“You are what you eat” is a phrase that we sometimes neglect because of our fast-paced lives. We often get so busy and tired that we have to settle with what’s easy to grab for a quick stomach fill. And even if there are healthy options, most of the time, they cost more, making them less accessible for those on a budget.
However, you can still embody the word healthy even if you’re on a budget. According to DiligentChef.com, frugal eating doesn’t always have to be synonymous with sticking to instant ramen noodles and cans of processed meat. In fact, you might be surprised by how many options you can do and choose from without breaking the bank.
Step 1: Start Meal Plans
Of course, if you want to find ways to eat healthy on a budget, you have to plan your meals first. Just like before going on a trip, you have to prepare what you’ll need beforehand. Now for healthy eating, you have to create a list of food items that you’ll buy in the grocery store.
But before anything else, do a quick pantry check. You might already have some ingredients, which is a plus since you’ll be only buying what you need.
If you go to the grocery store without a list, chances are you’ll get overwhelmed by the options. And also, it’ll be harder to keep track of how much you’re spending and lessening from your allocated budget.
You can start by looking at different meal plans and choose which of them is realistic to do. Realistically in a sense where you will have an easy time finding the ingredients at your local store. At the same time, it should not take too much of your time to prepare, and that the recipes do not require complicated cooking skills to make. Doing so will prevent you from getting discouraged in starting a healthy meal plan.
Another thing that you can do is jot down the nutrient content of each recipe. This way, it’ll be easier for you to monitor your food intake. It also helps you to not get bored with what you eat every day since you can change the meal “theme” every week.
What to Buy?
Of course, as you can assume, fruits and veggies should be at the top of your list. But not just any fruits and veggies, but fresh fruits and veggies. You will notice that if you buy fresh produce, you’ll save more compared to those that are processed. This includes those that are already bagged and cut, or those that are in cans.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are also healthier since there no other ingredients added to them. However, the disadvantage with them is that they have a shorter shelf life compared to their processed counterparts. Be sure to place them in a cool, ventilated area or freeze them to lengthen their lifespan. However, take note that artichokes, potatoes, eggplants, lettuce greens, sprouts, and radishes don’t do well frozen.
To save more in buying fresh fruits and vegetables, try looking for local produce. The longer the transport for these goods, the higher the price that they will have. Goods that are in season are also going to be more affordable because of high supply. However, be mindful of the shelf life of each product and buy accordingly to what you can consume within that time frame.
You might also notice that most stores often put their processed goods in aisles near the front. Therefore, we recommend you to scan the whole grocery first so that you can check out other product options. The top and bottom shelves also usually have the more affordable products compared to the ones at eye level.
Step 2: Trick Yourself and Go For Healthy Alternatives
If you find yourself craving for sugary snacks, opt for fruits instead. They are naturally sweet, and they vary in texture and taste. Because of this, you won’t end up getting bored with your snacks because you can combine and change what you eat for each day.
Vegetables, on the other hand, also vary in textures that, with some imagination and creativity, you can use them to recreate guilty pleasures. For example, cauliflower can become a delicious mac and cheese without the extra calories. Tofu is also another popular healthy alternative, and some use it as a protein replacement for meats. Think, burgers, but instead of beef, it’s tofu.
You can also cut carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli if you find yourself feeling “snacky” and “munchy.” The key is if you satisfy your hunger first, you’ll notice that you won’t be thinking of snacks like chips and sugary donuts.
If you’re the type who don’t like the taste of vegetables, you can incorporate them together and make a juice. As you can see in this article, you’ll find some powerful juicers that can turn even the most fibrous leafy veggies into liquid. Add some fruits and honey for added sweetness, and you might actually prefer your healthy green juice in the morning instead of the more expensive coffee.
What to Cook at Home?
If you want to start eating healthy, it will cost you less if you cook the meals yourself. Oftentimes, healthy restaurants intimidate us with their price list that we end up going for fast food. However, you might actually be pleased with how easy it is to prepare healthy dishes yourself at the comfort of your own home.
Earlier, you have created a grocery list of what you want to prepare. This is also a plus because you know exactly what’s going in your food and monitor its nutrient content. Ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, brown rice, oats, barley, and beans store easily in airtight containers. They are also relatively inexpensive and quite flexible for a variety of healthy meals.
For example, you can create different types of rice or oat bowls daily. And with the latter, it’s even easy to modify it to create both savory and sweet dishes to keep your meal times exciting. There is also a variety of one-pot or under 5-ingredient recipes online that are both easy and affordable to make. Imagine how amazing it is to enjoy banh mi bowls, frittatas, stews, and wraps without the health and budget guilt.