensive “health foods” in order to eat right. You can create a healthy meal plan by focusing on fresh ingredients, simple cuisine, and looking for coupons and sales. Here is a 4-step guide for creating a healthy, affordable meal plan:

 

1. Look at Coupons and Sale Circulars

 

Your first step is to take half an hour or so to look at what coupons and sales are available for the coming week. Look at what items are on sale. Is there a sale on fish? Do you see a coupon for chicken? You might not have coupon for  fresh produce, but many stores offer sales that can help you save on produce for the week. Many stores offer coupons for frozen vegetables, which can be healthy, and useful for storing for later. Make a note of what’s on sale, or what you have coupons for.

2. Consider What You Already Have

Check your pantry and your freezer for food items you already have. Is there a can of tomato sauce and a box of pasta just waiting to be turned into a delicious dinner? Add a salad made from fresh produce, and fruit cup made from bananas and on-sale grapes, and you have a low-cost dinner. Be aware of what you already have; that can reduce the amount  you need to spend while grocery shopping.

3. Create a Meal Plan Based on Discounts

Next, put together your meal plan, based on what you can get on discount, and what you already have. If you are unsure of how to create a meal based on what’s available at home or on discount, you can use a recipe matcher/generator like Super Cook to help. Enter the ingredients you want to use, and you can get recipes for those items. There are some that even offer to help you put together a meal with six ingredients or less.

4. Make a List and Stick To It

Now that you have a meal plan for the week, you can make a list of items that you need at the store. Almost all of the items on your list should be on sale or have a coupon. That way, you are saving money on what you buy. If the sale is especially good, you might consider buying multiples and storing them for later. That way you can incorporate it into a later meal plan, and reduce the need for buying it later at a higher price. Make sure you stick to your list while at the grocery store so that you aren’t impulse buying.

Other Tips for Saving Money on Food

As you prepare your meal plans, here are some more frugal tips for saving money on food:

  • Grow a garden: I grow and dry my own herbs. This saves a bundle, since fresh herbs (and even dried) at the store can be expensive. You can also grow other fruits and vegetables to cut back on what you have to purchase at the store. Organic food at a fraction of the cost.
  • Home food storage: Build your home food storage when you can get good prices. That way, you’ll have access to food that costs less over the long run.
  • Canning: You don’t have to build a huge stockpile of canned foods. If you have garden surplus, considering canning or bottling your own food for storage.
  • Poultry: If you are really adventurous, and if regulations allow it, you can grow your own poultry. Inexpensive eggs, and, if you can stomach it, you can eat some of what you grow.