Eating Healthy on a Budget
One question that I get asked quite often is how do I eat healthy without breaking the bank!? First of all, health is not cheap. Un-health is cheap. Case in point – fast food restaurants and the junk food aisles in the grocery store. Right now, Jack in the Box is offering 3 tacos for 99 cents! McDonald’s has an entire meal for $3! And don’t get me started on all the deals offered for cookies, chips, candies, sodas, fruit juices, sugary cereals, and crackers. On the other hand, shopping exclusively at Whole Foods www.wholefoodsmarket.com can really put a hole in your bank account, regardless of the healthy variety they offer. Now don’t get me wrong…..I love shopping the aisles of Whole Foods – it’s such a wonderful experience! But I have learned after many receipts totally over a couple hundred dollars that I only need to buy CERTAIN foods there. Not everything. Remember – they still are a humongous corporation making a pretty penny off their grocery items.
I ultimately believe that people want to eat healthier foods and parents would like to buy the most nutritious meals for their children. But therein is where the problem lies. When a fast-food restaurant is offering a killer deal on an entire meal for the family and buying ingredients from the grocery store to make a family meal exceeds the fast-food cost by tenfold, the parents on a budget are going to choose the low-cost option. Lack of time is also an issue. The drive-thru is quick and fast. Buying groceries and preparing the meal takes a significant amount of time. Ironically, this comes at a price. Your health and the health of your family.
There are plenty of ways to eat healthy without spending all of your hard-earned money AND make it tasty and enjoyable for everyone! I have compiled a list of HOW TO EAT HEALTHY ON A BUDGET during my years in school, in addition to working with families and individuals who did not have a large expendable income.
- Make a List! Make a shopping list based on your meal plan and the money you have to spend on food. This way you will veer away from items you really don’t need and decrease temptations (just remember to use the list – half the time I forget my list a home! :)
- Coupons! Use coupons for items you use regularly and try to buy on sale.
- Buy less expensive or generic brands of your favorite item. Most of the time, the generic brand is produced at the same factory as the name-brand item. Don’t fall prey to advertising gimmicks.
- Buy in bulk!
- Visit your local farmers market for deals on fresh fruits and vegetables. This is my number one advice for purchasing produce. You are getting the best of the best, most of the time it’s organic, and you know where your food is coming from. Support Sustainability!
- Buy fresh, in season fruits and vegetables by the bag. It’s typically cheaper than purchasing by the piece.
- Buy frozen fruits & vegetables! They’re equally as nutritious as fresh and definitely less expensive. This tip is without a doubt budget-friendly and I promise, you aren’t skimping on the nutritious benefits of the fruits & veggies.
- Avoid purchasing prepackaged/washed vegetables. Waste of money. Wash and chop your fruit & veggies.
- Oatmeal is a nutritious whole grain that is inexpensive. Don’t buy the individual packages! Buy steel cut oatmeal in the big canister or bag (Bobsredmill.com). It will last much longer and doesn’t have any added sugar or processed ingredients.
- Reduce meat consumption! Good meat is expensive. Beans, eggs, and peanut butter are inexpensive sources of protein. If you can spare the change, purchase the organic varieties of these items.
- Stock up on pantry items and items than can be frozen for future use when they are a good price. Don’t wait until you need the item- by then, it may be expensive.
- When it comes to beverages, stick to water whenever possible. Not only is it inexpensive but you also save calories. Add fresh lemon or lime for a little flavor!
- If saving money and eating healthy are on your agenda, consider bringing your lunch a few times per week and cut back on dining out when possible. You will end up making healthier choices when you take the time to pack your lunch at home, rather than making unhealthy choices while rushed during your lunch break.
- If you are going to purchase a fast-food meal for your family, try and order more healthy options such as grilled chicken, salads with dressing on the side, fruit plates and then add a small fry or dessert as a “treat”.
As I stated before, I only buy the most important items at expensive grocery stores such a Whole Foods. I will purchase organic, free-range, 100% grass fed meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. If I can’t make it to the Farmer’s Market, they have an incredible assortment of produce, which I really like. Otherwise, their chips, crackers, cookies, snacks, alcohol, and pre-made food are a bit overpriced (albeit they do offer a plethora of products for many food allergies not found elsewhere). You can get some of the same great products at Trader Joe’s. I am a huge supporter of Trader Joe’s in the sense that it is budget friendly and most of their “processed” products have very few ingredients in them, making them healthier choices if that is what you are looking for.
Lastly, don’t fall prey to advertising gimmicks. Be smarter than the big corporate conglomerates. And always look at prices!!!
Eat clean. Eat small. Eat often. Eat healthy. And be in it for the long haul.