Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank

Young Smiling Girl Eating Salad At Luch Break From Work

Eating healthy on a budget: the unsolvable equation of the modern diet?

Poverty is a fantastic predictor of a poor diet. Which goes to show how hard it can be to eat healthy on a tight budget. That’s an extreme example, but all of us can struggle to eat healthier when those healthy options seem so expensive.

But eating right doesn’t need to break the bank.

Here’s our guide to eating healthy on a budget.

A Shop a Day Chases Dollars Away

An organized, regular shop is the only way to buy your food in a cost-effective way.

If you’re prone to impulse purchases and go with your gut when you’re in the store, then you’re wasting money. Buying like this is inefficient, and you’re more prone to grab unhealthy food or stuff you don’t need.

Likewise, failing to schedule a regular shop means you’ll make many short visits to the shop instead of fewer, larger ones. That ruins your economies of scale and means you’re more likely to buy expensive pre-prepared food over fresh ingredients.

Set a regular shopping day and stick to it. And when you do shop, shop with an eye to the future, not just on today.

Full Belly, Full Mind

Stores know you go there hungry. And boy, do they take advantage.

You need to think of a shop as a great big trap for people like you. They aren’t friendly places handing out food, but con artists looking to snare you into making poor purchase decisions.

When you go to the store hungry, you prime yourself for exploitation. You’re more prone to making bad decisions. In this case, that means impulse purchases of unnecessary or unhealthy foods.

Eat a full meal before you leave your house to avoid your gut making your decisions for you. You’ll do a better job of sticking to your list and come away with less buyer’s remorse.

Disposable Culture

We’ve trained ourselves into a throwaway culture. And many of the items we buy now are disposable by design. Perhaps that’s why we throw away nearly 40 million tons of food every year.

But food is one area where we can still assert some control over our disposable habits. Get out of that disposable mentality and really look in your cupboards and your fridge. Learn to spot ways to cut down on your food waste.

Also: learn to ignore “Best Before” (though not “Use By”) dates. They’re more like guidelines than rules. Confusion over these dates has pushed many people into throwing out good food.

Most veg is as good as it looks. If the veg doesn’t show signs of wilt, rot, or mold, then you can probably still use it. Meat is more dangerous, but you can freeze meat approaching its Best Before to use it later.

As a bonus, you’ll also do your bit for the planet by cutting down on food waste.

Dis Counts or Dat Counts?

When trying to eat healthy on a budget, discounts can be something of a double-edged sword. While they can stretch your dollars, they can also trick you into spending more than would.

Discounts and offers can be a great way to buy healthier food you couldn’t otherwise afford. Discounts can also help you buy items in bulk, making for a more cost-efficient shop.

Making good use of discounts can multiply your buying power, which keeps your diet diverse and healthy even when you’re on a tight budget.

There’s a big ol’ “but” to this one: never forget that discounts are a marketing tactic. They’re there to make shoppers buy items they wouldn’t otherwise have bothered with.

Don’t buy something you won’t or even might not use just because it’s on sale. If you’re on a tight budget, throwing unplanned items in the cart is a sure way to splash out accidentally.

Take a careful look at any discounts you see. If they’re for items in your regular list, great! Otherwise, be 100% sure you’ll make use of the item before you even consider buying it.

Stretch It out

Not every cartload of food is equivalent. You could spend $40 on food and come home with snacks while another shopper comes home with a week’s worth of groceries.

It’s all about extending your buying power. Just as loans can extend buying power for businesses, you’ll stretch what you can achieve by making your funds go further. In short: do more with less.

Buying pre-prepared meals, for instance, is often less cost effective than buying the equivalent raw ingredients in bulk. By switching to the latter, your dollars can stretch that much farther and you can cook fresh at home.

With more raw ingredients, you can make multiple meals instead of one, perhaps even saving leftovers for another “free” meal on another night.

Useful spices and other seasonings can also unlock the potential of your home cooking. Healthy and cheap doesn’t mean flavorless or bland.

A Little Elbow Grease

This one might depend on your situation, it’s true. A lot of people on a tight budget also suffer a lack of free time. But if you have more time than money, then working a little harder can save you cash.

For instance, buy a whole chicken instead of pre-prepared breasts. You’ll get much more meat from a whole chicken, even if it takes a little extra effort to prepare.

With enough resourcefulness, you could use almost every part of that chicken — even using the bones to make protein-rich stock for use in future meals.

There are hundreds of opportunities like this available in food prep, so you can maximize your healthy ingredients if you’re prepared to work a little harder for it.

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Not Impossible

So eating healthy on a budget isn’t as impossible as you might think. It takes a little planning, a little creativity, and a little fighting against your instincts, but if you adjust your mentality, you can save and shop.

Looking for more ways to save? How about taking a look at these items you’re wasting money on.

Posted in: Personal Finance

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