Eating healthy is a lifestyle change that benefits your mental and physical health in many ways. Unfortunately, rising food prices lead people to think that it is hard to eat healthy if you are on a tight budget. You really can’t put a price on good health, but eating healthy does not mean you need to spend a fortune. Regardless of whether you are living alone or raising a family, enjoying healthy foods on the cheap is possible. The key factor here is revising your shopping habits to limit unnecessary spending and make smart choices on healthier options. Also, eating well on a cheap budget will not take away the pleasure of eating, which means satisfaction is guaranteed. Here are the top 10 tips to eat healthy for cheap when you’re broke.
1. Plan AheadWhen it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential. This means you must be aware of your budget as well as the things you need in your kitchen. Take half an hour out of your weekend to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Then, make a grocery list of what you need. Check your pantry as well as refrigerator. Write down the items that you need the most. Also, note things that you can purchase if your budget allows. Once you’ve planned your meals and made your grocery list, stick to it. This way you won’t end up throwing away a lot of what you buy.
2. Avoid Eating OutEating out is very expensive and can easily make a hole in your pocketbook, especially if done regularly. In addition, restaurant foods are rich in oil, salt and sugar as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health and make you ill. This will just add more to your medical bills. The solution is to pack your lunch, snacks, drinks and other meals to take to work. This will save you money as well as aid inmaking healthy food choices. Prepare your meals and snacks in bulk during the weekend and use them throughout the week. For instance, you can boil a few batches of eggs and use them to make tasty sandwiches for breakfast or lunch. Another option is to pack baked vegetables or whole fruits for lunch. With just a little planning and time management, preparing your food at home is fun and healthy, too.
3. Prepare Your Own FoodJust one visit to a popular pizza or burger joint will cost you more than the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables that could carry you through a whole week. To eat healthy for cheap, start cooking all your meals at home. There are many benefits of cooking your own meals. First of all, it will be much cheaper than eating out. You can even use up the leftovers if you plan your meals with same vegetables or grains, or ingredients that are likely to go bad after a few days. Secondly, you can make healthy food choices to improve your health. Thirdly, cooking is an art and you can experiment a lot. In fact, you can combine a few recipes to come up with interesting dishes like baked potatoes or sweet potatoes topped with vegetables, pasta with roasted vegetables, fried rice with leftover cooked rice, scrambles egg and leftover meat or veggies, cut-up sausages and vegetable kebabs, or vegetarian meatballs with pureed, cook lentils. You can even enjoy cooking with your family or friends to make it more pleasurable. Cooking is not rocket science and anyone can learn it from scratch. You can cook for the day upon waking up or for the next day before going to bed. Just 30 to 40 minutes out of your busy schedule is enough to prepare the meals for a day. You can even make mealtimes a social experience by inviting friends or relatives to your home on weekends. Social gatherings play a big role in relieving stress and boosting your mood.
4. Buy Produce in SeasonSeasonal fruits and vegetables not only taste better but also cost less. This is because in-season products are in abundance in the market and free from preservatives, meaning cheaper prices and better taste and health. Hence, it is best to buy seasonal produce as much as possible. Try to buy in-season produce by the bag rather than buying by the piece. You can store the produce in the refrigerator and incorporate them into your cooking as needed. Do not be tempted to buy off-season products that you will find stocked in grocery stores. Such products do not come cheap. You can even join a community-supported agriculture group to get local, seasonal products delivered directly from a farmer to your doorstep.
5. Buy Nonperishable Items in BulkWhile you can’t buy fruits and vegetables in bulk, you can surely save money by buying nonperishable food items like grains, beans and canned proteins, such as canned salmon, tuna, chicken, kidney beans and pinto beans in bulk. So, whenever you find nonperishable items on sale, buy in bulk and stock up your kitchen for several months. Because you get the products on sale, it will cost you less in the long run. Whole grains like brown rice, millet, barley and oats as well as beans, lentils, some nuts and dried fruit have a longer shelf life if you store them in airtight containers. Plus, these products are good for your health and even tasty to eat. Peanut butter is another tasty and healthy option to stock up on. All these products can be used in a variety of healthy meals, and you do not have to worry much about what to cook until the next sale is on.
6. Buy Cheap Cuts of MeatFresh meat can be quite expensive, but this does not mean you cannot afford it on a limited budget. There are several cuts of meat, such as braising steak, shin or shoulders, that are inexpensive because they take a little more time to cook. Buy inexpensive cuts of meat in bulk and store them in the freezer to use as needed. Keep an eye out for inexpensive cuts of meat from organic or grass-fed sources. When cooking cheap cuts of meat, use your slow cooker so that the meat becomes tender and delicious. Then, you can use the cooked meat to make stews, soups and one-pot meals. The bones can be used to make a satisfying bone broth.
7. Replace Meat with Other ProteinsMeat and fish are typically the most expensive food ingredients on a shopping list. When you are on a tight budget and cannot afford meat or fish daily, you can look for cheaper protein sources. You need to eat protein-based foods daily, as your body relies on protein for many of its functions. However, meat and fish are not the only foods high in protein. There are many vegetarian sources of protein in the form of beans or lentils. These protein-rich foods are tasty, inexpensive and easy to prepare. Plus, they have a long shelf life and you can buy them in bulk when on sale and store them for later use.
8. Stop Buying Junk FoodMost of us are in the habit of eating lots of junk food, and we do not even realize how much money we waste on such foods. Not just money, junk food like soda, crackers, cookies, prepackaged meals and processed foods offer very little nutrition and are packed with unhealthy ingredients. Eating junk food is linked to several health problems and medical expenses do not come cheap. By cutting junk food out of your diet, you will save a lot of money and also notice a huge improvement in your health. Use the money that you have been spending on junk food to buy healthy and filling foods.
9. Visit a Farmers MarketThe conventional grocery store is not the only place to buy food. There are many places where you can get significantly cheaper and healthy products. Farmers markets are a great place to find fresh products at very reasonable prices. In many localities, farmers markets are held weekly where local farmers sell fresh food directly to customers, often cheaper than the grocery store. You must plan your trip to such markets at the right time to get the best bargains. As it gets closer to the market’s closing time, many vendors sell remaining perishable items at a discounted price. This is because farmers do not want to take their load back home.
10. Grow Your Own ProduceGardening is a healthy hobby that can improve your physical and mental health. It will even help you to remain close to nature, which has become nearly impossible in the busy and career-oriented city life. You do not need acres of land to grow your own garden. Just some simple garden tools and a little motivation can go a long way to start your own vegetable garden. You can start the garden in your kitchen or balcony in small containers if you do not have open space in your house or yard. Seasonal products like tomatoes, coriander, eggplant, ginger, spinach and beans to name a few are easy to grow. Seeds are very cheap to buy and readily available in the market. With some time and effort, you will be able to grow your own produce, which tastes a lot better and costs a lot less than the store-bought varieties. Additional Tips
- Make a conscious effort to include more inexpensive yet healthy foods in your daily diet in order to save money and eat well.
- No matter what, it is important to plan ahead before grocery shopping as well as cooking.
- Avoid buying foods that can go bad quickly.
- Cook big batches of food that you can freeze and eat later.
- Look for ethnic markets to shop for great-tasting spices and herbs.
- Don’t be tempted by special discounts, such as buy-one get-one-free deals, unless they are on items you actually need.
- Keep checking your pantry and refrigerator to make sure nothing spoils before you use it.
- Prepare a common meal for all members of the family, which will help save money and time.
- If shopping online, search out and choose the cheapest supplier who will deliver the product to your doorstep without any extra charge.
- Try to shop during the ‘happy hour’ as most supermarkets discount fresh items toward the end of the day.
- Coupons are a great way to save some money when grocery shopping, but you need to use the coupons wisely.
- Try to purchase everything from a single place to save fuel, which is expensive.
- To avoid impulse buying, make a grocery list ahead of time and go shopping alone.
- Shopping while hungry can lead to cravings and impulsive buying, so avoid it.