Healthy living is often associated with expense more frequently than it should be for how important it is to daily life. From niche fitness boutiques to quick service health-focused restaurants to the food that you buy in your grocery store, it’s easy to feel like having a healthy lifestyle is out of reach if you are a non-rich person living on a non-rich person’s budget. This can easily result in just giving up on it all together and going for what seems to be the cheaper way to live, which is generally the less healthy version of life. The truth is that despite what it seems sometimes, healthy living not exclusive to those with lots of disposable income — it’s available for all of us, it just might take a little extra work. Here are six ways to make it easier to stay healthy on a budget:
When you decide to make a lifestyle change, especially as it relates to food, one of the first things you should get used to is planning ahead. If you’re on a specific diet and you don’t have healthy snacks and meals around you it becomes dangerously easy to forget the guidelines you gave yourself and just go for whatever is around. This principle applies to food shopping as well. Cooking at home is almost always cheaper than buying take out or eating at a restaurant, so once you have planned for that, you’ve got the first step to cutting costs down. The second is to take some time to plan your meals for the week and create a shopping list around them. Doing this will help you to generate a tally of things that you can stick to so that you avoid purchasing items that are either less healthy or will go to waste aka essentially send money down the drain. Be sure to try checking out what is on sale at your store or in season at the time as those things will generally be less expensive and help to cut costs even more. Depending on how serious you are about really saving money — consider comparing prices of items at different stores and determine where the best place to purchase each item is. It takes a bit of extra time but it can really make a difference in the overall cost.
Not everything needs to be organic & buy in bulk. Continuing with changes you can make in the grocery store itself: organic food is not equal to healthy food at all times. This means that not everything you buy needs to be organic. There are some foods that are worth your extra dollars to purchase organically and some that or not. I tend to stick to the dirty dozen and clean 15 when shopping. The dirty dozen is a list of 12 items that contain the highest levels or pesticides and are worth the extra money to buy organic. The clean 15 are foods that you can buy “regular” and it won’t have that much of a difference. With this being said, if buying any organic produce is out of the question for you — don’t swear off healthy foods just for this reason! Organic is definitely a great luxury to be able to purchase, but that’s what it is: a luxury. A non-organic apple with non-organic peanut butter is still better for a snack that a half of a box of cookies.
Buying in bulk is another change to make at the grocery store. While this won’t work for produce, it can work for foods that have a longer shelf life. I purchase many cans of crushed tomatoes for making sauce when they are on sale so I never have to pay full price, and the same can be done for foods like pasta. A lot of items that can be kept in your pantry for extended periods of time do go on sale, you just have to wait until the right time to buy. When they finally do go on sale do, buy a lot of them — your bill might be a bit higher than week but just remember all the future money you’re saving to reduce the freakout.
Buying frozen foods can seem to be counter-intuitive to eating healthy because of the types of foods that are most often associated with the frozen kind. But this link is not always true, there are a great deal of foods in the frozen aisle that are healthy. Just be sure to check the ingredient list to make sure they don’t have anything wild in them — the shorter the list the better. One of my favorite frozen foods are the bags of vegetables that can be steamed right in the bag. Of course, fresh is ultimately best but these vegetables are picked and flash frozen at their peak freshness so it is about as close as you can get to freshness without worrying about anything going bad. These steamed vegetables bags take only a few minutes to heat up in the microwave and in my house have made the difference between eating vegetables at dinner or not, which makes them totally worth it. Meat is another food that freezes great. Try to only purchase when it’s on sale and then freezing it, so not only will you be saving money but you’ll always have a source of protein at your house.
This is probably the most difficult advice I have for you to follow: stop buying junk food. Or at least reduce the amount that you purchase. While it might be the hardest step to take, it is probably the most rewarding one as well. You will probably see the biggest difference in your food bill and eating habits after putting this one into effect. If you’ve ever heard that many people’s bills rise a great deal when they decide to eat healthily many times it’s because they start buying the healthy foods in addition to the junk food they are already buying. Junk food tends to be pretty expensive ($5 for a box cookies that could totally be devoured in one sitting!) — just imagine all the produce or healthy food you can buy for that price, and it’ll last you a lot longer meal wise. You don’t need to completely cut out all junk food, just reduce it a bit, and you’ll start to see a difference in your food bill. Hey, you might even find that you aren’t craving the junk food as much as well!
Do you have any tips for healthy eating on a budget?
Featured image is by Brooke Cagle.