Deciding to start eating healthy can be a struggle. Despite its known benefits, not all of us have the food budget to cook nutritious meals daily. However, there are ways to treat nutrition and cost as equals. All it takes is a slight change in your habits to save money and live a healthier you!
Choose to Shop Smart
Impulse buying can ruin your grocery budget in a snap. This habit then leads you to resort to convenience foods or cheaper unhealthy bites. And so, if you plan to start eating healthy, the first step is to improve your purchasing behaviour. There are several ways to accomplish this, but you can begin by arming yourself with a shopping list and some good grocery shopping tips.
Shop with a grocery list and a meal plan
A list keeps you from getting sidetracked and picking up anything unnecessary or too expensive from grocery stores. Of course, it’s not enough to write down the things you need to buy. Make sure that you also stick to it.
Creating a list is easier if you match it with a routine pantry check and a weekly healthy eating plan. If you’re the techie type, you can try downloading a grocery app, too. Whichever method you choose, enjoy a quick bite first before shopping to steer clear of snacks that are high in fat and sugar!
Go for cheap but healthy food options
Eating cheap meals does not mean scrimping on nutritional value. Studying ingredients and reading product labels lead you to inexpensive and healthy food choices. You might find these tips helpful, too.
- Try generic food brands. Spend time to read the ingredients list or labels and compare prices. Typically, generic and premium brands have the same quality, except perhaps for that extra shiny packaging!
- Eat other sources of protein. Try to reduce your meat intake, and plan a no-meat day once or twice a week. Then use healthier and cheaper protein options like legumes, eggs, probiotic foods, tofu and beans. You can buy canned tuna or chicken, too.
- Purchase cheaper cuts of meat. More affordable cuts of meat are just as tasty, especially when you add them to your casseroles, soups, stews and slow-cooker dishes. And if you like barbecues, inexpensive cuts of meat for grilling are perfect with the best homemade marinade and side dish!
- Choose whole foods. Buy whole poultry to save more. Shop at the deli counter for cheese and cured meats to get the exact amount you need. Also, fresh greens are better than pre-cut and bagged salad vegetables. Whole foods are easier on a tight budget and perfect for bulk buying, too.
- Buy seasonal or frozen produce. Fruits and vegetables in season are healthier, budget-friendly and more flavourful. Make sure to know storage or upcycling techniques if you plan to save more by buying a lot. Alternatively, you can opt for frozen fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste.
- Cut back on junk food and sweet drinks. These food types go through processes to extend their shelf life. However, processing also means more expensive food products with reduced nutrients. So, limit or avoid soda and crisps if possible and have fresh fruit instead.
Plan and Cook Your Meals
The best way to start eating healthy and saving money at the same time is to cook from scratch. It can help you dine out or order takeaways less frequently, too. Time and cooking skills often get in the way, though. But there are ways to overcome them.
- Create a cheap recipe collection. You don’t have to sacrifice flavour to make affordable family meals at home. A little research goes a long way. Raid your old recipe books or browse online for inexpensive meal ideas. Skip those that require unusual and expensive ingredients. Also, find ways to turn meal favourites into something more nutritious.
- Cook in bulk and upcycle leftovers. This tip is best for those who don’t have all day to prep and cook everything. Make meal prepping a habit at home. You’ll save time, effort and money, this way. Cooking in large portions also means there’ll be enough leftovers to make quick stews, salads, wraps, stir-fries and more.
- Bring packed lunch to school or work. Take your healthy eating habits anywhere you go. With a home-cooked meal waiting for you, you can skip the café queue as well as those tempting junk foods!
- Build your culinary circle. Do you have a budget-conscious friend who’s also into healthy cooking? Perhaps your gym mate has a secret smoothie, salad or vegan recipe to share. You can check on social media groups that are into cooking and eating healthy meals, too. Explore and ask around for tips and ideas. It can surely help you find joy in healthy eating and staying on budget.
Do Not Skip Desserts
I think this one is the best tip of all! There’s no need to deprive yourself of sweet treats when you start eating healthy. Similar to a balanced meal, your dessert can be wholesome yet inexpensive, too. So, make sure to collect dessert ideas when searching for healthy recipes. Keep an eye on recipes for popsicles or frozen yoghurt, vegan brownies or homemade fruit leather.
Practice Portion Control
Eating less naturally benefits our wallets and waistlines. But we need to do it properly to make it work for us. One study concluded that the secret to portion control is on the size of your plate. A tiny dinner plate means a small food intake. Some even said that the colour of our plate affects the appetite.
A more rational approach, I think, is to eat in controlled portions gradually and consistently. From experience, making drastic changes to your diet will only make you feel hungrier. Start by evaluating your weekly food intake and see what you can change or take out. Also, instead of sticking to the usual three meals, you can try eating several times in a day but in smaller portions. Consulting a nutrition expert or dietician is also a good idea.
Getting into shape and saving money are the same if you think about it. You have to invest time for both to enjoy the rewards!