Recently, Nick made the bold decision to go to medical school. I’m so proud of him! With one full time student in the household, we made the decision to re-evaluate our spending. One area we noticed we spend the most? Food. Which got us thinking… how do you cut a budget for something so necessary? After analyzing our eating habits and the costs associated with them, we figured out something we were ignoring in the first place because we didn’t want to face the truth – salads are good for our wallets.
Let me explain – according to the latest USDA Food Cost study for 2016, a family of 2 ages 19-50 spend anywhere between $385 – $615 on food PER MONTH and those are the ranges for thrifty to moderate shoppers. This study was done taking into account the USDA nutritional guidelines and didn’t even include going out to eat or alcoholic beverages!
Here are 5 ways you’re wasting money by not making more salads:
1. You buy packaged food.
Food spending can really get out of hand if you don’t pay attention to the numbers. For example, many people (myself included) like to have some frozen meals on hand in case they are too busy to cook. Processed and prepackaged foods are generally more expensive than fresh fruits and vegetables (not to mention, worse for your health). That’s because you’re paying for the convenience of preprepared meals and the shelf life is generally longer than that of veggies. These foods also generally contain larger than normal amounts of sodium and chemicals in order to prolong their shelf life.
2. You skip out on tax benefits.
Many states don’t charge sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables. Assuming an 8% sales tax, and spending about $600 per month, you’d save $48 if you bought only fresh groceries! Salads starting to sound pretty good now, huh?
3. You buy too much.
It’s easy to snatch up a palette of lettuce on sale at Costco, but are you really going to eat it all before it goes bad? Food spoilage costs are huge in America. In many other cultures around the world, people go to the local market every day to buy groceries for the next day, they don’t stock up once a week. This ensures they have the freshest produce available which not only packs in more nutrients but also tastes better! It’s so much easier to convince yourself to eat salad when it actually tastes good!
Whatever produce you buy, you should always store it correctly. Check out tips for making your vegetables last longer here.
4. You order online.
There is something to be said for being able to pick out your own produce. You get to inspect the fruits and vegetables, make sure you get the freshest and healthiest foods – all of which translates to nutritional value and flavor. When you order online, you’re leaving this all up to chance.
5. You think you don’t have a green thumb.
Procuring ingredients for salads doesn’t have to be limited to your local grocery store. Try your hand at planting your own garden full of herbs and greens. These plants are really easy to grow and can save you a pretty penny. You can easily buy a package of seeds for less than $.25 and dirt and pots shouldn’t run you more than $0-$2. The best part is, you can cut only what you’ll use and the rest keep on growing! Buzzfeed has some great tips on how to repurpose your kitchen scraps to grow your own garden. Check it out here.
If you’re worried about starting a garden in an apartment setting or your home doesn’t get a lot of light, try a hydroponic gardening system. I have a Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra Kit and it’s worked really well for me. I’ve also ordered different seed pods and have grown everything from salad greens to peppers on my kitchen counter!
What if I don’t like salad?
I’ll be the first to admit – I HATE salads. I just don’t like the taste of lettuce, arugula, or raw kale. But I’ve found that experimenting with variety and different ingredients makes the experience so much more pleasant. For example, my favorite salads incorporate some sort of fruit (mandarin oranges and strawberries are my favorites) and a type of protein (grilled chicken is the obvious choice but chickpeas, kidney beans, and quinoa are surprising and delicious!). I also like to experiment with different types of dressings. I always skip the ranch and the thousand island but I’ve found balsamics and other vinegars to be refreshing. My favorite is this Fig Balsamic Vinegar from Oil & Vinegar. They have really interesting olive oil and vinegar flavors that are all worth a shot! They also make really great presents for moms BTW, this may be our usual Christmas gift… but shhh it’s a secret!
Have a favorite salad recipe or other money saving tips? Share in the comments below!