10 tips for healthy eating on a budget August 17, 2015
Sometimes life can be pretty stressful. We rush through our days and make tons of decisions on a daily basis that affect our lives and well-being. Especially for those on a budget, grocery shopping can be another source of problems. Whether you buy unhealthy foods, think you cannot afford the good stuff; you overspend on groceries at the beginning of the month and have not much left to buy food in the last days; or you impulse buy fast food -there is a lot of room for mistakes when it comes to both budgeting and food. It is overall very easy when you buy food in a rush, to be tempted in making bad food choices that affect both your wallet and your health. Do not judge yourself. You want to eat healthier, that’s why you read this article! So to make better food choices, please consider these tips before your next run to the supermarket.
1. Plan your meals and food choices
Make a shopping list and stick to it. When you make this list, take grocery deals, coupons and your weekly plans into consideration. Check your food stock! There might be more there than you think…
Notice what you and other people in your family really need and avoid impulse buys in general. Just because something is on sale, does not make it a good idea to buy it. Buy only what you need and only buy things that fit into your household plan. If you are trying to save money it is also very important to not overspend money when you buy products in bulk.
You need to be considerate with every purchase you make. If you have a budget, stick to it! If you have a certain amount of flexibility every month, great! You can buy stuff in bulk if that is what you choose to do. But please do not get carried away. Most people buy more than they actually need to and I think you should be mindful on how you spend your money when it comes to food.
2. Go for quality over quantity
Some people might think:” Huh?” right now. But stay with me here! When you want to eat healthily please consider this point:
You need to eat to meet your nutritional needs. I do not want you to go on a diet. Far from it! I am not a doctor, nurse, nutritionist or health coach, and I do not want to give you that impression. But when it comes to food it is important to buy good, healthy food. I will not tell you to entirely stick to organic foods(, although when you can afford it, you might want to consider tbuying more of it) or to not buy stuff in bigger quantities.
But if you need to save money on food, save it on these items:
– Beverages that are not water, especially soda, alcohol and empty drinks that do not add to a healthy diet. You could even go without fruit juices if you eat fruit instead. Eating fruit is great! Some of the artificial stuff added to the fruit in fruit juices not so much….the same goes for fruit yoghurt. Buy it plain and add fruit to it instead!
If you run short on money, fancy coffee drinks really can make you spend a lot on coffee! Instead of drinking coffee outside of your home, you can easily either make it yourself or when you are out and about, order a good old house coffee or espresso instead.
– Candy! Yes, I said it. Sweet candy like ice cream, chocolate, puddings, and salty snacks like chips etc.. The list goes on…you do NOT need them.
– Pre-packaged food like cut up apple slices, salad mixes, fruit salads etc. The majority of them are highly overpriced compared to when you make them yourself.
If you are still reading this, thank you. I am not telling you in any way you should never have those things. I am just telling you that those are the things you should save your money on. Please do not save on vegetables, fruits and other good food staples and be considerate of all the food groups that should be represented in a healthy nutrition. If you limit the amount of food you buy, limit the food that you know is just an extra, and not a necessity for your health.
3. Buy seasonal foods
If you buy produce that is in season, you usually get better prices and you can buy food locally on farmer’s markets and so on. That gives you a better change of consuming food that is less processed, food that is higher in vitamins and chances are you can support your local farmers when you are buying it.
On another note, be mindful when it comes to pesticides! Refer to the EWG‘s yearly lists and try to switch to organic produce for certain items if you can.
4. Cook yourself
Learn to cook and cook yourself! Cooking can be a lot of fun and you are more in control about what you put into your food. There are millions of recipes online, in cookbooks and you can ask your family and friends for ideas.
The more you cook, the better you get at it and you can even watch cooking shows or instructional videos to get even more ideas.
5. Educate yourself about food
Learn more about nutrition and you can make better choices. It is as easy and as difficult as that. Learn more about your nutritional needs when it comes to food, vitamins, nutrients, a balanced diet. Healthy eating will make you feel much better overall and knowledge is power, as they say. You can find a lot of information on nutrition everywhere. But too much of it is biased or extreme in its approach to eating. Make sure to check your sources and read everything critically and do not accept claims right away as given. Health education materials, medical book sources and scientific books used at universities usually make for good resources, for example.
Just a word of caution! Just because some people (online) claim that their diet is healthy and the way to go, should you just go out and imitate them. Especially when it comes to diet and nutrition there is a lot of wrong information circulating. If you want to make changes to your lifestyle that affect your diet, weight and/or exercise routine you should ALWAYS talk to a medical professional who actually knows you (like your doctor) about it, before you actually make them a part of your daily life.
6. Cook simple meals and freeze them
If you are on a budget or need to save money, it can be a good idea to cook meals that do not incorporate fifty different ingredients, spices and condiments. Most of the time you do not need 35 different ingredients to make a salad or pasta dish that taste great.
Your meals can be healthy, good and simple, when it comes to the making and ingredients list.
Especially when you have a small family or live by yourself, freeze leftovers and food in portions. You can also precook food to freeze it for times when you know there will be no time to cook. Just remember to put the date of freezing on your frozen foods, so you know how long you can still use them.
7. Recreate recipes and try new ones
Switch it up! Look for new, healthy recipes and be experimental when it comes to your food. It is good for a healthy, balanced diet to try new food and it prevents you from getting tired of your favorites when you do not eat the same things over and over again. Look for new recipes on Food blogs, Pinterest, in cook books, on TV or try to recreate a recipe you enjoyed in a restaurant or see somewhere else. You can do it! You just need to give it a try…
It is also really nice to cook in company. Make it a social event and cook with friends every now and then. Or use it as family bonding time…
8. Eat at home
Limiting the times you go to restaurants or buy coffee outside of your home will make a huge impact on your monthly budget! And we all know that we should limit fast food to be more healthy.
9. Do not waste food
Enjoy your food and only buy the food that you need. If you purchase something you do not like after all, give it to someone in your family that might like it! The main reason food is wasted is that people buy more than they actually need and cannot possibly finish it before it expires. Or loose track of what they already have in their fridge or freezer. Or two family members buy the requested bread or gallon of milk. Try to limit the amount of food you throw in the trash. In an ideal case you won’t have to, because you eat it before it expires or goes bad. Besides donating food, or giving it to somebody you know, you can also freeze a lot of things before they are expired, of course, to limit food waste.
10. Reconsider your favorites
When we choose a certain product, most people go for the same product because they like it and buy it for years. And that is great! But sometimes you should reconsider your favorites if you want to save money. Of course the quality should be great, but sometimes there are other options for the same product by a different brand. Look at the ingredient lists and make up your mind! Check them for chemicals and toxins, but also for pricing.
Does it really have to be this product by this brand? Or are there even better, less expensive options out there…
One last thing, sometimes we have to make choices. It is always your choice how you want to spend your money. But if healthy eating is important to you, you can choose to spend a part of your money on exactly that, healthy food. And maybe save money on other items you choose that you can do without…
I hope these 10 tips for healthy eating on a budget were helpful to you. If you like, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Photography by EvolvingScenes / Pixabay