We all know how important it is to eat healthy.
After all, it provides us with the nutrition and energy we need to power through our busy lives without collapsing, feeling run-down, or getting sick. But as most of us are painfully aware, eating healthy can be more expensive. Plus, eating healthy means you have to cook more often, and many of us rarely have the energy at the end of the day for that. So what’s a busy and budget-conscious consumer do?
The first thing to know is that there are always ways to eat healthy and relatively cheaply. It just requires some commitment to advanced planning. Stick with it for a few weeks, and chances are you will be feeling better while saving some serious money, compared with a pattern of eating ramen noodles or going out to eat.
To eat healthy on a budget:
1. Stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store.
These areas contain mostly produce, dairy products, eggs, and meats and have fewer processed and packaged items. Many times our trips to the grocery store become more expensive than we had anticipated because we load our carts with processed and packaged items, which usually come from the interior aisles of the store. These products end up costing money while contributing very little nutritional value to our diets. If we’re going to spend that money anyway, wouldn’t it be smarter to invest it towards more natural and nutritious foods that will deliver more sustained energy and strength to our body?
2. Stick to items on sale only.
In the produce section, the sale items also tend to be what’s in season, which means it is likely to be of higher quality than off-season produce. Plus, restricting your grocery list to what’s on sale will not only save money, but it may force you to learn how to cook (and eat!) different types of food, thus expanding your cooking repertoire. Even more, restricting purchases to products on sale may also make it easier to plan meals, since your range of ingredients is limited and you won’t have to spin your wheels planning meals out of an infinite range of ingredients.
3. You may have seen this coming, but—go heavy on the produce.
Fruits and veggies are extremely nutrient-dense and invaluable sources of long-lasting, sustained energy throughout the day. It may take some time to get used to this change, but increase your proportion of produce in your diet gradually. Over time, you will likely notice that you have more energy, feel better, and have probably even lost a few pounds—a bonus for some of us!
4. Prepare your groceries—particularly produce—right when you get home.
You may wonder, “What’s the rush?” Well, when you purchase a bunch of fruits and vegetables, you may find it annoying to chop and prep your veggies for eating or cooking, particularly if you are not accustomed to having them in your diet. But think about it—when you get back into your busy week routine, you’ll be even less likely to chop your veggies after a long day of work, making it more likely that you’ll waste that great nutrition (and money!).
To prevent against possible waste, take 20 minutes after your grocery trip to dice the onions, chop the cucumbers, and slice the apples. Then, put all of these prepped items into the fridge. Some people find it helpful to dedicate a couple of hours on the weekend to grocery shopping and food prep for the week. It may sound like too much of a sacrifice of precious free time, but when you consider how much time it will save you during the week, it’s worth it. That way, you have healthy foods on-hand for you to grab for work lunches, thus eliminating the need to spend money on takeout during the workday (not to mention takeout is generally less healthy than food you cook and prepare yourself!).
5. Take time to plan dinners based on what you have purchased and prepared.
So, if you already have the onions, carrots and celery you bought on sale at the grocery store chopped and ready to go, it will be easy to add broth and veggies or meat to create a quick and healthy soup. That way, even after a long day at work, you have enough of the prep work done to provide excellent nourishment to yourself, all while saving money in the long term.
These steps are not complicated—they just require advanced planning.
Plan your meals around your market’s sale ad, stick to the healthy food on the outer aisles and prep your produce when you get home. Over time, you will feel better, have more energy and have saved money through this process.
Author: Anjana Madan Morris
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: BrianZim via Flickr.