Most people think eating healthy means you must spend a ton of money. You don’t. There are many ways to eat healthy on a budget. It requires a little thinking outside of the box and plenty of preparation.
Here are 15 ways to make eating healthy on a budget easy for you.
‘Shop’ your Pantry and Refrigerator First
We’re all programmed to go to the store and stock up on everything we need for the week. What if you already have half or more of the items you need? Rather than starting from scratch each week, ‘shop’ your inventory first. What can you make out of what you have?
If you don’t have ideas, browse Pinterest or Google for the ingredients you have, you may be surprised at the number of ideas you find.
Plan your meals around the sales
Once you know what food you have available, then move onto the week’s sales. Choose a store or two you love to shop at and plan your meals around the foods on sale. Focus on lean proteins and produce to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
If you have to shop a few stores, consider using curbside pickup. This way you’ll avoid impulse buys in the store and know exactly how much you’re spending before you checkout.
Plan a ‘no meat’ day or several per week
Meat isn’t the only way to get protein. Non-animal sources, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are great sources of protein. They may not seem as appetizing as a juicy steak or grilled chicken, but there are plenty of ways to make them delicious. Try your hand at Buddha bowls or vegetarian burritos. You may be surprised at how delicious and filling they can be.
Buy frozen produce
If the produce you love isn’t in season, don’t buy it fresh. Instead, head to the frozen section. It may not look as beautiful at first, but it has the same nutrients and will save you a lot of money.
Produce is frozen at the perfect time to keep its nutrients and prevent it from spoiling. You not only save money on the produce when you buy it, but you’ll have less waste if you only take out the food you’ll use for each meal.
Cook meals yourself
It’s tempting to swing through the drive-thru or even hit up your local ‘healthy’ restaurant as more pop up everywhere, but you’re wasting money. Instead, cook meals yourself. If you’re short on time, pick one day a week to do bulk cooking and use it throughout the week.
Roast your vegetables, cook batches of lean proteins, and cut up any raw vegetables or fruits you’ll eat through the week. The easier you make it on yourself to grab and go, the healthier you’ll eat and the less money you’ll spend.
Bring leftovers for lunch
Instead of cooking just enough for your family each meal, cook more than you need. Keep the leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days and you’ll save money. Not only will you not need extra food to make lunches, but you’ll skip the drive-thru and the stomach ache the unhealthy food causes.
Make your own coffee
Starbucks is delicious, but the drinks have a ton of sugar and cost an arm and a leg. Instead, make your own coffee at home (you can even make ‘fun’ coffees, just check Pinterest). Use sugar-free ingredients or plant-based milks to keep your coffee healthy while still giving you the caffeine kick you need.
Water does so much for your body. First, it keeps your organs operating at their best. It also fills you up so you aren’t eating unnecessarily. We often mistake thirst for hunger and reach for sugary, salty, and processed foods instead what our body really wants is water.
Drink 8 – 10 glasses of water a day and see how different you feel. You may find that you eat less and feel better. You may even skip the sugary drinks that aren’t doing your body any good.
Shop the perimeter of the store
If you shop in-store (curbside is great!), stick to the outside of the store. That’s where you’ll find produce, meat, and dairy products. If you browse the inner aisles, you’ll be tempted by processed foods that claim to be healthy and include vitamins – they don’t.
Skip the temptation and stick to the outer skirts of the store. If you must hit certain aisles, stick to your list and don’t look at the temptations around you.
Buy in bulk
If there are certain products you use a lot, stock up on them when they are on sale or consider joining a wholesale club. Stock up on the produce, proteins, and beans you use often.
Freeze what you won’t use right away and what you will use cook or cut up so it’s ready for the week. The more you prepare, the easier it is to stick to your budget and avoid eating out. You could even make freezer meals, cooking the proteins you bought in bulk, then all you have to do is pull them from the freezer and cook them on busy nights.
Start a garden
If you live in an area that’s conducive to gardens, grow your own produce. If you have the room, grow enough to get you through the summer and to freeze for later months. You’ll save the most money this way since you’ll only have to shop your own inventory rather than the store.
If you love using fresh herbs, keep an herb garden year-round. Fresh herbs grown at home taste a lot better than the store-bought versions, especially since you know what you use on them (or don’t), making them truly organic and healthy.
Shop clearance tags
Before stocking up on ‘regular’ meat and produce, look for the red or orange clearance tags. These are items the store needs to get rid of fast because they’re about to expire. Don’t let that scare you.
Look at the dates and decide if you’ll use it before then. If not, cut it up and prepare it for the freezer. You’ll retain the nutrients and save a lot of money – meats are sometimes discounted as much as 80 – 90% just to get them off the shelf rather than in the trash.
Skip bagged salads
Bagged salads look convenient, especially when they have multiple ingredients in them, but they often spoil much faster, aren’t as healthy, and are more expensive.
Instead, buy whole heads of lettuce and the other ingredients you like in your salads, such as radishes, carrots, cucumbers, and avocados. Slice or dice everything up when you buy it and store them in airtight containers. When you want a salad, throw your favorite ingredients together and you have the perfect salad.
Make your own oatmeal
Don’t fall for the pre-packaged flavored oatmeal options. Instead, make your own. Not only will you save a lot of money, but your oatmeal will also be much healthier. Buy oats in bulk and look up recipes for your favorite flavors. If you’re looking to save time in the morning, look up overnight oat recipes – you throw all the ingredients together at night and in the morning, you have a delicious breakfast waiting for you.
Today it’s easy to use coupons and you don’t even have to pour over the Sunday paper clipping them. Join your store’s loyalty program (most are digital) and ‘clip’ coupons in the app before you shop. At checkout, scan the app’s barcode and you’ll automatically get the savings.
Get Creative to Save Money and Eat Healthy
Try adding new ways to save money and eat healthy into your routine weekly. Start with something you know you can do. As you accomplish it, add more ways including ways outside your comfort zone.
For example, start with shopping for your items first, creating your meal plan around what you already have. As you get used to that, explore new recipes and ways to incorporate meatless meals into your budget. Since this could be a drastic change for your family, start with one meal a week and work your way up as everyone gets used to the idea.
The bottom line is you can save money and eat healthy. Get your entire family on board with your ideas and make a game out of it. Before you know it, your habits will be natural and not feel ‘different’, but you’ll enjoy a much fatter pocketbook.