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How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
By Leah Zerbe
August 3, 2018
It can seem impossible to eat healthy when a large burger combo with a soda costs only a fraction of what you’d pay for a salad and bottled water. While it can appear to be expensive to live that Instagram-worthy life, there are some simple ways to stretch your dollar without stretching your waistline.
The first and most important step to any healthy eating is to plan your week’s meals out ahead of time. Among the many benefits of a little bit of forethought is the lowered risk of impulse buys and much less food waste. Knowing what you’ll be eating for the week, and planning multiple uses for different ingredients, can keep your grocery bill to a minimum while also maximizing the use of fresh produce and prepared meat.
If you can swing it, try stopping by your local farmer’s market. Not only will you be directly supporting your own community, but the produce is likely to be better and cheaper than at a big chain supermarket. Cutting out the middleman gets the food from the farm to your table quicker, without the preservatives and chemicals often needed for transportation. That unnecessary extra step also reduces prices, letting your money work harder for you. As an added bonus, farmer’s markets offer a host of other local benefits.
Another benefit of buying directly from local farmers is the seasonal options. Have you noticed that although you can buy strawberries year round at supermarkets, the price changes a lot depending on what time of year it is? If you spend just a few minutes researching what produce is in season, you can save tons of money. Local growers will only sell you what’s in season and you’ll most likely also be guaranteed a good price.
Large chains and supermarkets often have great deals, loyalty programs, and the ever-popular receipt coupons. It’s now easier to download apps and collect coupons online than keeping them in a coupon tin in the kitchen. But don’t let the coupons trick you. Many coupons are for processed, unhealthy junk food. Collect coupons only for healthy foods and staples that you will use and are part of your healthy meal-planning regimen.
A great way to save money, eat healthy, and live a more active lifestyle is to start your own garden. Growing your own produce can save you time and money at the grocery store, and also keep you active and, on sunshiney days, can supply you with “sunny” vitamin D during your day. If you don’t have a big yard or any obvious growing space, growing an indoor herb garden is absolutely doable. Not only will growing your own herbs save you money, it will encourage you to cook more which is almost always a healthier option.
Speaking of cooking more, stop going out so much! Eating out a couple times a week can add up shockingly fast. Try to limit your nights eating out and cook at home more. If you and your significant other like date nights, why not try cooking together? If you stop by the deli every day for lunch, consider instead packing your own healthy meal. Making your own meals will often be healthier than a restaurant option because you’ll have access to healthier ingredients and know exactly what goes into your meals. And you won’t be paying extra for the convenience of premade food. That said, cooking at home doesn’t have to be a chore. Try new recipes, like these to experiment with health-focused meals and snacks.
If you’re cooking for a big family, then a Costco or Sam’s Club Membership makes sense. But buying in bulk when you’re single or cooking for a small family can also be just as beneficial. You may not be able to buy, store, and eat 10 pounds of lettuce before it goes bad, but there are a lot of things you can purchase that keep for a long time. Frozen fruits, veggies, and meat will usually stay good for months when frozen. And grains like quinoa, rice, and couscous can be used over long periods of time, saving you money.
For healthy meals on a budget, a freezer is your best friend. Besides buying in bulk and storing, you can also prep meals to be tossed in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Pre-packaged freezer meals are usually full of preservatives and added calories, but if you prep your own healthy meals and freeze them, all you have to do is stick them in a crock pot in the morning or a pressure cooker after work and you have a healthy, inexpensive, ready-made meal to go!
If it’s tough for you to afford meat, or if you just don’t have a lot of time, there are some supplements that can be highly nutritious and beneficial, including ours here at Ancient Nutrition.
If your palate screams “summer berry salad” but your wallet can only spell “ramen,” don’t despair. There are a few easy ways to eat healthy on a budget. A healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone and with these nine suggestions, it won’t be.