By: Sue Pasqual
The old myth that eating healthy is too expensive is just that – a myth! It’s totally possible to live the healthy lifestyle you need and enjoy those delicious foods while staying within your budget. If you’re stuck trying to figure out how, we’ve got the essential tips for eating clean on a budget below!
I always remember the saying “if you think eating healthy is too expensive; wait until you see the medical bills after eating all that unhealthy food”. There is a strong belief that choosing healthier foods and cooking healthy meals at home costs more than eating less healthy or takeout options, and this worrying trend actually has the potential to turn people away from clean eating!
But what if clean eating on a budget was possible?
Clean eating doesn’t have to be any more money than unhealthy eating. By practicing financial discipline and taking the time to find foods that fit your budget – and ways to preserve those foods – you can stretch your dollar and start living the lifestyle you’re after! Following these simple tips will help you get more bang for your buck while not having to sabotage your efforts:
Plan Your Meals
Searching for the recipes you want to meal prep or make during the week is one of the easiest ways to not only stick to your plan, but ensures clean eating on a budget, too. Take stock of what you already have on-hand, then search the blog or Pinterest to find the meals that you want to make. Next, make a list of the things you need and had to the store, prepared to buy ONLY what is on your list.
TLS® Tip: Shop for produce that’s in-season since it’s much cheaper, or go frozen! Just be sure to check the label on frozen items. It should only be the item you’re purchasing so, if it’s spinach, the only thing in the frozen bag should be spinach!
Cook At Home
With many fast food chains offering meals for as little as a dollar, it can seem like the perfect way to stretch a dollar. Until you’re left to deal with the side-effects, that is. For nicer restaurants, it may be nice on occasion, but one restaurant meal could cost as much as two full days of meals cooked at home!
Instead of eating out, stick to clean eating on a budget by planning to cook from home for all but one or two meals each week. This will save you money, calories and unhealthy fats, and you’ll start to learn how to make meals you love from your favorite healthy ingredients! That’s a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life.
Cook In Bulk
We’ve all been there – we had a crazy day and forgot to hit the store, and there’s no way we’re heading back out once we’ve hit the couch. Simply making time to get ahead of the curve is going to save you on days like those.
When you head to the store, go ahead and cook 2-3 chicken breasts or servings of protein to have on-hand whenever you need something quick. That way, the next time you have “one of those days”, you can toss a bag of steamable veggies in the microwave and grab your protein for a simple but healthy meal!
Worried about cooked foods going bad? Just throw it all in a crockpot with some herbs, spices, and broth and make a nice soup for a rainy day!
Don’t Shop for Convenience
Convenient foods are more expensive because companies know that most people are willing to pay more for convenience. For example, have you ever seen the proce difference between something as simple as a whole apple versus pre-sliced apples?
Next time, buy an onion instead of purchasing the already sliced onion or the whole butternut squash instead of pre-diced or spiralized packages. Buying the whole food is much more cost effective, and you’ll often get more for the price which helps keep you from having to make those mid-week grocery runs.
Often, the generic brand costs far less for a nearly identical product. Check the labels. They’re often exactly the same…except for the price tag. Sure – you may have your favorite sauce from Kraft but remember your priorities. Is your favorite brand worth more than staying within your budget and making lasting, healthy changes?
Pay Attention to Coupons & Sales
Cut coupons from the newspaper, register for weekly store newsletters with deals, check for price matching, and set reminders for sales. The options between paper coupons and online deals are nearly endless!
Most stores will match prices you find elsewhere, and those lower prices are easy to find online or in your local newspaper. Those coupons are a great way bulk buy and save even more in the long run. Let the extreme couponers inspire you – they can spend $4 on food that would cost most of us $200!
Opt for Plant-Based Proteins
Meats are often the most expensive items on our shopping lists, but protein comes in many forms. Plant proteins like legumes and beans are also great ways to ensure you’re getting protein, and they’re great for clean eating on a budget since they cost much less than most meats. Don’t confuse this statement with saying not to eat protein! We’re just suggesting that you change up our protein sources on occasion if you’re wallet needs a little help.
Bring Lunches to Work
While it is nice to grab take out with your co-workers, it is often more money to do so. If you are trying out clean eating on a budget, adding make-ahead meals to your weekly recipe and shopping list is going to massively help you stay within budget!
Clean eating on a budget is simple if you follow these simple tips. If you want to dine out on occasion, just be sure to factor that into your weekly food prep and budget glance. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, you will never feel deprived and you’ll quickly find it easy to reach your financial and physical goals!