Eating Healthy While On A Budget
According to most people with ample excuses not to lose weight, finding a way to eat healthy when you’re short on time or money isn’t something that can be done. You can eat – just not healthy is the mindset you see time and again.
However, it’s not true. Many people use the excuse of limited cash or time to stick to the same old way of eating. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Even if you’re strapped for time and you don’t have a lot of money for food, you can eat just as healthy as someone who has an abundance of both.
Check out the video below to find out how to eat healthy while on a budget. We also have our mega-post on dieting here. There is a list of our recommendations under the video to keep you healthy and happy!
Show Post Contents
Saving Money, Time and Your Health
The downside to people thinking that they can’t afford to eat healthily or don’t have the time is that there are serious consequences. These consequences end up being either weight gain or health problems because they miss out on the vitamins and minerals their bodies need.
What you eat right now impacts your life in the future. It also impacts the health of your child and the only way to prevent that is to stop unhealthy eating – thinking that it’s faster and cheaper – when the truth is, it’s not.
There are good reasons why you want to change the way you eat and the way that you look at shopping for food. Go to any grocery store and sit in the parking lot. Watch people as they walk in.
Look at how many of them are overweight. You’ll see people of all ages who are either somewhat overweight or are morbidly obese. You’ll notice that many of them are struggling to walk.
They’re limping inside the store. You’ll notice that overweight adults are often accompanied by overweight children. These children have picked up the eating and food shopping habits from the adults in their lives.
If no one stands up and stops the unhealthy pattern, then those children will carry that into their own families and future generations will continue the upward surge to a life of obesity and health problems.
Some people mistakenly believe that it’s cheaper to feed their family on fast food. They think if they buy some chicken nuggets at a burger place, they’re saving money. But they’re not.
It’s less expensive to eat meals that are made at home. Plus, the meals are better for the adult as well as the child. Why is it that so many people just aren’t doing it? The biggest reason this isn’t happening is that most people just don’t know how to shop for food and make those meals at home using methods that save them money and time.
But thankfully, it’s a skill that can be learned. You can actually end up saving money on your grocery bill by learning to eat healthy on a budget. When you learn the method for shopping for healthy foods, and you make it a habit week after week, it will surprise you at how much better you feel, and how little effort is actually involved in eating better.
You Don’t Have to Break Your Budget to Eat Healthily
Some people have the belief that if they can’t eat fresh foods, organic foods or superfoods, then it means they’re going to be eating an unhealthy diet and that’s not true.
You may have heard someone say (or even said it yourself) that eating foods that are the best for your health just isn’t in the cards for you because there’s not enough money to do that.
So they give up because they’ve been conditioned that this is the way that their life is going to be. People who automatically buy the foods that aren’t good for them do so because of conditioning, which then turns into shopping and meal planning mainly out of habit.
They haven’t taken the time to really study the best way to shop for food. In light of all the materials you may have read about healthy eating, it’s natural to assume that you have to stay away from any food that’s either frozen or comes in a can and that’s not the case either.
You may have heard that it’s cheaper if you eat junk food and it’s more convenient and less time consuming for you than healthy foods are. You may think that processed foods are all you have the time or money to buy.
When you go shopping with the mindset that you can’t afford to eat right, you automatically shop for foods that zap your energy and add to your weight as well as lead to health problems for yourself and your family down the road.
You don’t have to eat like that. It might surprise you to learn that you can eat just as healthy by being budget conscious and buying your foods from the frozen section or in cans.
There is a right way and a wrong way when deciding what foods you need to buy. The standard way of shopping is by measuring how much value you’re getting for your dollar.
People who shop this way compare how much they’re spending on that food item versus the calories and nutrition in the food. However, the best way to tell if you’re spending less money on food is to measure the side of the items by side and compare their grams, calories, and weight.
You can do this by using a formula. This lets you figure up the costs of everything you buy to make that you’re able to eat healthy meals even when you’re limited by cash or time.
The formula is calories per cost, protein per cost and total cost per week or month – or however often you grocery shop. When you use the formula, you’ll see that when you tally the actual cost of certain foods, it’s better for you to buy healthy from the canned section or from the frozen food aisle than to buy the quick, processed foods.
You’ll see that a supposedly cheaper box of snack crackers cost you more in the long run than choosing to buy a healthier option. The food that’s healthier will be the better buy when you compare.
You can buy green vegetables that are healthy for you in a can. Items like these and others such as green peas in a can will add color as well as vitamins to your diet and they’re not expensive.
It’s the same thing with tomatoes in a can, corn or carrots. Almost every item you can find fresh that’s good for you, you can also find in a can. By buying foods that are canned, there’s also less chance of food spoiling so you’re able to keep more stored in your pantry.
This lessens the chance that you won’t have what you need to make a healthy meal. You can buy these food items in higher quantities and still come out cheaper with your budget.
Follow the same formula when you’re buying frozen foods. These foods are less expensive and last longer. Does that mean no fresh foods? No. You can use this same formula to figure out the best buy for any type of fresh produce as well.
Fresh Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
One of the reasons that many people who are in a money or time crunch steer clear of healthy foods is because they think it’s too time-consuming to make meals this way. Another reason is that they believe the food is simply too expensive to be in their budget.
These can be expensive, but only if you’re never learned how to shop for them the right way and how to find ways to save money using them. Fresh fruit and vegetables are either strong or easily damaged.
The easily damaged vegetables always cost more at the grocery store. That’s because the markup on certain items can be as much as 75% over the original cost. This happens because a portion of the fruits and vegetables don’t survive the transportation to the store and they end up damaged or rotten before the store is able to sell them.
The cost of bringing in fresh fruits and vegetables that are easily damaged is passed on to the customer, which is why you want to shop for sturdy fruits or vegetables. With vegetables, these are going to be items like carrots, cabbage or celery.
With fruit, the stronger ones would be apples or oranges. Anything with a berry in the name is a more fragile fruit, which is why it will cost you more at the store. You’ll notice something when you’re shopping for sturdier fruits and vegetables.
They’re always cheaper to buy and yet you still get the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy diet. These foods end up lasting longer, too and often give a greater yield than a weaker fruit or vegetable does.
Buy local produce. When you buy local, you’re saving the cost of shipping that the store adds to the cost of the food so the bottom line is cheaper for you. You can find local food items at farmer’s markets, farms in your area and produce stands.
If you don’t know where they are in your area, an online search will give you this information. Always buy your fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. When these items are out of season, they’re always going to cost more.
When you do find fresh produce items on sale, you can buy more of them than you can use in a week and freeze what you can’t use. Frozen fruits and vegetables can hold up if you freeze them correctly and it saves you a lot of time to have what you need already on hand.
Some people shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store they frequent without considering that these same items could cost 50% less or even more if they were to shop at a discount grocery or a member’s club store.
So be sure to check out the ones in your area. Think about getting a membership in what’s called a CSA. That stands for community supported agriculture. You can find some inexpensive subscriptions to these programs.
Once you become a member, you receive whatever food items that local grower is producing. This can be things like eggs, honey, meats, fruits, and vegetables. It can be some of all of that or just certain items.
But you usually get more and it’s cheaper than at your grocery store. Plus, many of these CSA programs get the food ready for you so you save time versus being at the grocery store trying to find the items.
Turning Your Savings into Meals
Before you hit the grocery store, write out a list. When you go shopping without one, there’s a higher chance, you’ll end up tossing food that’s not as healthy for you into the cart.
Many people balk at creating a meal plan but this saves you time. Use a calendar app or a physical calendar and write out the meals. The fastest way to plan meals out at once is to use a PVCFF plan.
That stands for protein, vegetable, carb, fruit, fat. You may not use all of them at once and if you don’t use carbs in your meal planning, then you would just eliminate the C in the planning.
If you use meat in your menu, for a casserole or main dish recipes that call for the use of meat, you can cut the needed amount in half and you won’t notice a difference. Use the 1-2 method when planning a meal because this saves both time and money.
Make it once but make it enough for two meals. An example of this would be to cook a vegetable lasagna but make it enough for two meals for each person eating. You can cook a meal and either has it again the next night or freeze half of it for later in the month.
Always make sure you have a leftover meal ready for the days you know are going to be hectic and you’re not going to feel like coming home and cooking. This way, you’ll be eating in minutes.
When planning out your meals, make sure you keep them simple. The simpler the meal, the less it costs and the faster you can make it. Keep all the staples that you need for these simple meals on hand so that you can whip one up in a hurry.
You can do this by buying items like your canned vegetables when they’re on sale. Many grocery stores still offer 3 for $1.00 or 4 for $1.00 sales on canned vegetables. You can also find this with canned fruits as well.
Remember that you can divide leftovers into single serving size containers and have these to take to lunch with you. You can also use leftovers to create brand new meals. Leftover chicken and vegetables can be made into a soup if you add broth. Or they can put into a tortilla and make it into a burrito.
Tips for Saving Time and Money So You Can Eat Healthily
When you’re shopping, always make sure you buy foods that aren’t prepared. Don’t buy the chicken that’s already cut up. You pay for that convenience. Don’t buy cheeses that are sliced because it’s the same thing.
Get these foods and cut them up yourself at home. Use whole grains. You save money over buying the other ones because you get more for your dollar. Some people balk at buying generic foods.
But what you might not know is that it’s not really generic. These are simply food items that don’t have the maker’s other label on them. For example, a gallon of milk might be labeled with the store brand name and it’ll be in the cooler for a lower price than the name brand milk.
But it’s actually the exact same milk processed at the same factory in many cases. Just with different labels. When there is a sale at a store on products that you use to buy as many of the items as you have money in the budget.
You’ll use these items later in the month and if not then, you will the following month. If you find BOGO (buy one get one free) sales, try to use coupons if you can find them on that product.
You can use a coupon even on the one that’s free. This will give you extra savings. Don’t forget to use the store’s coupons as well. You can use those along with a manufacturer coupon to get savings on the same item.
You don’t have to spend time clipping coupons to get savings. You can use a coupon app. Sign up for the store’s money-back program. Some grocery stores give you money back for having their store card.
You get instant savings. But some let your savings add up and then you get a store gift card you can use toward groceries. Over time, this amount can range anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds depending on the items you buy.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be something that’s outside of your reach regardless of how little cash or time you have. Whenever you learn how to shop for healthy foods on a budget, you can begin learning shortcuts.
Meal prep and strategies like using a crockpot or InstaPot are great for shaving time off your cooking schedule. All you have to do is throw in the ingredients and let the gadget do the work for you while you go about your day.
The only drawback to learning these strategies is that it immediately eliminates your excuses, so if you’re struggling to lose weight, you won’t be able to rely on these anymore.