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Is It Possible To Eat Healthy On A Budget?

By: Kristi Goode

Yes, organic fruits and veggies, olive oils, and grass-fed beef are all 'healthy' for you... They are, however, prohibitively pricey for many people. What's the good news? There are foods that are nutrient-dense while also being cost-effective. I'll show you ways to eat healthy on a budget while also pleasing your taste buds.

People who struggle to eat healthy on a regular basis frequently face one or more of the following common (and very real) obstacles:

  • There is no time to cook or prepare meals.

  • Long-standing eating habits that provide a sense of security and routine.

  • Fried foods are preferred over veggies.

With all the demands and expenses that people face, it's obvious that eating properly might be a budgetary challenge. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean animal proteins, complete grains, and nuts and seeds do, unfortunately, cost more than a diet high in processed and quick foods.

Even when money is limited, it is possible to consume a very healthy diet. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning & purchasing food:

  1. Make Nutrients a Priority: Calories are necessary to meet our energy demands, but nutrients are what keep us healthy in the long run and feed our bodies at the cellular level, allowing us to have more energy. Nutrient-poor foods may be less expensive, but they can cause deficiencies, whereas nutrient-dense foods keep us fuller for longer and safeguard our health. At each meal, aim for a nutritional balance. Protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals should always be on your mind when building your plate or snacks.

  2. Pre-made meals: Did you know that buying ready-to-eat prepared foods generally cost more than buying whole food ingredients and making meals yourself? Think of frozen lasagna. By the time you purchase all of the ingredients, you will more than likely have enough to make twice that of a prepackaged meal. Think one for today and one for tomorrow or you could freeze it for next week!

  3. Plan Your meals & pack your lunch! One way to get a better idea of how much you are spending when eating out for lunch, it to track your spending for 5 days. This will “open your eyes” to how much you could be saving by preparing and packing your own lunch daily!

  4. Preparation: A little more time in the kitchen can not only save you money but can lower your risk of health issues while increasing energy. Ask others to help. Double if not triple the recipe for leftovers. Pair food prep with something you enjoy such as watching TV, listening to music, talking with a friend, spending time with kids, etc.

  5. Quick prep foods that can be cooked in batches: hard boiled eggs, chopping certain veggies in advance, cooking beans and rice, etc. Cook and freeze in batches: Soups, stews, casseroles, granola, beans, rice.

  6. Shopping: Stick to your list! I can’t tell you how much money you can save just by sticking to your list. Other ways to save while shopping is to buy in bulk at a local bulk food store. Remember to clip your coupons and check the circulars for sales. This may seem time-consuming but will save you money in the long run. Lastly, don’t shop when you’re hungry!

  7. Cost effective foods: Dried beans and grains, seasonal produce whole foods, generic brands of frozen fruit & veggies, less popular cuts of meats, canned fish or chicken, canned lower sodium beans, winter squash, seasonings, nuts, protein bars, and sometimes even a prechopped salad works out great!

  8. Avoiding food waste: yet again, plan before you shop! Look ahead at the week and everyone’s calendar and determine what night’s you will be cooking and if you need lunches for the next day!

  9. Make a list and STICK TO IT! Eliminate impulse buying & overbuying!

  10. If you prepare a dish and don’t think you’ll eat it within 4 days, freeze it in portions for quick lunches or meals.

To eat well, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Even on a shoestring budget, there are numerous ways to consume nutrient-dense meals. These include meal planning, cooking at home, and making wise grocery store decisions. Keep in mind that highly processed goods are more expensive. This is because consuming a lot of high-sodium or high-sugar foods can create a variety of health problems. These include costs for care or medication, and you may not be able to earn as much as you used to. Even if eating nutrient-dense meals was more expensive in the short term — which it doesn't have to be — it would be worthwhile in the long run. Your health is something you can't put a price on.

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