Mindset - I put mindset as number one, because it is the most challenging yet necessary step to a healthier you. Eating healthy, and doing so on a budget, requires some effort. It requires more time, research, and will power then we are used to in our world of 'have it your way' convenience. Changes are always the most challenging in the very beginning, but it's amazing how our minds and bodies adapt to new habits when we are willing to stick them out. This causes us to press through some of the discomfort and unfamiliarity of a new lifestyle, and come out on the other side feeling victorious. I know you can do this!
Learn to traditionally prepare foods - Once our mindset shifts from expecting convenience at every turn, to realizing that healing the body and nourishing ourselves takes some effort, we are able to tackle the thought of learning traditional food preparation. The art of traditionally preparing foods has all but faded out in the past handful of decades, leading to a decline in our physical (and arguably our mental) state of health. Traditional food preparation included skills such as making stocks, soaking and sprouting nuts and legumes, properly soaking oats and grains, fermenting, etc. The way food was prepared in the past, made the food much more digestible, thus allowing the body to fully utilize all the nutrients present.
Nourish yourself with whole nutritionally dense foods - Many of the foods today are sorely lacking in any adequate nutrition. When food is lacking in nutritional density, we tend to consume much more of it. We mistake our bodies desperation for nutrition with general hunger. We can pack in empty cheap fuel all day, but ultimately, you will have to consume much more food to feel properly fed.
Eat enough healthy fats - On that note, humans need good healthy fats. When we are consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats, our bodies will stop desiring so many empty calories. Our brains will be nourished not only affecting our physical health, but often times, our mood as well. Healthy fats include things like : Olive oil, avocado, tallow, bone broth, full fat yogurt, grass fed butter, etc.
Embrace root and cruciferous vegetables - There is a long list of root vegetables that are quite filling and inexpensive to buy. Pantry staples should include things like: Carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, etc. Cabbages and cauliflower will go a long way in a meal and you can generally find them for very little cost.
Embrace pumpkins and squashes - Just like the above foods, pumpkins and squashes are wonderfully dense with nutrition and will stretch far in a meal. They are fairly easy to grow and are readily available during the harvest season. One of the beautiful things about squashes is that they can store for a very long time without refrigeration. These types of produce will help you stretch your more expensive ingredients in meals such as your meats.
Shop seasonal produce - Shopping seasonal produce will help you cut down on your costs because when foods are in season, they are typically available in abundance. The more abundance of a crop, the less they need to charge per item. Seasonal and local produce also requires less shipping and processing, thus lowering costs.
Shop local co-ops - If your area has a local co-op, you can often find great deals on beautiful produce. You can split your co-op costs with family or friends and divide up the produce to save even more.
Make more soups and stews - Soups and stews were staples in every household until the age of microwave food came into being. Soups helped to stretch ingredients, warm bones, and to nourish the whole body. Soups are a great way to feed a large crowd.
Make your ingredients stretch - Speaking of soups and stews, they are many ways to make your ingredients stretch. This also includes things like casseroles, one pot meals with a broth sauce as your base, turning leftover meat into a whole new meal by making things like pot pie or stir fry.
Make your food from scratch at home - Packaged and take out foods will certainly add up. Learning to make whole food meals or meals in advance, will save you money in the long run. While a package of processed food might seem lower in cost out of the gate, ultimately, it will cost you more over time. One way to avoid take out, is to prepare freezer meals. Make a double batch of whatever you are cooking, and freeze half. This way, when you are in a time crunch, you can simply take the meal out of the freezer and heat it up in your pot.
Shop cheaper cuts of meat - Certain cuts of meat are substantially less expensive than others. Typically bone in meat is cheaper, because they don't have to pay someone to de-bone it for you. Cuts such as drumsticks, chuck roast, certain types of tuna, and whole chickens will give you a better return on your investment. Making meat stretch by adding legumes to your dish or pairing with roasted root veggies and a stock sauce. If you see things like cans of pole caught tuna for sale in the store, stock up on items while things are cheaper.
Check local meat farms - Buying meat locally in bulk and splitting with others, can also get you some great deals on very high quality meat. They will often also have things like organ meats or soup bones for a very reasonable price. I have even heard of people getting soup bones for free from a local farm.
Shop bulk or split bulk food with friends - If you are able, shopping in bulk will help you save money. If you have limited space, think of the items you use the most, and focus on getting those things in bulk.
Search for discount grocers/bulk food distributors - Many areas have discount grocers or bulk food suppliers. Take a car ride out once a month, and you can save a lot on popular and even organic items. Some bulk food suppliers will also offer a distressed list, which can render even deeper discounts on high quality foods.
Don't allow food to spoil - Who else has struggled with this? I have! It has taken a long time for me to get into the proper frame of mind in regards to this topic. I realized one day that letting lots of food spoil is a bad reflection of my gratitude for the food and my desire to steward it well. If you see that you won't be able to use something in the appropriate time, get into the habit of freezing or dehydrating food to help them last until you are ready to eat them. If you see bananas going ripe, you can turn them into delicious banana muffins, or chop them up and store them in the freezer for smoothies.
Grow Food - If you are in anyway able, grow food. Even if you are just growing a few of your most frequently used herbs in a window in pots, that is a great start. Every little bit counts.
Use pastured eggs - Quality eggs are an inexpensive little superfood. You can eat eggs morning, noon, or night, and they are a power packed fuel and protein source for your body. You can hard boil eggs for a snack, or make a crustless quiche for dinner. If you are low on meat, eggs will come to the rescue.
Look past the labels - Getting an organic label can be very expensive for companies, and so many local or smaller distributors do not have the stamp of organic, even though they indeed practice chemical free farming. Sometimes we are paying a premium for a label, when we could get better quality food locally for less. Call up your local farms and ask about their chemical policies for their crops and or what they feed their animals.
Avoid pre-packaged food as much as possible - The best summary piece of advice, is to learn to love cooking. Make it a time where you have music going, a cup of tea or a bubbly drink in hand, and enjoy all the smells that come from an active kitchen. I think we have been trained to see cooking as a chore, when really, it's a privilege to have nourishing foods in our possession, and the ability to create healing dishes for those we love. You can!