One way to keep your medical costs in check is to maintain a healthy diet.
Not only do you minimize the risk of some diseases, but you also increase your productivity, and boost your strength and energy levels.
Certainly, the effects of healthy eating are unparalleled in the long run, even for your pocket. But can you justify the extra splurge needed in the meantime?
Despite understanding the many benefits of eating healthy, many still find it hard to pay for the foods needed to maintain this lifestyle.
After all, the superfoods, powders, and juices that make for “healthy” eating are expensive. So, yeah, eating healthy may seem an expensive venture.
However, believe it or not, eating healthy doesn’t need to be expensive.
So how do you eat healthy on a budget?
Indeed, just as much as your budget can be ruined by pursuing every new health trend, you can find ways to keep your diet healthy without entering into hot financial waters.
To succeed, you first need to determine what it means to eat healthily.
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget and What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?
One of the biggest causes of confusion for many seeking to adopt a healthy eating formula is the definition of what makes for healthy eating.
Which foods should you consider? While it is relatively easy to get caught up in the middle aisle section of the grocery store, you do not need all of the frozen meals, pre-packaged foods, and sweets on offer.
A healthy diet is much cheaper than any of the foods the aisle holds.
And if you want to shop from that section, your attention should be on packages with organic foods, grains, beans, bulgar, etc.
Otherwise, the bulk of your interest should lie in the perimeter sections. What would you be looking for there?
Protein is an essential part of the human diet. The body needs some level of protein each day, but just a little is typically enough.
Interestingly, you do not need to stock up on all of the pricey proteins out there, which are also rigged with unhealthy saturated fat, in the market – such as pork chops.
For your daily protein needs, consider adding cheap but healthy protein sources such as beans, eggs, peanut butter, walnuts, and cheese (carefully selected) to your meal.
Dairy is a healthy source of protein and calcium and is a regular meal component for many of us.
Many dairy products, like cheese, also hold high-fat content, so you want to be careful about what you buy.
Consider buying healthy dairy products and dairy substitutes like cottage cheese, soy milk, and Greek yogurt. Watch out for coupons that lower their prices to spend even less.
3. Fruits and Veggies
If you are planning to switch to a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables should top your grocery shopping list.
Fruits provide your system with vital natural sugar which is healthier and longer-lasting than any refined sugar in snacks.
Fruits and veggies also contain healthy fibers and are a primary source of vitamins.
This is one of the most varied food group on this list, providing you with multiple healthy options that can be prepared and eaten in a variety of ways.
4. Whole Grains
There are numerous powerful benefits of eating whole grain meals. Whole grain foods fill you up, despite their low-calorie content, due to their rich fiber content which expands once in your stomach.
Fiber also keeps your digestive system active and healthy, while also lowering your chance of heart disease.
Whole grain has also been applied to the production of many small chops and snack foods, ensuring a smooth transition into healthy eating.
Whole grain crackers, brown rice, whole grain bread, popcorn, quinoa, farrah, and bulgar are other cheap whole grain sources – mainly when bought in bulk.
12 Steps to Eating Healthy and Saving Money
Having discussed the food categories that your healthy diet should cover, we can now discuss what critical steps you can take to ensuring that you get these foods at the lowest prices possible.
Some of these may seem rather obvious, but they are oft-ignored steps that can help cut your food expenses.
Step 1 – Work with a meal plan
The first step to shopping budget-friendly, healthy food items is creating a meal plan.
Not only does this help keep you on budget, but it also prevents you from straying from your newly adopted healthy eating system.
It also saves time. Creating a meal plan for ahead of each week helps you streamline your shopping to just once a week, allows you to prepare meals in advance, and even lets you re-purpose your meals.
Step 2 – Cook more
Brown bags! How very easy it is to head over to the restaurant for fast food, especially when working.
Cutting out the daily brown bags can cut your food spending by as much $15 each day.
These little lunch savings here and there quickly add up too, while also keeping you within the plan.
Try cooking ahead of the week and freezing to improve your time savings. Leftover meals can always be mixed or re-purposed for other uses.
Step 3 – Use discounts and sales coupons
Local grocery stores are always offering one discount or other in their bid to encourage sales or reward loyalty.
Watch out for ongoing sales at your local grocery store, and take advantage of coupon booklets.
You can also plan to buy beyond your weekly meal plan if the coupon gives a healthy cost saving but has a limited time use.
Step 4 – Buy bulk/whole foods
One of the least heralded ways to reduce your food spending is to buy in bulk, or buy whole foods – where applicable.
Bulk foods are typically cheaper than processed foods. For instance, processed refried beans generally are more expensive than unprocessed canned beans.
Whole grains are less costly than processed cereals, just as entire chickens cost less than chopped ones.
Typically, foods that undergo little to no processing are generally sold in larger quantities than their more processed counterparts.
Just make sure to buy only portions that you can use before they spoil.
Step 5 – Buy generic or store brands
The big brands have the pull, but they are not necessarily better than unbranded foods.
Generic or not, all food manufacturers are held to the same safe food standards.
They may not match them for quality, but they are not always so far behind; a can of beans, after all, is still a can of beans.
You can also watch out for products packaged under the store label as these are also cheaper national brands.
Either way, make sure to check the ingredients to ensure that the quality is up to grade.
Step 6 – Go with cash only
Please leave those plastic cards at home when going shopping. Just leave them be!
Credit cards are fantastic when getting you out of emergencies, but they can easily send you into a financial crisis of their doing.
After you are done buying everything on your list, there will always be the temptation at check-out to reach for those extra candy bars and snack foods.
Having only the required cash prevents you from buying extra groceries that you don’t need.
Step 7 – Re-use your leftovers
One of the most significant worries with cooking in bulk is that you may not be interested in eating the leftover of that meal later on.
Of course, you want to be careful about which meals you prepare in bulk, so you do not have to waste the excess.
However, any leftovers can always be incorporated into other meals. Your leftover chicken serving, for instance, can still be chopped up and reused for salad preparation.
Step 8 – Get creative
There is no end to creativity, and even your meals can benefit from a little touch of beauty splattered along – or maybe rubbed in?
Having stocked up on veggies, alternative grains, and fruits, you can always get creative with your combinations.
Raise the value and filling of your egg-white omelet by throwing in some mushrooms, shallots, and spinach.
Step 9 – Drop the sodas!
Soda here, of course, stands for just about every soft drink, even the so-called “healthy” fruit juices.
Rather than consuming soda at every opportunity, switch to the healthier and cheaper consumption of water.
Take a bottle along when leaving the house. With water, you can also save more by drinking directly from your home tap.
Bottled waters are mostly sourced from the same municipal water systems that run through your home, so you can always filter your own water, drink, and even bottle it when heading out.
Step 10 – Cut out the lean meats
The red is undoubtedly tasty and always seems to call out to you. But it’s about time you stopped responding.
Lean meats are not particularly bad, so long as they are correctly used, but they make for valuable additions to every meal.
Replace lean meat in your diet with other vegetarian diets such as legumes or quinoa.
On the other hand, foods such as eggs, whey, and tunas, are vital sources of your daily protein needs.
You can also add a bit of fatty meat to your meal; these meats contain essential fat contents (such as omega 3, 6 and 9) and are cheaper and tastier than lean meats.
Contrary to public opinion, they do not contain excess calories either.
Step 11 – Shop locally and seasonally
Even vegetables and fruits can be expensive, depending on where it is bought. Shopping from your local produce stand, farmer’s market or even the Dollar Tree gets you fresh foods at substantial bargains.
Watch out for end-of-the-day specials or reduced produce for better deals.
Streamlining your purchase to seasonal items also helps keep prices down – and food fresh – as you do not have to battle with the extra costs of preservation or importation that hikes rates.
Step 12 – Consider a garden
This is one of the most significant price slashes you can ever enjoy and makes for an enjoyable hobby.
You can always start a container garden on your patio or a backyard garden on your plot, and grow your own fruits and vegetables all year long.
Your biggest problem when tinkering with the idea of healthy eating is actually within your mindset.
Eating healthy does not always appear to be fun, and is particularly restrictive.
Jump in without a reliable and reasonable plan, and you may well find yourself binge-eating all of the junk in the grocery store only a few days after.
If, though, you are set for a healthy lifestyle, finance will hardly pose a problem.
Do you have any other healthy eating budget tips I missed? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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