One of the biggest challenges to adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle can be the expense… especially for those on a tight budget. Sadly a candy bar and a packet of chips are far more economical than a packet of nuts and kale chips.
I’m a huge advocate of eating fresh, organic, nutrient-dense food, and using green, non-toxic cleaning and personal care products. But let’s face it – these items can rack up quite a bill, when compared to the conventional varieties. Healthy snacks can be up to three times the cost of healthy ones and chemical-free cosmetics, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and organic, fair-trade coffee should be accessible to all, but for many, are out of reach due to their prices.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make healthy living more affordable.
1. GET DOWN TO BASICS
Buy ingredients that are versatile and can be used for a wide variety of dishes. Instead of buying expensive spices that you might use once, get the basics that can be used in most, if not all of your dishes.
2. PLAN YOUR MEALS
When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential. Use one day each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Then, make a grocery list of what you need. Also, make sure to scan your fridge and cabinets to see what you already have. There are usually a lot of foods hidden in the back that can be used.
3. STICK TO YOUR GROCERY LIST
Once you’ve planned your meals and made your grocery list, stick to it. It’s very easy to get sidetracked at the grocery store, which can lead to unintended, expensive purchases. As a general rule, try to shop the perimeter of the store first. This will make you more likely to fill your cart with whole foods. Avoid shopping when you are hungry, as this can encourage you to shop on impulse and deviate from your healthy grocery list.
4. COOK AT HOME
Home cooked meals are a much cheaper option than eating out. Make it a habit to cook at home, rather than eating out at the last minute. Generally, you can feed an entire family of four for the same price as buying food for one or two people at a restaurant.
Besides the financial benefit to eating at home, it is also better for you, as you have control over EXACTLY how your food is prepared and the ingredients that are used. Lastly, cooking at home also encourages more of a connection between you and the food you consume and is a way to bring the family together, or if you are a single person cooking for one – it is a way of showing yourself a little self love.
5. BUY YOUR FOOD AT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET!
By doing this, you are not only supporting your local economy, but your pocket at the same time. Buying food straight from the farmer cuts out the middleman (a.k.a. grocery store) who still needs to put a mark up on what the farmer sells him and further more, his store costs… all of which are worked into the price of the food you pay in-store.
6. STICK TO SEASONAL FOODS
Local produce that is in season is not only cheaper, but also at its peak in both nutrients and flavor. Produce that is not in season has often been transported halfway around the world to get to your store, which is not good for either the environment or your budget. Think about it – you’re basically paying to FEDEX your groceries to your kitchen.
7. BATCH COOK MEALS AND USE YOUR LEFTOVERS WISELY
Cooking large meals can save you both time and money. Leftovers can be used for lunches, in other recipes or frozen in single-portion sizes to be enjoyed later on.
8. STICK TO FOODS IN THEIR WHOLE FORM
Instead of buying fruits or vegetable that have already been chopped for convenience, or pre-carved meats, buy the food forms in their whole form. The less labor required for the product on the shelf, the more cost effective. Furthermore, whole foods are also often sold in larger quantities, and yield more servings per package.
9. PACK YOUR OWN LUNCH
Eating out is very expensive, especially if done regularly… or daily. Packing your lunch, snacks, drinks and other meals is less expensive and a way healthier alternative to eating out. If you have adapted to cooking large meals at home (see tip #7), you’ll always have a steady lunch to bring with you without any additional effort or cost, as all it require you to do is cook a little extra at dinnertime.
10. GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
Growing your own food is not only a cost effective way of getting nutrients onto your plate, but it is a way of controlling the kind of produce that you consume and that it is picked at its peak of ripeness and nutrient density. This does not require you to even have a garden, as you can place herb pots in a windowsill and veggies in crates or pots on a balcony.
So there you have it … healthy can be done on a budget!
All you need is a little planning and the will to change the way you shop!