What are the two things that become short during the holidays? It is time and money. It takes discipline for us to set funds aside all year to cover holiday expenses and for many time is always short regardless. Lack of time is a mindset issue and that’s a whole other article so today let’s focus on our food budget during the holiday season.
In the not so distant past, we had a Christmas savings fund offered at our bank that allowed us to set aside money during the year for gift buying at Christmas and retailers offered lay away programs which helped to stretch the holiday expense making it easier on our wallets. You don’t really see many of these today that can help ease the financial burden this time of year.
One of the first items to be cut when money becomes short is the grocery bill. Many will tell you that eating healthy is expensive and it can be unless you are smart about it. Let’s explore how to eat healthy on a budget during the holidays and year round.
Mom knew what she was doing when she passed along two important tips for grocery shopping—always make a list and never go hungry. Shopping with a list helps decrease impulse buying and shopping hungry is well a disaster, as you probably already know. Two areas where you can save money are eating seasonally and buying organic produce.
Eating seasonally is more nutritious and less expensive than items shipped in from thousands of miles away. Produce picked before it is ripe then shipped for weeks to the grocery shelf will not have the vitamins, antioxidants or minerals of seasonal produce. The website Sustainabletable.org can help you with what is seasonally grown in your area and find local farms to support with your purchases.
Secondly, does everything need to be organic to be healthy? The answer is no. The website EWG.org is a great resource to know what produce is heavily sprayed with pesticides and should be purchased organically. Use the list, published yearly, that names the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 to buy your produce. You can save yourself money here to spend on other nutritious foods.
This is a great way to save dollars but only if you use what you buy. If you have the time to meet with a like-minded friend to split jumbo bags of fresh produce then by all means go for it. The cost in time and energy though may outweigh the benefit for many. Instead, try setting up a meal swap program with those like-minded friends and share prepared food for the week. This saves time and money plus adds variety to your menu.
Look to purchase those specialty spices not commonly used at retailers who sell them in bulk and purchase only what you need for a particular recipe. When shopping for groceries, always make it a point to check the discount bins for items approaching their expiration dates to either freeze for later or use in recipes that week.
Before you sit down and start slashing your food budget, take an honest look at where you are spending your hard earned dollar. Fifty percent of working Americans spend $1000/year on fancy coffees and sixty six percent buy lunch instead of packing for an annual cost of $2000. This alone is a $3000 savings that could be redirected into your food budget or for gift buying during the holidays.
I am not saying you should never splurge but check in to see if this is a habit you have fallen into. Daily newspapers can now be read online and your local library has your favorite monthly magazines you can sit and enjoy while not having buy them.
These are just a few things that you can implement changes, the take away from today’s article is to not be so quick to sacrifice nutritious food when you need to stretch a dollar. Contemplate life 10 or 20 years from now to see if you will be healthy or falling victim to chronic disease. Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish now. The best investment, you can make today, is to take care of yourself. Unfortunately, we are given one body to last a lifetime. You would not put cheap gas into an expensive sports car, why short change yourself and your health?