Is There Such Thing as Eating Healthy on a Budget?

Spoiler alert: adopting a healthy diet doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!

So, you’re at the grocery store, shopping cart filled with frozen pizzas, chips, ready-to-eat chicken strips, pasta, you know, all that good stuff. The only reason you stop by the vegetable aisle is to pick up potatoes, and that’s only so you can make French fries (that is on the rare occasion you don’t get the pre-prepared frozen ones). You don’t even try visiting the fruits or organic produce aisles knowing that you’d rather pay rent than eat nutritious food this month. It’s the sad truth, isn’t it? Only the well-off seem to be able to follow a nutritious, healthy diet. But what if that were false? What if I told you that although nutritious food can be expensive, you can still adopt a healthy diet while on a budget. Here’s how.


Set a Budget and Plan Accordingly

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Seems simple enough, right? But the action of forming a plan and following through might take some time to master. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you just get sucked into that candy and chocolate aisle! But in all seriousness, budgeting will not only keep you ahead of your finances, but it will also make you more conscious about where your money is going. With enough shopping trips, you’ll discover your spending patterns, exposing which food group you spend the most on.

Furthermore, while planning each main meal for the week might be a rather dull activity for the spontaneous individuals out there, this step will save you time and energy. All that’s aside from saving you money, of course. Gone will be the days of waking up asking yourself that mind-consuming question, “what will I eat today?”. Answering that every day can be quite draining for the foodies who waste their leisure time away on food videos and cooking channels. Moreover, planning your meals means that you’ll be able to curate a list of exactly what you’ll need. This will ensure that you won’t stray away from it when you’re shopping and accidentally visit the dark aisles of junk food in the grocery store.


Shop Smarter, Not Harder

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Aside from shopping with a list, something that will ensure you’ll make those significant savings when visiting the grocery store is to work smarter and not harder. While saving coupons and looking for deals and sales will definitely help, they might not always be available or suitable to your needs. If that is the case, then make sure to try these other tricks.

For starters, demolish the myth that fruit and vegetables must only be bought fresh to have any true benefits for your body. Take a trip to the refrigerators aisles and opt for frozen produce, or check out canned or dried fruits and vegetables. Not only will these be cheaper options, but they will also last longer than fresh fruit. And remember, this hack doesn’t only apply to greens but can also be used for various types of fish and plant-based proteins such as beans or chickpeas. The key is to look for non-perishable items that’ll stay fresh longer.

Now, if the idea of buying prepackaged food doesn’t sit well with you, then worry not as you can still save some cash even if you visit the organic aisle. In fact, it’s quite easy. All you have to do is shop locally. Whether you’re buying poultry, meat, vegetables, or fruits, make sure to choose those that come from local farms. Additionally, shop for food that is in season (and here comes the advantage of buying frozen products, you can have usually expensive fruits such as berries for a lower cost any time of the year). Check out the framer’s markets near you as they’re an excellent source of produce and will, more often than not, be less expensive than the supermarket.

Moreover, another way to shop smarter is to buy in bulk. The advantage here lies in the fact that when you purchase staple items such as rice, beans, pasta, flour, and oil, in large quantities for less money, you’ll be able to spend your budgeted grocery money on specialty items more often. To save even more money, ignore the established brands and buy generic ones. Products are usually the same quality and quantity but for a lower price.


Cook at Home

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To some, this might be the step where the fun begins. To others, this might be the step where they decide to give up. But I’m here to let you know that cooking doesn’t always have to be complicated. One way to make this activity fun is to recreate meals you would usually order in. Sooner than later, you’ll find yourself inviting friends over for dinner, bragging that your homemade pizza is much better than store-bought one delivered by fast-food chains.

Another way to make cooking easier is to search for one-pot recipes. You can also cook in bulk when the urge to prepare a meal suddenly strikes you. That way you’ll simply be able to reheat delicious leftovers whenever you feel hungry. I find that very little beats the giddy experience of having leftovers for a late breakfast.


 But What Does Eating Healthy Really Mean?

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Now that we’ve proved that anyone can implement more nutritious food into their diet, even if they are on a very tight budget before you hit the grocery store, we must first remember that a healthy diet does not look the same for everyone. What works for you might not work for family members or friends. What’s important is that you fill your body with various foods that give you the nutrients you need, make you feel good, and increase your energy. And like with everything in life, you will only truly see how a healthier lifestyle will change your life if you maintain balance. Enjoy a healthy snack of chopped vegetable sticks and hummus, and then scarf down an entire plate of saucy chicken wings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, since I’ve demonstrated that eating healthier can be done by anyone and highlighted the importance of balance, my conscience is wrestling with me to put down the greasy burger the size of my face currently in my hand and to stock my refrigerator with some nutritious options and greens instead… I’m not sure if I’ll continue fighting or if I’ll give in!


Photo: NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock


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