When money is tight, eating right can feel like an unattainable luxury. Hitting the supermarket can be beyond stressful when you know you have a limited amount to spend and a week's worth of meals to prepare. You may be tempted to reach for those cheap, processed foods to fill out your grocery cart and make it feel like your dollar is stretching a little further, but trust us, this is not the way.
Turning to cheap packaged goods will not only derail your fitness goals, it will actually cost your more money in the long run. Processed, refined, packaged foods are often nutritionally void and will not keep you feeling as full and satisfied as fresh, whole ingredients. That means you'll have to eat again before long, skyrocketing your calorie intake and forcing you to consume more food -- and in turn, causing you to spend more money!
We know that eating healthy isn't necessarily cheap, but it doesn't have to bust your budget. Here are some tips to help you eat well without going broke:
1. Build your pantry over time.
Healthy eating requires a well stocked pantry but it isn't always possible to get all the staples at one time. So, start slowly. Invest in a quality olive oil and build out from there. Good spices can be expensive so start with what you know you will use. No sense having a whack of marjoram around if you only use cinnamon and curry. These are items that can last several months and so end up being a fairly reasonable expense. It might also be a good idea to load up on seeds, nuts and grains when you find a good price. For some other staples you may want to consider having on hand, check out this list
2. Take advantage of seasonal produce.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often less expensive than out of season produce. During the summer, you can get a great price on strawberries, blueberries, and stone fruits like peaches, plums and cherries. In the fall, look for apples, pumpkins and various root vegetables. You can consume all of this produce right away or you can divide it up into freezer bags and save for another time. Freezing fresh berries is a great way to save money on those breakfast smoothies when the seasons begin to change. If you are someone who chooses to purchase your produce at the local farmer's market, go towards the end of the day. You can often make purchases at a discounted price because the vendors are attempting to get rid of their stock. And don't be afraid to buy bruised or ugly looking produce. Some grocery stores and many farmer's market vendors will offer a discount on less than perfect looking foods!
3. Not everything needs to be organic.
While eating organic produce is a healthier option, not everything you buy needs to be. Some foods, like onions, corn, avocado, sweet potato, asparagus, cabbage, kiwi, and mushrooms absorb very little in the way of chemical pesticides so there is no need pay more to buy organic. But, when it comes to apples, strawberries, celery, grapes, peaches, bell peppers, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes, try to stick to organic whenever possible. These foods have porous skin (or skin that is eaten) which can increase your exposure to pesticide residue.
4. Plan and prep your meals in advance.
A little bit of planning can save you a bunch of money. Have a look in the mail for supermarket flyers and plan your meals according to the best deals. When you get home with your grocery haul, begin your prep work. If you take the time to prepare your meals, you increase the likelihood of eating the food while reducing the risk of it going bad before you get a chance. No one want to prepare food when they are already hungry! Make your life as easy as possible! Besides, when you get your meals planned and laid out, you'll be amazed to see how far you can stretch things. Have a look at this video to see just what we mean! $35 worth of groceries, mixed in with a little chopping, and you've got 7 days of healthy, grab and go lunches! These lunches are just a guideline, of course. Stuff your containers with whatever produce and protein you can get your hands on at a good price. Don't be afraid to experiment!
5. Learn to love whole grains, legumes, and beans.
These food stuffs are often inexpensive and can totally bulk up an otherwise light meal. Brown rice, quinoa, lentils, black beans, and chickpeas can also significantly increase the nutritional profile of your meals. Chickpeas, for example, can be used to top a salad or round out a curry in place of more expensive animal based proteins like chicken. Lentils also make a great substitute for beef in a spaghetti sauce. For some great ideas on how to work these foods into your regular meals, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan
6. Don't shy away from store brands.
Not every product you buy needs to be a top shelf brand. Read labels and check ingredient lists to be sure, but more often than not, if you are willing to forgo the fancy label, you can get the same product for significantly less money.
Healthy eating isn't about spending a whole bunch of money, it is about making smart, informed choices.
How do you eat right while staying on budget? We always love to hear from you! Share your tips in a comment!