Part 5: Eating Healthy on Budget!
Welcome back to the series and part 5! If you haven’t read through part 1-4, you may want to go back and read them now.
One of the biggest challenges people face when considering switching to a healthier lifestyle is price. Eating healthy is associated with high expenses. It doesn’t help to see so many diet and weight loss products on social media that come with a hefty expense. All of us are conditioned to think you can’t eat healthy unless you have a lot of money, but I’m here to help! I wanted to provide you with some easy ways to add in those healthy foods without upping your grocery bill.
STEP 1: Cook at Home
Social media likes to promote expensive meal replacements and meal delivery services with those high price points. While meal kits like Hello Fresh are fantastic for putting together an easy meal with everything you need delivered right to your door, a lot of people can’t afford them. Seeing the high prices on these items only leads many people to think they could never afford to eat healthy, but the prices of these meal services don’t reflect the price of buying and preparing meals similar at home. Once you know the tools for shopping for the best deals, you can do this on your own for a fraction of the cost.
Even for those who are not experienced chefs, cooking at home doesn’t have to mean prepping 5-course meals, the great thing about cooking at home is you can make whatever you want, and learn as you go. Plus eating at home is a fraction of the cost of going to a restaurant and saves time.
STEP 2: Meal Prep
Those people who live an on-the-go kind of lifestyle, finding time for food can be quite the challenge, and finding something healthy can be even more challenging. I myself used to work 70-80 hour weeks and spent so much time going through the drive thru and getting whatever I could get. The thought of preparing my own food seemed so unrealistic. When I got into fitness, I realized how important it was to find a better balance to my diet and started researching meal prepping.
At first I thought I’d never have time to prepare my own food for the week, but then I started thinking about all the time I spend waiting in those lines for fast food and it added up to HOURS A WEEK! I could easily use that time to prep my own food and also not have to waste gas driving.
Now if you decide to start meal prepping, do it in steps! A lot of people jump into it and get overwhelmed. Trying to go from cooking nothing to prepping 21 meals is quite the undertaking, leading you to burn out. Start by prepping 1 of 3 meals a day, or prepping items you could easily put together when you get home, my go-to is prepping items for a taco salad. Takes 20 minutes to prepare and you can quickly throw it in a bowl and heat it up. Pick the meal that you tend to have the most difficult time fitting into your schedule, and prepare that one. Once you see how much it pays off to plan ahead, preparing more meals in advance becomes easier.
Also, pick meals that you can easily accomplish in the time available. Time is an important factor in meal prepping. Think about how much time you actually have to make food and work around that. Casseroles and crock pot meals are fantastic options to save time and you can make enough at one time to have food for days. So keep it simple and manageable!
STEP 3: Plan Ahead
Did you know that groceries stores are actually set up to market higher priced and less healthy food options? Think about the set up of a grocery store. The outside perimeter is produce and other fresh products like meats etc. The aisles are prepackaged and processed foods. Then you get to the register and see high priced impulse items like tiny candy bars and expensive meal bars. The aisles and register lanes often have brighter lighting and more eye catching colors so people will be drawn to shopping there.
So when you know you need to stock up on groceries for the week, planning ahead is key! Sit down and decide what meals and snacks you’d like for the week. Doing this also helps ensure you have better balanced meals and making sure you get that balanced plate of carbs, fats and protein in each meal. Make a thorough grocery list, and shop with purpose! Make sure to eat before you shop to avoid those impulse purchases and avoid those inner aisles when you can. Remember that healthier options of foods are typically on the perimeter of the store.
STEP 4: Check for Sales and Coupons
When we get into a routine of grocery shopping, we often forget about the fact that stores have weekly sales and to check for coupons. Maybe you frequent the same grocery store every week because it’s easy, but taking some time to do your research can really help. I get a weekly mailer from my local groceries stores and I can see what items are on sale at each place and plan accordingly. If you’ve already planned out a grocery list, it becomes so easy to cross check different stores to see where it’s cheaper. While this takes more time, you can really save money and stock up on items on sale that you eat regularly.
Taking the time to go through coupons is also a great way to cut some extra money off. While we all can’t be extreme couponers and spend 40 hours a week preparing our coupon book and having a home warehouse of supplies, with minimal time invested, you can at least save a couple bucks. Also, check if your local grocery stores have a double coupon day to save twice as much!
STEP 5: Online Shop
While a lot of items will be cheaper in the store, it only takes a few minutes to check out prices online and maybe find some deals on items you can stock up on. Thrive Market is a great option to use for finding discounts on all sorts of items to fit into your diet. While you pay a flat yearly fee, you get markdowns on items bought. You can also search the site by diet style, so if you are vegetarian, you can easily find options fitting that description.
Also, searching Amazon or Amazon Fresh is a great option. I personally shop through Amazon to stock up items like electrolyte drinks and veggie pastas and rices. While a lot of things are marked up online, I can save a few dollars a week on these staple items.
Lastly, look at local produce delivery services. There are a lot of companies who deliver produce to cut back on waste. I use Imperfect Foods, but there’s a ton out there! When a company has a surplus of items or produce that is not quite picture perfect for shelves, they sell it at a discount. You should still compare it to store prices, but especially for larger families, this can be very helpful. Typically if you spend a certain amount you get free shipping and combined with discount prices, the money adds up.
STEP 6: Skip the Name Brands
When you can, buy generic brands! You can save a lot of money by avoiding those name brand items, but do your research. It’s important to look at unit price, which is located on the price tag on the shelf. Sometimes the generic item is cheaper because it’s a smaller quantity and you spend more money for less food.
It’s also helpful to still look for sales or coupons. Sometimes buying the name brand item is cheaper because it’s on sale or has a coupon. This is why planning ahead is so important!
STEP 7: Bulk Shop
For those with limited time or larger families, considering options like Costco or BJ’s wholesale may be a good option! While you have to pay membership fees, if you need large quantities of food, the discounts on food can make up for those membership fees. Also, bulking up on food means less trips to the store and less chance of picking up impulse foods. Bulk shopping also makes it easier to meal prep for an entire week. Just make sure to check the prices and options at these bulk stores, as they don’t always carry what you’re looking for, and specific items may be cheaper on sale or with coupons.
STEP 8: Buy Frozen vs. Fresh
One of the best hacks is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables. While buying fresh produce is amazing, it can be very expensive. Not to mention, if you don’t eat it fast enough it can go bad, so buying frozen is a great option. A lot of people associate eating frozen produce as eating a lower quality, but this isn’t the case. Frozen produce has the same calories and nutrients as fresh. Sometimes it can even be a more rip option because it can be frozen at the perfect time instead of fresh produce that can be over or under rip. So check out that frozen produce aisle, my favorite are the steam bags that are only $1!
STEP 9: Replace meat with less expensive protein options
When planning out meals, deciding on the protein source can be quite the challenge for those on a budget. Most of us think of meat as the primary way to get protein into our diet, and meat can be quite expensive! While you can look at switching to other cuts of meat that run cheaper than the prime cuts, there are a lot of alternatives you can try that are packed with protein and a fraction of the cost!
Lentils have 18 grams of protein per cup
Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and pinto have around 15 grams per cup
Nutritional yeast is full of protein and fiber, and is great for vegans looking to add a cheesy taste to a dish
Hempseed has 10 grams per 28 grams
Green peas have 9 grams per cup
Amaranth and quinoa have 8-9 grams per cup
Soy milk has 7 grams per cup and lots of vitamins!
Oat and oatmeal have 6 gram per ½ dry cup
Wild rice 7 grams per cup
Chia Seeds has 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per 35 gram serving
Nuts/nut butters have 4-7 grams per ounce/28 grams
The last thing you should have to worry about when wanting to eat healthier, is the price. Eating healthy balanced meals is attainable for all, it just requires some planning and flexibility. Like with anything else, though, once you get into a routine, you’ll love how easy eating becomes.
Thanks so much for joining me for Part 5 and the final blog of the Fitness and Nutrition Misconceptions in Social Media series. Hope you’ve learned a lot about creating a manageable lifestyle free of those social media extremes. Feel free to reach out directly for any questions or future blog requests!
Until next week… and remember that fitness is for all!