This article may contain links from our affiliate partners. Please read how we make money!
Introduction: Cheap… But Healthy!
Eating healthily is vital for your health, both physically and mentally. There are now plenty of studies to suggest that your diet is important to good mental health. It can make you feel a sense of accomplishment, leave you with a clearer mind, and offer you more energy to get on with your day.
However, eating healthily has become stigmatized over the past few decades and many people brush it off because they think it is too expensive. The rise of frozen food and ready meals that are quick, easy, and cheap to make have pushed healthy eating aside for many people.
But these foods are full of sugar, fat, and calories. These ingredients can be damaging to both your health and your waistline. Healthy eating is not as detrimental to your wallet as you may think – you just have to know where to look.
Today, we’re going to show you how eating healthily on a budget is easier than you think.
How To Eat Healthy On A Budget
Eating healthily for a low price is not as difficult as you might think – you just need to know where to look. But before you rush out to the store or skip ahead to our tips on how to shop, first you need to consider what it means to eat healthily.
A healthy diet is not all about fruit, vegetables, and grilled chicken. You don’t have to cut out all carbs or fat out of your life, and you can eat too much of a good thing.
The five major food groups
Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits are most commonly associated with healthy eating because they are filling and sweet so ideal for replacing your typical sweet-tooth cravings. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat five servings of fruit and veg a day.
There is such a thing as too much fruit in your diet. It is not necessarily harmful to your body, but fruits do tend to house a lot of natural sugar and carbohydrates. If you’re aiming to lose weight in this process, too much fruit could be counterproductive.
Vegetables are much better as they don’t hold anywhere near as much sugar or carbohydrates. However, they do fill you up nicely and offer you lots of great health benefits.
This food group is where you’ll get the majority of your vitamins and minerals, so make sure you’re implementing it into your diet.
Protein helps our bodies to repair and restore themselves with the help of amino acids. Protein should make up around an eighth of our diet, and we need to make sure that we’re getting enough yet not having too much.
The best sources of protein are lean meats and fish. Limit purchasing processed meats where you can, such as deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon. If you’re vegetarian you can also get protein from eggs, pulses, tofu, seeds and nuts, and beans.
Carbohydrates are where your body gets the majority of its energy from, so you must be getting enough. This food group should make up around a third of your diet, but carbs have achieved a bad reputation from many dieticians.
However, there are some better carbohydrates than others. For example, starchy carbs are generally considered unhealthier than other carbohydrate sources. Oats, sweet potatoes, and quinoa are healthy carbohydrates.
When you are looking for your rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals try to opt for whole-grain alternatives. These offer better nutrients and reduce the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes type 2 and heart disease.
Dairy is another source of protein as well as other vitamins and minerals. Calcium is the most prominent which is best known for its role in keeping your bones and teeth strong.
However, dairy can contain high levels of fat so it’s advised that you look for low-fat alternatives that don’t contain too many added sugars or flavorings.
We know that you’re screaming at your screen right now, but fat has once again been unfairly villainized by dieticians and cookbooks. Of course, not all fats are good for you and you should be cautious of how much you consume.
78% of fat is the maximum amount you should be eating in a day, and only 22% of that should be saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in animal skin, beef, pork, butter, and cheese. Unsaturated fat is considered healthier and comes from nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetable oils.
Tricks & Tips When Shopping On A Budget
Now that you have a rough idea of what you’re looking for, you can head to the store to purchase some supplies.
We have a few tips and tricks to share with you to ensure that you’re not spending more than you need to on healthy foods.
Take a shopping list
We’ll get into this a little later, but planning is incredibly important if you want to succeed at living a healthier lifestyle on a budget. A shopping list will help you to stay on track rather than picking and choosing whatever takes your fancy on the shelves.
Stock up on staples
Staple ingredients can be used in many different recipes and often come in bulk. Olive oil, for example, finds its way into almost every healthy dish. While the initial price might be a little higher, you won’t need to purchase the staples again for a while.
Never go hungry
Grocery shopping while hungry is the worst idea when you’re trying to eat healthily. The stores are smart and they display the junk food proudly so that you’re always tempted the entire way around the shop. Alternatively, healthy foods are hidden away.
You’re 31% more likely to leave with high-calorie snacks if you shop hungry, both wreaking havoc on your healthy eating and budget shopping.
Compare fresh to frozen
Frozen fruit and vegetables are often cheaper in the long run than buying the produce fresh. Frozen alternatives have a longer shelf life, the fruit and veg are often of better quality, and it’s almost always pre-prepared for you to use!
When fresh produce is stored in the stores, it can sit out for days before you end up taking it home. There has been some evidence that indicates that fresh produce might lose more vitamins and phytonutrients by sitting out, making frozen produce better for you overall.
Skip perusing every aisle
If there is an aisle that is going to tempt you, don’t walk down it! Chocolate, chips, and sweets are often grouped in one or two aisles of the store, so it’s best to avoid these if you’re not feeling particularly strong-willed.
Why Planning Your Meals Can Save You Money
As promised, now we’re going to explore the importance of planning. There are plenty of reasons why you should figure out a meal plan at the start of the week, so get a pad and paper and take the time to do it. Your budget and diet will thank you.
1. Keeps you on track for eating healthy
Meal planning helps you to stay accountable for your eating and leaves you with less guilt when you mess up. We’ve all caved and reached for that candy bar when we’re trying to eat healthily, but meal planning helps to give you a clear image of what your day looks like when it comes to eating.
Meal planning can also ensure that you eat the right amount and that you’re getting the correct servings of the five major food groups. You won’t have to throw a meal together and hope that you have enough protein because you’ll have planned out your meals for the entire week.
2. Saves you time
Planning always saves you time, and you won’t be having to think about what you’re going to make dinner later that day. You won’t have to spend all of your lunch break trying to find food, which is probably going to be unhealthy and unsatisfying.
Meal planning also allows you to make a grocery list for the trips to the store. A grocery list will help you to reduce the amount of time you spend in the store.
Creating a list will also help you to prevent multiple trips to the grocery store a week as you can plan to get everything you need for a week in one go.
3. Prevents you from going over budget
Planning ensures that you keep to a budget by only purchasing what’s on your grocery list. You’re less likely to stray from your list, and it’s up to you how strict you want to be with your budget.
Some grocery stores allow you to see their current prices online so that you can get an idea of how much you can expect to spend.
One-Week Healthy Meal Plan Example On A Budget
Still confused about how you can plan what you’re going to cook for the entire week? Meal planning can take a while to get used to, but once you do it will make your healthy eating and budgeting target much easier.
Let’s take a look at an example of a healthy meal plan, as well as the shopping list that you’d need to write up as well.