Eating Healthy on a Budget
Eating healthy does not have to break the bank. I have seven surefire ways to make your budget work for you and set yourself up to live your best life.
Plan your meals in advance
This is my first tip for a reason. Planning displays intent; and living with intent is extremely important when we talk about creating and following healthy habits that will stand the test of time.
The average American makes a whopping 200 food decisions per day. Food influences are coming at us from all angles. If you start the day without a plan, you are more likely to choose foods based on convenience or impulse (think cookies in the break room or hitting the drive-thru on your way home), and that can quickly derail your weight loss and healthy eating goals.
It’s all about balance
Remember, meals should be balanced. This means you want to have a healthy mixture of different types of foods that will provide your mind and body with the nutrients they need for energy, focus, stamina, health, maintaining a healthy weight and fighting off disease.
You can do this by building a balanced plate. Imagine your dinner plate. Now, picture it filled halfway with fruits and vegetables: one quarter of your plate with a starchy vegetable (like corn or peas) or whole grain (like quinoa) and the other quarter with a lean protein (like pork loin, chicken breast, lean beef or tofu). Finally, you can add calcium-rich foods like dairy or dark leafy greens to complete the meal.
Calcium is important, not only for bone health and preventing osteoporosis, but also to promote a healthy weight. Research tells us that those of us who don’t get enough calcium in our diets have a harder time losing weight.
Drink water for hydration
Our body weight is made up of approximately 60% water. (That’s a lot of water!) We need it to maintain a healthy body temperature, lubricate our joints, protect connective tissues, have adequate blood flow and remove waste from our bodies.
Tap water is free. Use a sustainable reusable water bottle and drink filtered tap water throughout the day. Drinking tap water is the simplest way to save money when dining out or eating at home. Don’t drink your calories, and don’t pay for your beverage. Win and win.
Not a huge fan of the taste? Add a few slices of your favorite fruit or leaf of your favorite fresh herb to take the water up a notch. Or better yet, try both!
Grocery shop with a list
Nothing will bust your budget more than being wasteful. A great way to cut back on food waste is to shop with a list and more importantly, stick-to-the-list! If you plan your next few meals ahead of time, you can compile a list to guide you through the store.
Remember, don’t shop hungry or when you are tired at the end of the day. Research shows that we are more likely to over purchase and impulse buy at those times. (And we tend to buy less healthy comfort foods.)
Shop for the season
Fruits and vegetables are important element in a healthy diet. If you’re on a tight budget, sometimes fresh produce can also be costly. The key is to buy in-season fresh local produce, and stay away from foods that are highly perishable and may spoil before you had a chance to enjoy it (for me, this tends to be spring mix lettuce and sadly avocados). Figure out what it is for you, what foods do you find yourself throwing away?
During the colder Midwest fall and winter months, it’s a great time to buy apples, pears, bell pepper, cabbage, garlic, greens, onions, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and turnips. Buy these items fresh. Then try frozen or canned fruit and vegetables that are not in season or grown year round nearby.
Roasting fixes (almost) everything
Before you toss the soft tomatoes or the bruised vegetables, try roasting them! I love roasting vegetables. It is the cooking I do most often. It’s so easy and delicious. Depending on the vegetable and the size it’s cut into, the cooking time may vary. Typically I preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a sheet pan with parchment paper, dice up and lay out the veggie to be roasted, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper (and whatever other seasoning you like). And that is pretty much it. Roast it in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes and voila! It’s delicious, every time.
Repeat after me, “The slow cooker is my friend”
I just love a crock pot or slow cooked meal. If you’re lucky enough to have an Instant Pot, you can “slow” cook in record time.
Slow cooking is a great way to batch cook larger roasts or soups that you can then save for meals later in the week, or even freeze for weeks or months later. It also allows you to buy less expensive cuts of meat, then cook them low and slow into the perfect tender dish.
Follow these rules, and you will crush your goals in no time. Enjoy!