The best lifestyle change a person can make is eating a healthier diet. The food we eat has a direct impact on our energy levels, our ability to think well, and our ability to fight off disease. But buying the most nutritious food often comes with a hefty price tag, leaving many people wondering how they can afford it.
By following a few simple tips for eating healthy on a budget, you’ll be able to stick with a natural diet of whole foods without breaking the bank.
Avoid Processed Food
Processed foods are almost always more expensive. Because they’ve been through many processing steps, not only are they unhealthy, but they’re also pricey. This may not be apparent at first, when you see a box of processed food for a dollar, but when you consider the cost of that tiny box and compare it to the nutritional density of fresh fruits or vegetables, you’ll realize that you’re paying far too much for food that may harm you.
Processed food also tends to cause cravings, especially if it is comprised mostly of simple carbohydrates, so those up-front savings will be lost on the back end when you end up buying more junk food or making impulse purchases.
Instead, stick with complex carbohydrates like rice and dry beans, which are very inexpensive to purchase, but are nutritionally dense as well as filling.
Eat Less Meat
You don’t have to give up meat, just cut back on it a little. Instead of serving up big hunks of meat with some sides, dice up the cooked meat and stir it into some seasoned rice and cut up vegetables. Cut back on the amount of meat a little at a time so your family doesn’t notice the difference.
Have a day that is meat-free, like Meatless Mondays. To ensure cooperation from hungry people in your household, be sure to plan a very tasty, flavorful meal that appeals to their tastes, like spicy Mexican rice and beans, or pizza with all the (non-meat) toppings. But don’t take Mexican diet pills!
Consider New Meals or Purchasing Options
Breakfast can be the least expensive meal of the day if you ditch the sugar-laden cereals and opt for dressed-up oatmeal, or try something new like cheesy sausage grits. Many people think they won’t like grits, but grits are essentially granular dried corn. It’s bland when eaten alone, but it can make either a tasty savory meal with some meat or cheese added, or with some added milk and canned peaches making a sweet treat.
Be sure to try new ways of buying foods, whether you order them online in bulk, purchase from a store or co-op in bulk, or hit the farmer’s markets or wholesale clubs. Be sure you’ve exhausted all the grocery store options in town before assuming there are no “cheap” grocery stores. There are often small local grocery chains with higher food prices that run weekly sales full of amazing “loss leader” sale items.
By remaining flexible and trying new foods, new meals, and new shopping locations, you’ll eventually be able to add more and more high-nutrition items to your menu, and before long you’ll be wondering why you waited so long to start eating healthy on a budget.