10 Budget-Friendly Ways to Eat Healthy
Working on your fitness is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but your eating habits are just as important. Whether you've made a pledge to go organic or have hopped aboard the Whole30 bandwagon, you might have noticed your grocery bill taking a significant bite out of your weekly budget — bad news if you're trying to save some cash for a kitchen reno or an exotic escape. Healthy eating is an investment, yes, but it doesn't have to require breaking the bank. The strategies and shopping tips below will help you make the switch to nutritious, whole foods on a budget.
Set specific goals. Simply resolving to “eat better" isn't enough. The more specific your goals, the more likely you are to keep them. Pinpoint a specific strategy, such as eating vegetarian three days a week or incorporating vegetables into every meal; doing so will make shopping easier (and even help you save a few bucks) and provide you with a way to measure your progress.
Buy in bulk. Believe it or not, buying in “bulk" can actually save you money. Not only do you have total control over how much of an item you buy (which is huge in terms of reducing food waste), but also the breakdown of cost-per-serving typically works itself out to be lower than pre-packaged products. This is a great strategy for beans, grains, seeds and a variety of specialty items.
Eat seasonally. Out-of-season produce — such as strawberries in the middle of January — will cost you a pretty penny. Purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season in your region will help you cut costs, while also supporting local producers and ensuring peak freshness.
Prioritize organics. Going all-out organic is great, but it's not always feasible. Stick to the “Dirty Dozen" list for the foods that you should prioritize first, then increasingly add other items as your budget allows.
Don't forgo frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables allow you to enjoy a wide range of foods all year-round, and overcome the whole out-of-season issue. The best part? You don't have to worry about spoilage, which is good news for your wallet.
Make a meal plan. Meal planning won't just save you time and help you stick to your newfound healthy eating regime, it can save you money too. Once you have all the meals for the week laid out, you'll know exactly what you need to buy. You can hit up the grocery store with a clean-cut plan, eliminating the temptation to grab items at random.
Ensure proper storage. Improper food storage is one of the leading causes of food waste. Dry, bulk foods should be stored in airtight containers to maintain freshness. For items such as produce, dairy, meat, fish, etc., consult resources such as Still Tasty for information about proper storage and shelf life.
DIY. Homemade almost always tastes better than pre-packaged, industrially produced items, not to mention it's often more cost effective. It will mean more time in the kitchen, yes, but you'll ultimately control what goes into your food as well (buh-bye unpronounceable manmade ingredients!).
Opt for alternative proteins. Meat and fish are expensive, especially if you're shopping for organic, local and ethically-sourced options. Incorporating more plant-based proteins (lentils, hemp seeds, chia, quinoa, nuts, beans, etc.) into your diet can help prevent your bank account from going into the red, while still providing you with all of the energy and nutrients you need.
Get organized. Keep your refrigerator and pantry clean and foods visible, so that you always know what you have and what you need. This will help prevent unnecessary food waste. Meal planning and cooking ahead of time will also help you save some serious cash by eliminating the temptation to order takeout when you're too tired to cook.