How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
It’s funny that healthy foods have this reputation of being expensive, when really they’re actually the most affordable given their value to our health. I know you’re probably thinking ok, but they’re still expensive so let’s just get to it. Eating healthy on a budget IS possible if you follow these guidelines.
1. Ditch the mindset that something is a “good deal” based on it’s size.
When it comes to eating healthy, bigger is not always better. Sure, you can buy enough ramen to last you 2 years for the price of one bag of kale, but it’s clear which one provides more nutrients. To eat healthy on a budget, you have to shift your thinking from 'price per calorie' to 'price per nutrient’. The belief that we need as much food as possible on as little budget as possible has to go. Just because food is accessible and cheap, doesn't make it the best option for you. Unfortunately, the foods we have come to expect so much quantity of are low in quality and can result in health problems that cost way more than a bag of kale. So while it might not look like you’re getting the best bang for your buck, focus on how many nutrients you’ll be getting from something rather than how many meals you can get from it.
2. Skip the highly processed foods.
Usually, the foods that give you that “bang for you buck” are highly processed and full of toxins and preservatives. Stick to whole, real foods such as leafy greens, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, grains, and fruits over foods like veggie chips, salad dressings, and pretzels. When you actually look at the ingredients in these foods, you’re not getting enough nutrients for the price. When you eat mostly whole foods and only some processed foods such as olive oil, you’re much more likely to feel healthier and lose weight than if you try to combine both lifestyles. Not only that, but if you buy "healthy" AND continue to buy the processed, packaged foods you normally buy, you’re guaranteed to go over budget. Some of the most affordable, nutrient dense foods include: kale (yes, kale is cheap when you think about the amount of nutrients you’re getting - kale is full of protein, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, AND magnesium), as well as cabbage, spinach, broccoli, carrots, legumes, bananas, watermelon, plums, pears, kiwis, nectarines, oats, avocados, sweet potato, and almonds/almond butter.
3. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen.
Frozen fruit and vegetables from the freezer section at your grocery store are just as healthy as fresh. Produce that is frozen is usually more ideal because of it’s ability to last much longer than fresh, while maintaining nutrient value.
4. Know when to buy organic.
It can be a 10 minute ordeal at the grocery store to figure out whether or not you want to spend 80 cents more for the organic apples. If you can’t get yourself to buy all organic, here are the foods that are highly recommended to always be bought organic: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers. These foods have been found to have a higher concentration of pesticide residue than other foods.
5. Have a plan of attack.
Don’t just waltz through the veggie section and toss everything in your cart. Create a meal plan for the week and only purchase what you need for those recipes. If not, you’re going to end up with either way too little (and have to resort back to the ramen noodles), or you’ll end up buying way too much and it will spoil before you get the chance to eat it (another reason why frozen foods are VERY ideal when starting out). Also, keep in mind that eating healthy is a lifestyle. If you choose to start, make a commitment to follow through. Many healthy “staple” ingredients such as nut butter, almond flour, goji berries, cocao nibs, etc. are expensive when you buy them all at once. Just remember that over time you’ll start a collection of everything you need, and will eventually only need to focus on the fresh items.
Have questions? Leave a comment below!