Refrigerator Look Book + My Monthly Food Budget

One of my favorite Health & Wellness websites, Well & Good NYC, has a series called 'Refrigerator Look Book' that takes a peek into the fridges of notable 'health celebrities' . I always love these articles as they inspire me to (1) clean out my usually gross fridge and (2) go buy a ton of vegetables. I thought I'd give you a little tour of my fridge/pantry as I talk today about something many people have asked me about - eating healthy on a budget. We'll start with the cupboards/spice storage:

Isn't my spice area total chaos? I keep meaning to buy some sort of spice rack but it's been 2 years and I've yet to do so.

Moving on to the fridge and freezer:

Now that you see what my normal food supply looks like I'll go into how much I spend (and how I save) on my monthly groceries.

I looked around for a while and found varying reports of how much a family of 4 spends on groceries. The amount ranged from $800-900 a month so I'll split the difference, divide by 4 and come up with $212.5 per person a month. That's almost exactly what I spend - $50 a week and I'd like to think that I eat pretty darn healthy and can usually afford the 'best' quality produce & organic (as much as possible).

Here are my biggest tips on how to keep costs low:

1. Buy in bulk whenever items are on sale. I used to be a competitive couponer, seriously. The problem with coupons though is that they are usually good for junk food. You don't see a lot of coupons circulating for broccoli or egg whites! When the non-perishable items I buy often go on sale I stock up. My usual grocery store is Publix and they have incredible Buy One Get One deals every week. A few weeks ago the syrup I use in my oatmeal every morning was on sale BOGO and I bought 6. If you end up doing that with most of the items that you use regularly (aside from produce of course) that can really save you a ton of money. Vitatops were BOGO a few weeks ago and I tore that store up.

2. When you have a decent amount of stuff like that stocked up your weekly grocery list will end up being mostly produce, meat, eggs or dairy products. This was my grocery bill from last week (which even included $8 in flowers!)

The following pictures isn't from the same week as the receipt above but this is usually what my grocery trips look like:

 3. Plan your recipes ahead and only go to the store once a week. This will force you to 'overlap' ingredients as much as possible (I bought 1 onion for 2 recipes here) and your much more likely to stick to a budget with a well planned out list and menu. This was enough for me to make:

- Spinach and Artichoke stuffed Portobellos

- Roasted Cauliflower & Tahini Salad

- Seriously Good Spinach + Lentil Soup

 - Broccoli & Cheddar crustless cupcake quiches (Still working on the recipe!)

Honestly, this is more than enough food for me for the week. I'm actually wondering if I'll be able to finish it all for lunches & dinners before the next week starts! Did it take me a while to prepare? Oh heck yes - about 4 hours for the 4 meals (I don't have a dishwasher so clean up is always a pain in the ass). It is SO worth it though since I now have incredible leftovers that take me 2-3 minutes to reheat in the microwave.

4. Only buy organic produce when you really need to. Keep a printed list of the 'dirty dozen' with you to know when to splurge and when to save on buying organic.

5. Limit how much you spend going out to eat (or picking up snacks at convenient stores). I don't make a ton of money (I'm a teacher, big surprise there) so the $200 a month on food is a decent percentage of my monthly income. I absolutely justify it though because (1) it's my health and (2) I rarely go out to eat. Maybe 1-2 a month now and I never buy sodas or snacks from the gas station (like I used to do almost daily when I was a smoker). When I tell my students how much I spend on food they always act so shocked - until I ask them how many times a week they go out to fast food and they realize they spend almost as much doing that as I do on groceries.

So, those are my best tips on how to eat healthy while sticking to a budget. If you have any others please share them in the comments below! I know money is tight for so many people and I hope that this can help some of you out!