Keep reading for some of my go-to Low FODMAP on a Budget Tips for before you shop, in the store, staples to keep on hand, as well as affordable meal and snack ideas.
Setting and sticking to a food budget has never been easy for me. My foodie-side is instantly tempted by all of the new-to-me, yummy-sounding products the moment I set foot into the grocery store.
Luckily(?), spending almost eight years as a broke college student and then living frugally to become and stay debt free, I’ve have had a little bit of practice. 🙂
Am I perfect? Heck no. Do I blow my budget sometimes? Yepppp, sure do.
But, the important thing is I’ve learned some helpful tips and tricks along the way. Although my food budget has expanded (Hey, I create recipes for a living 😉 ), I still use these tips today and wanted to share them in case they might be helpful for you, too!
BEFORE YOU SHOP
1. Browse grocery store ads and your kitchen
Knowing what items are on sale and what you already have in your kitchen can help with meal planning on a budget.
Create a list of potential sale items to buy and items you already have on hand to use. Keep that list nearby as you’re meal planning.
2. Meal plan
Create a plan and plan to succeed. Take account of your upcoming schedule and plan meals accordingly. For example, if I have to work late, I know I’m not going to have much time to cook supper. So, I will plan to make a slow cooker or instant pot meal, instead.
I also keep a list of my favorite easy meals handy. I rotate these meals into my weekly meal plans. This helps because I don’t have to try to follow a new recipe. I know what I’m doing. I know I’ll like it. And, I don’t have to think much about cooking it.
Depending on my schedule, I aim to try only 1-3 new recipes a week. This is because new recipes unless they appear super simple (i.e., < 5 to 10 ingredients, < 20 minutes, slow cooker, etc.), tend to mean a bit of a learning curve and often take longer than the stated time.
3. Make a shopping list
Once you have your meal plan created, list out all of the ingredients, even if you know you already have it. I do this for two reasons. First, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to make a recipe and not actually had the ingredient, even though I thought I did when I was making my list. Writing every ingredient down forces me to double check.
Second, taking the time to create a meal plan with a complete shopping list (with every single ingredient) means you have a full meal plan and shopping list ready to go for future weeks when you don’t have time to plan. If you don’t list out all of the ingredients, because you know you have some of them on hand, in the future you might not have them on hand and run the risk of forgetting to include them in your grocery list.
4. Double check the grocery store ads
After you make a grocery list, double check the grocery ads. Highlight any items on your list that are on sale, just so you don’t forget. And, look for any items that are on sale that could possibly be substituted for items on your list. For example, using an on-sale pork roast in a recipe instead of a regular-priced beef roast.
5. “Shop” your kitchen before you shop
I am notorious for forgetting what I have in our kitchen and often end up with duplicate items. So, something I am working on, and encourage you to try as well, is to “shop” your kitchen first. After making a list, literally look through your kitchen and see if you already have any items on your list that you can cross off.
6. Have a snack before you go
Being hungry at the grocery store can often lead to off-plan or less nutritious impulse purchases. Have a snack before you go or plan to shop after a meal. Something else to consider – we also tend to make more impulse purchases when we’re really tired and/or stressed out.
IN THE STORE
7. Buy in bulk (if you know you will use it)
If you know you’ll use them, try buying items in bulk. For example, bulk whole carrots or large bags of potatoes may initially seem like a more expensive option, but work out to be more affordable than smaller quantities or more “processed” items (like baby carrots) when comparing unit cost.
A unit cost is similar to something like gasoline prices. Gas prices are compared in price per gallon. Similarly, the unit cost of food items can be compared using the price per ounce.
Some grocery stores also have bulk sections where you can buy staples like whole grains, baking flours, spices, herbs, etc. often at a lower unit cost than pre-packaged items.
The caveat here is these bulk items will only be more affordable if you will use them up before they go bad.
8. Shop in-season fresh produce
Other than more affordable staples, like bulk potatoes, whole carrots, or heads of cabbage, buying fresh produce when it’s in-season can be helpful in keeping costs down. A great place to find more affordable in-season produce is at farmers’ markets.
9. Head to the freezer section for affordable fruits and veggies
There is a misconception floating around that frozen fruits and vegetables are not as nutritious as fresh. However, many frozen fruits and vegetables are processed and packaged the very same day that they are picked which can mean that many of the nutrients are locked in.
Frozen produce can also be a more convenient option because it is already processed (cleaned, trimmed, etc.) and cooks (if needed) in a matter of minutes. Also, frozen produce often goes on sale or is offered at a more affordable price point than their fresh counterparts especially when those particular fruits and vegetables are not in-season.
10. Choose generic or store brand
When I worked as a supermarket dietitian, I learned that many generic or store brand products are the exact same product as their brand name equivalent. They are often made in the same facility just finished with a different label. The benefit to us is that many generic or store brand items are cheaper than brand-name versions.
11. Don’t discount the discount meat (… and seafood … and produce) section 🙂
Many grocery stores will discount items that are nearing their sell-by date. This doesn’t mean that these items are “bad”, it just means that the quality isn’t guaranteed once that date arrives.
If you’re not planning to use the item right away, which is one recommendation, you could also freeze the items to help extend the “life” of the product. Just freeze it right away when you get home and then when you do choose to use it, cook it immediately after thawing.
12. Be flexible with ingredients
Sometimes grocery stores will have unadvertised in-store sales. So, if I see something in-store that could be substituted in one of the recipes that I’m planning to make and is cheaper, I will buy it and use it instead.
Unless you’re baking (which is a more precise science), many cooking recipes don’t need to be followed exactly as written which offers some flexibility. One caveat is if you’re following a low FODMAP diet you will still need to be mindful of appropriate serving sizes to prevent potentially triggering symptoms.
13. Pay with cash
Paying with cash is much more of a personal preference, but something that I’ve found INCREDIBLY helpful in sticking to a budget. It even helped my husband and I pay off nearly $30,000 and become debt free.
Bringing cash in the set amount I have decided for groceries, means that I physically can’t go over my budget. It may mean I have to put an item or two back at the end, but it keeps me accountable and prevents me from buying items that may not be on my list.
LOW FODMAP ON A BUDGET STAPLES
(this list is by no means all-inclusive 🙂 )
- Cooking greens (collards, swiss chard, kale)*
- Canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans*
- Frozen broccoli, carrots or green beans*
- Frozen blueberries
- Canned tuna
- Canned tomatoes (check the ingredients – no onion or garlic)*
- Canned lentils*
- Rolled oats*
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds*
- Plain rice cakes*
- Corn tortillas*
- Olive oil
- Red pepper flakes
- Dried chives
- Tempeh or firm tofu*
- Pork or beef roasts
- 80/20 ground beef or pork (to decrease fat content, you can cook and drain the fat)
*Please refer to the Monash App for most current low FODMAP serving sizes
LOW FODMAP ON A BUDGET MEAL IDEAS
- Oatmeal cooked in water with a scoop of peanut butter and frozen blueberries
- Scrambled eggs with roasted potatoes and cooking greens
- Pork roast with cooked brown rice and cooked (frozen) broccoli or green beans or steamed (fresh) carrots, or roasted (fresh) cabbage
- Canned tuna with mustard on rice cakes (kind of like an open-faced sandwich)
- Cooked ground beef or pork with canned tomatoes and brown rice
LOW FODMAP ON A BUDGET SNACK IDEAS
- Rice cakes with peanut butter and frozen blueberries
- Hard-boiled eggs and carrot sticks
- Peanuts or sunflower seeds
- Low FODMAP Deviled Eggs
Share Your Low FODMAP on a Budget Tips
If you have any other budget tips or ideas that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below, so we can help each other out!