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Eating healthy on a budget


Eating healthy on a budget
Are you trying to eat a healthy diet on a budget? Most people seem to think that to do so means spending a lot of money, but I’m here to tell you it most certainly doesn’t  and in this post I’ll explain why it doesn’t and how to go about eating healthy without spending a fortune.

The amount of articles I have read on this subject that seems to suggest eating healthy is more expensive than eating unhealthily is amazing. Where do these people shop? personally I think that is a load of rubbish…read on.

Firstly, eating in a healthy way must first come with a little education about nutrition, so take a look at my Nutrition Plan series.

What are the benefits of eating healthy?

The benefits of eating healthy can lead to fat loss, diabetes prevention or even recovery, disease prevention, providing more energy and improved mood/mental health. While eating unhealthy foods can lead to the complete opposite. Being healthy now and in the future means spending less on ill health and medication. Look at it as if you are investing in your future health as well as your present.

How do I eat healthy foods on a budget?

I know of some studies that showed that eating healthy costs more. I just don’t get it, because I eat very healthy for very little. In fact I can eat my entire weekly meal plan for the equivalent of 3 takeaway/restaurant meals. Yep you heard me right. As I have said many times before in this blog, any study can be setup to prove something, it doesn’t mean it is right and that is a fact that I don’t need to set a study up for.

Let’s be honest, processed, man-made food IS expensive, pizza, desserts, pies….have a labour and processing factor in their price, while simple whole foods don’t. So why do people find it difficult to eat healthy on a budget and for less. The answer is you need to change your waste buds to more natural foods. Leave out the salt and spices and other condiments………How are oats, potatoes and naturally grown fresh fruits more expensive than that junk? they aren’t so stop making excuses….

The trick is to plan your diet and shop around. That doesn’t mean you need to go to half a dozen shops to buy your foods, just see what’s available at your local shops/supermarket and put together a list of foods that are healthy and buy smarter. For example my local supermarket always has frozen vegetables, such as 1kg bags of broccoli, spinach or mixed vegetables all for 99p ($1.25 US) each.  There is always frozen chicken breast fillets at around £3.50-4.00 ($4.50-5.10 US) per kg and of course fresh fruit such as 6 kiwi’s for 69p (89 cents). These are just examples and as you can see I’m not buying expensive foods here, just buying smarter.

If you take a look at my own Meal Plan on this website you will see what I have to eat and one of the best meals of the day for me is my breakfast. It is made up of oats, frozen fruit, chia seeds, flaxseeds and whey protein. Oat are cheap, as a 1kg bag is 99p ($1.25 US) and lasts for a long time, compare that to any other cereals. I also buy frozen berries, instead of fresh. The chia and flax seeds are bought at my local Aldi, they are very cheap and I use just a teaspoon of each and that lasts a long time and whey protein is pound for pound the cheapest quality protein source you can get. There is probably more healthy nutritional content in this breakfast than most people eat in a day and costs less than most people eat for a snack!

Here is a list of some of the things you can do to help in eating a healthy diet on a budget:

  • Plan your meals and make a list of foods you need to buy and stick to it. Don’t go shopping without your list otherwise you will just throw random stuff in your basket. A list will also help you stay on track and if you don’t buy the rubbish you won’t have it in the house to eat, win win situation.
  • Learn to calculate the unit/weight prices of food and compare per gram/kg or lb.
  • Buy at the cheaper stores. Here in the UK we have a number of supermarkets that sell good quality food on a budget. Spend a few minutes on the internet and compare the prices. Some local produce sellers can also be cheaper, such as egg farms or farm shops direct. Avoid express shops, as they tend to have inflated prices.
  • Don’t be a brand snob. The reality is that the expensive foods are no different than the cheaper ones. There normally isn’t any difference in pack size or content, so shop around and buy store brand food/cheaper brands.
  • Substitute cheaper healthy options. For example a large bag of plain simple oat is real cheap and full of goodness, compared to the so called healthy cereals that often have added sugar and salt .
  • You don’t need so called superfoods that are packaged to suggest they are great. No doubt there are foods that are good for you and those that aren’t, but the so called ‘superfoods’ are generally marketing hype. It’s often a way for food producers to up the price of a food substance and for researches to get paid for doing…….., well research.
  • Don’t buy processed, junk or convenient foods/snacks. These are the foods that can add up both in calories and cost. If you want the occasional treat (and who doesn’t!), look in the discount section. Buy simple single natural foods instead.
  • You don’t need to buy fresh often. As nice as it is, fresh food generally costs more, needs to be eaten within a certain date that often leads to waste. In fact some fresh foods go off even on the shelf of a shop floor. However buying seasonal foods can often work out being cost effective. When some foods are in season their cost generally goes down. Many fruits and vegetables can be bought quite cheaply when they are in season.
  • Buy more frozen food. This allows you to take what you want and save the rest for later, reducing wastage. Frozen foods are normally frozen straight away and are in fact still very fresh when cooked. Make use of your freezer and fill it with frozen fruit, vegetables and meat.
  • Some canned foods such as tuna or vegetables can be great as a long term food storing choice that you can keep for a long time. However watch out and avoid those that are loaded with salt, sugar and other added preservatives.
  • Buy in bulk, it’s often cheaper.
  • Don’t shop when hungry as you are more likely to buy foods you normally crave.
  • Buying whole chicken can be a good cheap option with lots of meat on it.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat or a substitute….I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but if I do I can get low fat lean burgers for much less than steak for example.
  • Use a 1 cal spray in place of cooking oils.
  • Save money and don’t buy salt and other useless condiments.
  • Cook at home…..you will actually eat healthier and less food. Once you get into the routine it will become second nature, quicker and easier. Cook in batches, freeze or cook every other day.
  • Don’t waste food……re-use want you can’t eat. Consider making an omelette or rice dish with left-overs.
  • Drink water more often, leave out bought drinks, water is great, natural and essential.
  • Don’t eat out or very often. Make it a very occasional treat only.

Cooking time

Many people are put off from trying to eat healthy foods as they don’t have the time or patience to cook. I eat healthy most of the time, I’m also both busy and often lazy, yep, I said lazy. So how much time do I put into cooking? well it may surprise you, very little time indeed. Look at my Meal Plan. My breakfast is micro waved and put together in minutes. My main meal is made up of vegetables that goes in the microwave and the meat/sweet potatoes, straight in the oven (yes I do have to peel the sweet potatoes), all in all no more time than most people spend chucking a meal in a microwave or oven. Make your own excuses…as there is none. Just don’t make it complicated. I see many nutritionlists and so called internet experts giving you recipes for meals to create. To be honest who the hell has time to gather half a dozen or more ingredients and spices and then make a meal….no wonder people fail to stick to a diet?!

Finally

Now while I have written the above I will conceded that many can’t seem to stick to a healthy clean diet, which may be down to their willpower or they have a family that needs feeding as well. Life isn’t a simple switch with an on off button and people will always look for the simple route in life. There is however always a middle ground for those that find it difficult. Just do the best you can, there is no reason to think that eating healthy is expensive in the least and use it to follow a healthy lifestyle.