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It’s that time of year when everyone is trying to eat healthy. We’re all trying to stay on budget too since we just spent way too much on the holidays. So how do you combine the two to make sure that you’re staying on budget at the same time that you’re making healthy changes to your diet?
You’ll be happy to find out that there are a lot of ways to make great progress on eating healthy meals when you have no money or little money. Even if you have a low income it’s very possible to find healthy foods to eat.
Here you’ll find lots of ideas to help you eat better when you need to be frugal or live on a tight budget.
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I know we all have a different idea of what healthy is, my idea of healthy is eating mostly whole foods that are prepared at home. We include lots of protein, fruits, and vegetables in our diet. Carbohydrates tend to be high in calories but low in nutrients, so we make sure they aren’t the focus of our meals.
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Eat Inexpensive Ingredients
There are many inexpensive ingredients that are healthy for you. Here are some ideas for low-cost ingredients that are still healthy for you.
- Whole Grains
- Seasonal Fruit
- Frozen Vegetables
- Seasonal Vegetables
- Meats purchased on sale
- Canned Fish
Use Less Meat
You can reduce the amount of meat in most of your favorite dishes. Try replacing the ground beef in tacos or casseroles with beans or lentils. Cook more meals that include eggs or tuna.
Eat Your Leftovers
If it was good the first time you served it, it should be good to eat again the next day. If you don’t like to eat leftovers, try turning it into something else.
Here are some Great Ways to Use Your Leftovers to Save Money
Shoot for No Food Waste
When you don’t manage your groceries very well, you end up throwing a lot of food away. Make sure to go through your refrigerator every couple of days to manage what is in there. If something will be expiring soon, find a way to use it or freeze it.
Make More Soup
Soups are very economical. They can be made with homemade broth, beans, leftovers, and vegetables. They’re a great way to use up vegetables that are starting to get soft or tough cuts of meat.
Pack Your Lunches
Eating lunch out will completely blow your budget. You can make lunch at home in minutes and even use up leftovers by packing them for work.
These electric lunchboxes can be plugged in at work or in your car to heat up a meal in 30-45 minutes. And, I love all the fun designs they have for insulated lunch totes.
Keep Snacks in Your Car or Purse
If you get hungry when you’re out and about, you’ll be more tempted to grab something from a convenience store or drive-thru. Keep some snacks on hand that you’ve prepared at home for a better option.
Steer clear of the vending machines at work — they are a very expensive way to snack. Even if you only get one snack per day, that will easily cost you $40 per month.
Read Here about The Healthiest Gas Station / Convenience Store Snacks
Stay away from all the chips and individually packaged items. Instead eat veggies or fruit with nut butter, cheese, hummus, pickles, popcorn, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt.
Not only are drinks like soda and juice expensive, but they aren’t healthy for you. They are loaded with either sugar or artificial flavorings and sweeteners. Water is your best friend. If you want to add a little zip to it, add a twist of lemon or lime.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time
If you head into mealtime without a plan, you just might end up at the drive-thru. Many times, after a long day of work and parenting I’ve stood at the fridge trying to decide what to make. By this time of day we’re already exhausted so convenience becomes much more tempting.
Make a plan at least the day before to keep you from being tempted.
Cook Whole Food
Skip processed and packaged foods like chicken nuggets, pizzas, frozen waffles, hamburger helper, and macaroni and cheese. The whole-food versions that you make at home are cheaper and healthier, too.
Eat Out Less
Eating out is so tempting … but, just don’t do it. Set a small budget for the month and don’t go over that amount. Instead, have some simple meal ideas that you can make at home on busy nights.
Prepare Food In Your Free Time
This is the best way to stop eating out. When you have extra food already prepared, just sitting there in your fridge, it’s so much easier to eat at home. You won’t be tempted nearly as much.
DIY Convenience Foods
In just a few minutes, you can make your own convenience foods at home. Things like pizzas, salad dressing, seasoning mixes, chopped vegetables, chicken nuggets, baked goods, and snacks are much healthier when you make them yourself. And they’re cheaper.
How to Buy Groceries on a Budget
Skip Health Food Stores
Health Food Stores are one of the most expensive places you can shop. They are full of expensive ingredients packaged up by expensive brands. You’ll be able to find healthy food at your local grocery store, instead.
Buy Frozen Produce
Buying frozen produce is a really smart way to save money on groceries. While fresh vegetables might taste best, we know that frozen vegetables have more nutrients, are convenient to use, and are very cheap.
You can easily find frozen veggies for under $1.00/lb., while fresh vegetables often cost 3-4 times that.
Frozen fruits are great to use in desserts, smoothies, and straight out of the bag.
Eat Produce in Season
Even though we can get our hands on every fruit and vegetable all year long, it doesn’t mean we should. If it’s the middle of winter, you can skip putting tomatoes on your salads. Instead, eat more coleslaw and crunchy vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and broccoli.
Use the Dirty Dozen or Clean 15 List
Organic food is usually more expensive so make your money count by spending your organic dollars where you most need to. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list showing which fruits and vegetables are the most contaminated with pesticides.
Plan to eat more of the Clean 15 items and fewer of the Dirty Dozen. If you’re planning to eat something from the Dirty Dozen List, make sure it’s organic. Check out the guide here.
Look for Mark-downs
Get to know where your favorite store puts their mark-down items. This is a great place to score good deals on meat, produce, and pantry goods, too.
Buy in Bulk
There are many foods that are easy to find in bulk and usually they are whole foods. I shop at a grocery store that carries bins of bulk products and I love it. It saves me money and saves on packaging, too. Here are a few of the things I buy in bulk:
- Baking supplies
Stock Up on Sales
Be sure to stock up on healthy foods when they are on sale. I always buy meat in bulk on sale, then package it into smaller portions to freeze. This way I’m not stuck buying chicken breast for $4.00/lb. when I can stock up ahead of time for $1.59/lb.
One of the quickest ways to go way over budget is to go grocery shopping and pay full price.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to eat healthy food and stay on a budget. Make sure that you’re saving money when you’re buying healthy food, but also be really smart about how you use your food.
I hope you’re inspired knowing that you can eat clean, healthy food even when you’re low-income and need to stick to a tight budget. No, you won’t be shopping at Whole Foods, but you’ll be eating well and getting healthier.
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