Deciding to eat healthy has numerous benefits to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It can decrease excess weight – which gives you less energy, can create sleeping issues and makes you prone to heart disease and diabetes. Overall, eating healthy increases your energy, thus allowing your mind to work as it should. It helps your emotional state stay more balanced as you are better able to handle stress. Additionally, eating right boosts your immune system, makes your hair, nails, and skin look better, and does so much more!
Let’s be honest here – our society overall does not truly support someone who eats healthy. We tend to fill our schedule with family, career, and home maintenance necessities (like errands and cleaning), not to mention transportation to and from work plus transporting our children here and there. Everything is scheduled very tightly and doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking and eating healthy meals at a dinner table. We are usually rushing, in our cars, from one appointment to another. Restaurants, fast food, and processed mixes are so much more convenient.
To add insult to injury, the price of healthy foods can be pretty expensive. The price will only increase if you choose organic fruits and vegetables, free-range or cage-free eggs, and grass-fed meat that is hormone and antibiotic-free. It becomes a difficult choice between ease, price, and the extent of healthy eating you are striving for.
Here are 20 ways to eat healthy while on a budget.
1. Plan out your meals.
Going to the grocery store with a list of just the foods you are out of is not the best way. Sit down and plan your meals for the next week or two. Double check which ingredients you have vs which ones you need to buy. Then, when you go to the grocery store, only buy what you need. This not only helps keep the bill down but can prevent a lot of wasted foods from going in the trash.
There are also some great apps out on IOS and Android that allow you to input what foods you are eating for each meal based on brand and quantity. They are great if your plan is to lose weight and eat healthy.
After you input the foods for each meal, it will show you the calories and the nutritional value of each food. This can not only help you create healthier meals but allow you to adjust the amount to fit the number of calories you need. Some apps will even track how many calories you burned with exercise too.
2. Reuse prepared foods.
Just like with leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner (or any holiday with big meals required), turn leftover food into a new dish. For example, leftover rice from a stir fry dinner can be used as a breakfast. Just add some cinnamon and dried or fresh fruit with some milk.
Meat is a great ingredient to reuse in another meal. Leftover sautéed chicken can be put in tacos, enchiladas, soup, and more. The same goes for steak or pork. There are a lot of recipes in which meat can be repurposed.
3. Buy untrimmed meat or meat with bones:
Buying meat which has been trimmed and deboned costs more. Buy the entire chicken and then use the bones and spare meat trimmings to make chicken broth. You can freeze the broth if you don’t have a need for it within a week.
4. Freeze vegetables and fruits:
Rather than letting vegetables go bad because you haven’t eaten enough of them, do a quick partial steam and then freeze them. This doesn’t work with all vegetables but does the trick for quite a few, enabling you to eat healthy.
As for fruit, you can cook it down and make a sauce to use as its own side dish, like applesauce. You can also create a sauce to use later for a future recipe. Make sure you date what you freeze and use within three months so it doesn’t get frost burn.
5. Shop at a Farmer’s market or local farmer stand:
Many towns and cities have farmer’s markets or local farmers who sell their produce. You may need to shop or ask around for the best quality at the lowest price. You are not only getting more organic and less expensive produce, but also supporting your local farmers.
6. Grow your own fruits and vegetable:
It is easy to plant a few fruit trees, which will produce more than you can eat after a few years. Pick and choose which fruits and vegetables you eat the most, like onions, certain lettuces, melons, carrots, etc. that you can easily plant and maintain. This could even be a family project to teach your children the importance of homegrown foods and gardening techniques. It could also be a side money maker for you and your family if you have your children sell the excess to your neighbors.
7. Grow your own herbs:
Herbs in the store can be pretty expensive and go bad relatively quickly since they have been picked a time before you purchase them. There are many little herbal kits you can even grow in a window in your home or a partially sunny area on your patio or backyard.
8. Can or preserve fruits and vegetables:
Canning or preserving fruits and vegetables is a technique that has been around for a long time. These preserves can last for years. If you are not experienced doing this, it is well worth learning. Many books or internet sites can teach you how to do so. It is a useful skill you can also pass on to your children. Make sure you date what you can and store it in a cool, dark place for best preservation.
9. Pay in cash:
It is really easy to go above a budget if you are paying with a debit card or credit card. You don’t actually see the money being taken from your account. Paying for your groceries with cash establishes a firm barrier from going beyond what you planned on spending.
10. Choose non-meat sources of protein:
Meat can get pretty expensive and isn’t the only source of protein you can add to your diet. Many of the other sources are cheaper and have more variety in uses and recipes, such as tofu, various beans, quinoa, lentils, edamame, and certain grains.
11. Find sales and use coupons:
Look at your weekly ads and buy more of what is on sale each week. It may mean you have to adjust your meal planning, but it can save you quite a bit of money each week. Find coupons or use coupon shopping apps for the items that aren’t fresh, such as for bread, broth, pasta, canned or frozen goods, and dairy products. This includes using the grocery store’s customer card, which usually gives discounts to regular shoppers.
12. Use a cash back credit card:
If you are really opposed to paying with cash, then use a card that offers cash back. Groceries are one thing we buy regularly and in high volume. That 2% cash back can really add up.
13. Stay organized:
Knowing what is in your cabinets, pantry, freezer, and refrigerator can prevent you from buying more than you need as well as ensure you are using things before the expiration date.
14. Buy the fruits and vegetables in season:
Fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper at certain times of the year because of when they naturally mature. There are fewer shipping costs and a higher quantity at local stores.
15. Buy more vegetables that have multiple uses:
Certain vegetables or roots not only last longer but have more uses. Sweet potatoes can be a breakfast food, added in making pancakes, made into fries, etc. They tend to be more filling and last longer than many other veggies.
16. Order staples in bulk:
If you can join a warehouse or a farmer’s club, it is possible to buy hygiene items, paper towels, flour, beans, rice, cornmeal, and more in bulk amounts. This saves you money over time. They are usually a lower price per unit than what you buy in stores.
17. Buy a water filtration system or make own drinks:
If you are on a diet, you are most likely not drinking soda, but you may be buying cases of water. Some of the water may be flavored. Rather than buying cases of water – which results in contributing to plastic waste – buy a filtration system. Some systems create better tasting water than what you buy. Do you want flavor in your water? Try adding herbal tea to flavor it.
18. Cut back on eating in restaurants:
Some nights it is so nice to just order in or go out to a restaurant rather than cook. It can also be less time consuming for those with tight schedules. Try and plan for your outings in advance, bring cash to pay, and place your own limits on the frequency.
19. Include a lack of medical bills:
Eating healthy and losing weight usually results in fewer medical issues. Many people rid themselves of diabetes, blood pressure medication, cholesterol medications, and more. The savings related to doctor visits and medications should be included when calculating the money you save by eating healthy.
20. Don’t buy any or many convenience foods:
It is very tempting to just grab a frozen meal from the grocery store, especially when you can find some that claim to be low calorie. It seems like you are sticking to your diet, right? However, you are not taking into account that those little meals cost about $5.00 – $10.00 apiece and are usually high in sodium, sugars, and unhealthy preservatives.
Closing Thoughts on Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Choosing to eat healthy doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. It may take some adjustment to your schedule in the beginning, but not for long. Once a pattern is created, it will become easy and require little thought. I’m sure that by incorporating a few of these 20 ways to eat healthy while on a budget, you will save money and time and accomplish your health goals.