By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai
Many people want to start eating healthier foods, but some think that to eat healthy, they have to spend more money. Healthy food can be expensive. Therefore, it can be difficult to eat well when you’re on a tight budget. However, there are many ways to save money and still eat whole, single-ingredient foods.
It isn’t all that difficult to eat a healthy diet on a budget, but the biggest question here is not so much about the budget as what constitutes optimum nutrition.
Author Michael Pollan breaks it down into three simple phrases: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By food, he means real food that your great-grandmother would recognize as food.
In other words, food that is a plant or comes from plants, rather than food that is made in a plant. Unfortunately, manufactured food is cheap. Eating nutritious foods may take a bit more time and effort than stuff that comes in a box, but it’s better for you and also budget-friendly. (1)
The Benefits of Eating Healthy
There are many benefits to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, including helping you save money in the long run. Either you spend money on quality, healthy food, or you’re going to spend money on health care costs later on. And typically, those health care costs will be much, much higher than what you’d pay at the grocery store.
A healthy diet gives your immune system the nutrients it needs to function correctly, so you might be able to avoid a doctor visit when the flu spreads.
Eating healthy foods also lowers your risk for long-term illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Avoiding these conditions saves you money with lower health care costs and will lead to a better quality of life.(2)
Here are some tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget. [4,5]
1. Plan Your Meals– When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential. Use one day each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Then, make a grocery list of what you need.
Also, make sure to scan your fridge and cabinets to see what you already have. There are usually a lot of foods hidden in the back that can be used. Only plan to purchase what you know you’re going to use, so that you don’t end up throwing away a lot of what you buy.
2. Stick to Your Grocery List– Once you’ve planned your meals and made your grocery list, stick to it.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked at the grocery store, which can lead to unintended, expensive purchases. As a general rule, try to shop the perimeter of the store first. This will make you more likely to fill your cart with whole foods.
The middle of the store often contains the most processed and unhealthy foods. If you find yourself in these aisles, look to the top or bottom of the shelves rather than straight ahead. The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level.
3. Cook at Home– Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out. Make it a habit to cook at home, rather than eating out at the last minute. Generally, you can feed an entire family of 4 for the same price as buying food for one or two people at a restaurant.
Some people find it best to cook for the entire week on the weekends, while others cook one meal at a time. By cooking yourself, you also gain the benefit of knowing exactly what is in your food.
4. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
If you go to the grocery store hungry, you are more likely to stray from your grocery list and buy something on impulse.
When you’re hungry, you often crave foods that aren’t good for you or your budget.
5. Buy Whole Foods
Some foods are way cheaper in less processed form. For example, a block of cheese is cheaper than shredded cheese and canned beans are cheaper than re-fried ones. Whole grains, like brown rice and oats, are also cheaper per serving than most processed cereals.
The less processed foods are also often sold in larger quantities, and yield more servings per package.
6. Buy Generic Brands
Most stores offer generic brands for nearly any product. All food manufacturers have to follow standards to provide safe food. The generic brands may be the same quality as other national brands, just less expensive.
However, read the ingredients lists to make sure that you’re not getting a product of lower quality than you’re used to.
7. Stop Buying Junk Food
Cut out some of the junk food from your diet. You would be surprised to see how much you may be paying for soda, crackers, cookies, prepackaged meals and processed foods.
Despite the fact that they offer very little nutrition and are packed with unhealthy ingredients, they are also very expensive. By skipping the processed and unhealthy foods, you can spend more of your budget on higher quality, healthy foods.
8. Stock up on Sales
If you have favorite products or staples that you use frequently, you should stock up on them when they’re on sale.
If you’re sure that it’s something you’ll definitely use, you may as well stock up and save a little money. Just make sure that it will last for a while and won’t expire in the meantime.
9. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat or Replace Meat With Other Proteins
Fresh meat and fish can be quite expensive. However, you can get many cuts of meat that cost way less. It may also be helpful to buy a large and inexpensive cut of meat to use in several different meals during the week.
Eating less meat may be a good way to save money. Try having one or two days per week where you use other protein sources, such as legumes, seeds, eggs or fish.
These are all very inexpensive, nutritious and easy to prepare. Most of them also have a long shelf life and are therefore less likely to spoil quickly.
10. Shop for Produce That Is in Season
Local produce that is in season is generally cheaper. It is also usually at its peak in both nutrients and flavor. Produce that is not in season has often been transported halfway around the world to get to your store, which is not good for either the environment or your budget.
Also, buy produce by the bag if you can. That is usually a lot cheaper than buying by the piece. If you buy more than you need, you can freeze the rest or incorporate it into next week’s meal plans.
11. Buy in Bulk -Buying some foods in bulk quantities can save you a lot of money. Grains, such as brown rice, millet, barley and oats, are all available in bulk.
They also keep for a long time, if you store them in airtight containers. This is also true for beans, lentils, some nuts and dried fruit. These are all staple foods that are relatively inexpensive and can be used in a variety of healthy meals.
12. Pack Your Lunch– Eating out is very expensive, especially if done regularly.
Packing your lunch, snacks, drinks and other meals is less expensive and way healthier than eating out.
13. Appreciate Less Expensive Foods– There are a lot of foods available that are both inexpensive and healthy. By making some adjustments and using ingredients that you may not be used to, you can prepare many delicious and inexpensive meals.
Try increasing your use of eggs, beans, seeds, frozen fruits and vegetables, cheaper cuts of meat and whole grains. These all taste great, are cheap (especially in bulk) and very nutritious
14. Buy From Cheap, Online Retailers– There are several online retailers that offer healthy foods for up to 50% cheaper. By registering, you get access to daily discounts and deals.
You don’t have to break the bank to eat well. In fact, there are many ways to eat healthy even on a very tight budget. These include planning your meals, cooking at home, and making smart choices at the grocery store.