It’s Not as Hard as You Think: Eating Healthy on a Budget
Healthy and Affordable
Living in 2018 comes with many opportunities as well as many challenges. The yin and yang of life feels as though they’re overflowing into one another resulting in an imbalance. Our daily lives seem to switch from mundane to chaotic overnight, and it’s difficult to know what to expect tomorrow. This can leave us feeling out of control and helpless, so focusing on the things we can control, provides us with a definite reprieve. Many people are struggling to afford necessities such as gas, food, and housing. Others are living on fixed incomes or tight budgets where every last dollar counts. When faced with these situations, it can seem as though there aren’t many options. When it comes to food, many of us feel cornered into buying things that are unhealthy because it appears to be the most cost-effective. This is just not true, and there is something you can do about it.
With a few guidelines to follow, a whole new world of nutritious foods can be available to you that are affordable no matter what your budget is.
Stock the Staples
If you live in or near an urbanized area, you are well aware of the never-ending plethora of restaurant food options. From fast food and sit-down restaurants to take-out or food delivery, the myriad of possibilities is endless for a delicious meal. It’s easy to be tempted into eating out or ordering in. Picking a day in the week to go grocery shopping and stocking your kitchen with a week's worth of food will help save big bucks. The pillars of a healthy diet include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. Taking the time to buy groceries is one of the best ways to afford healthy eating.
The Earth’s Candy
Fruit is a necessity when living a healthy lifestyle. Fruit acts as preventative medicine to many diseases and ailments that vegetables can’t fight off on their own. Many fruits are available at inexpensive prices for large quantities. Apples, bananas, oranges, and tomatoes are some of the more affordable options. The average price for apples per pound is $1.62, and oranges are only $1.10. The cost per serving is 44 cents for apples and 66 cents for oranges. Bananas are even cheaper coming in at 55 cents a pound and 28 cents per serving. Fruit is a healthy and affordable staple to keep at home. There is a type of fruit out there for everyone, so find yours and stock it!
Keep Veggies at the Table
Vegetables are another piece of the pyramid that keeps our bodies vigorous and our immune system strong. They are healthy and inexpensive foods to eat as snacks and in meals. Veggies like celery, carrots, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage, as well as “root vegetables” such as onions and potatoes are excellent for budget-friendly options. On average, celery is $1.09 per pound, equaling 40 cents per serving. Carrots come in around 77 cents a pound and 24 cents per serving and green cabbage at 62 cents per pound and 26 cents per serving. Potatoes are always a win to keep on hand because they are inexpensive and packed with nutrition. Maintaining a stock of veggies at home is a must.
Whole grains are the best type of grain for our bodies. Surprisingly enough, most grains are naturally gluten-free and can be eaten by people with gluten intolerance. Quinoa, rice, buckwheat, and millet are just a few on that list. Some delicious whole grains to stock your pantry with include whole wheat pasta and bread, whole grain oats, brown rice, freekeh (an Arabic grain with 4x the fiber as brown rice), buckwheat, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, and whole grain barley. Most of these items you can buy in bulk at your local grocery store can last for months on end. Brown rice is good for lunch or dinner and averages at $1.75 per pound and only 18 cents per serving. Whole grain pasta makes for tasty hot or cold dishes and can be found at $1.69 for a 16-ounce bag and about 24 cents per serving. Many of these whole grains range from $1.75 a pound to under $1 and contain the proper nutrients to keep you satisfied for longer.
Be a Pro at Protein
Protein is a natural element of the human body. It keeps our bodies nourished and aids in maintaining weight and building muscle. This makes it an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Protein comes in all types, flavors, and textures. Scientists and researchers alike say that lean protein and plant-based protein are the healthiest choices for our bodies. Luckily, these are some of the cheapest proteins available.
Lean, animal-based proteins like eggs, canned tuna, canned sardines, ground turkey, chicken and greek yogurt are inexpensive and can provide protein without adding excess fat. Canned tuna, Greek yogurt, and eggs come in as the cheapest on this list. Most brands offer canned tuna at around $1 per can, and eggs range from $2-$4 for a dozen. Out of all the yogurts, Greek yogurt has the most protein at 17 grams in just 8 ounces. A large container of 24 ounces runs about $5. These animal-based proteins are lower in fat and calories making them healthier than others and can be found for much more affordable prices which is fantastic when living on a budget.
For plant-based proteins, tofu, edamame, quinoa, peanut butter, hemp seeds, black beans and lentils are some excellent health-conscience options. Many of these proteins can be found canned or frozen which makes them cheaper than most. Edamame can be found for $2 for a 12-ounce bag and provides 17 grams of protein in one cup. Black beans average at $1 per 15-ounce can and have 15 grams of protein per cup. Lentils average around $1.50 per pound at most grocery stores and provide a bucket-load of protein at 18 grams per cup. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just looking for something healthy and affordable, this variety of proteins offers you a versatile selection.
Be Smart About It
Being a smart shopper is crucial when living on a budget. You have to be an educated shopper to be an educated consumer. There are multiple ways for you to be a smart shopper that are easy and don’t take up much time. With a few simple guidelines, you will have the tools to shop efficiently and cost-effectively. Preparing and planning will allow you to make the most out of your grocery shopping experience. Being strategic when you shop for food helps you save money, time, and gives you the freedom to buy healthy, whole foods.
Know Your Stores
Understanding what stores have the lowest prices and making a point to do your grocery shopping there will help you save money. Pick some of the grocery stores nearest to your home or work, and write down the prices of some of the foods you typically keep at home or you’re planning to stock up on. Compare prices and zero in on the stores closest to you with the best deals. International markets and farmers markets tend to have produce for lower prices than big supermarket chains so check these out if there’s one close to you.
Make a list
Making a list and checking it twice, isn’t just for Santa Claus. If you take a few extra minutes to write down a list of items you need for the week, you will be less likely to purchase things at the store that aren’t necessary. Saving flyers that come in the mail, promoting deals or coupons or checking out weekly sales on a stores website can assist in deciding what products to put on your list. Also, including rough estimates of item prices and totaling them up before you go shopping will help you stay on budget.
Shop in Season
Buying produce that is out of season will cost you extra. Switching up the fresh goods you buy based on the month of the year can save you big bucks. During the summer months, fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than in the winter months. Planning out your grocery list based on the season will help you decide what produce to buy fresh. There are even websites that break down which specific fruits and vegetables are in season based on the month and region in which you live.
Shop Canned or Frozen
Despite popular belief, canned and frozen produce offer close to the same amount of nutrients that fresh produce does. It also provides us with different types of nutrients that we don’t get from fresh produce because of the heat treatment that’s given before canning and the variety cultivated for canning. Frozen fruits and veggies are a great option when what you want is out of season. Buying these items canned or frozen also keeps them from wasting away before you get a chance to eat them. Fruits and vegetables are typically canned or frozen at their peak in the season, so this is the perfect way to enjoy these healthy foods year-round.
Buying groceries online gives you easier access to comparing prices and buying items in larger quantities for lower rates. Being able to search for specific foods and locate deals easier, you are more likely to purchase groceries at a lower price-point. It’s a great way to save money and stock up for multiple weeks or even months. Shopping online instead of in the store also helps mitigate impulse shopping. You are less likely to buy items off your list or because you are hungry.
Make Your Own Food
Almost everyone enjoys eating out or ordering in from time to time. It gives us the opportunity to take a break from the kitchen or the same ole’ same ole’ and indulge in something exciting and different. Although this is a perfectly fine guilty pleasure to have, it also costs extra. Taking the time to prepare our food saves money as well as allows us to know all the ingredients we’re consuming. Making food at home doesn’t have to be an every night ordeal. Select one day of the week to spend some time preparing a few cornerstone foods that you can use to make meals and snacks throughout the week. You will begin your work week with a stocked fridge or ready-to-eat meals and be less likely to
eat out or order in.
If You Are Going To Eat Out
Eating out in 2018 gives us the same problems that we encounter when trying to select something to watch on Hulu or Netflix: too many options! It’s inevitable that you will choose to eat out once in a while. When you do, there are strategic ways to decide where to find the most healthy and affordable options. Dining at independently owned and local restaurants give you a better chance of eating meals that are made from local ingredients that are fresher and less processed, if at all. Many of these places serve smaller portions than larger chains, encouraging you to eat a more moderate sized plate. Ordering water will save you extra cash and help keep your palate cleansed for your meal. Also, eating out during happy hour, stocking up on your favorite restaurant's rewards, or using coupons can make your night out much more affordable.
Ready, Set, Save!
Many of us have the intention of living a healthy life, but there are obstacles along the way that can interfere with that plan. Some obstacles we can get around and some we can’t. Being able to afford healthy food can seem arduous at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you are providing for just yourself or your entire family, there are ways you can purchase healthy, whole foods without going over budget. From knowing where to shop for the best deals and buying produce in season to stocking up on canned or frozen goods and cooking at home, there are many ways you can afford to be eating healthy. Planning and preparing are the key elements necessary in being an educated shopper and a smart spender. By implementing these guidelines, you are setting yourself up for success to afford the healthy foods that are good for your mind, body, soul, and budget.
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