You can come across thousands of blog posts on the internet about how to eat properly and lead a healthy lifestyle. However, you might have been intimidated by the tips and recipes in such posts as a large portion of them involve expensive food items. You must have wondered at least once: How could someone with a limited budget afford to eat healthy?
It is possible! The truth is that even if you are limited by a tight budget, you can still eat good food and lead a healthy lifestyle. Sure, you will most probably be unable to afford buying certain food items, like extra virgin olive oil or expensive wine or cheeses or organic coffee. However, if you follow a few simple but effective tips, you can save significant amounts of money and even afford indulging yourself with luxury foods occasionally.
Your tight budget should not restrict you from taking good care of your health and enjoying the nutritional benefits of good, wholesome food. No matter what your health or financial status is you should strive for eating a balanced diet. Here are some tips that can assist you when you have to cope with a shoestring budget.
1. Your freezer is your friend
You should use your freezer wisely. You can cook and store ready to eat food as well as buy fresh products and freeze what you cannot cook immediately for later use. This also allows you to buy bulk quantities of food, which is usually cheaper. For instance:
- Batch cook larger quantities of food like soup, salsas, curry, etc. and store some of it for later use.
- Chicken legs are a good and affordable option; you can freeze them and later cook them in the slow cooker.
- Buy big bags of frozen vegetables to use in stews and soups.
- Freeze single serving sizes of meat and veggies or ready meals to have handy when you need them.
- Buy big blocks of cheese on sale – select a type with over 35% milk fat, grate and freeze it to store it for longer durations.
- Purchase vegetables and fruits when in season and pack them in freezer bags to store them. This way you can use them when they are off season, you won’t have to pay the high prices for off-season fruits and veggies and you will still enjoy their health benefits.
- You can use milk bags for storing food in the freezer – cut the top, rinse them well and let them dry, then secure them with an elastic.
2. Select food items that are easy to store
Food items such as onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbage are rather easy to store and provide a lot of nutrients at an affordable cost. Also, make sure you add healthy grains, rice, whole-wheat bread and cereals to your diet. They are relatively cheap and make for healthy side dishes.
3. Go on a hunt for affordable and healthy products
Search for and buy fresh greens from the farmer’s market or Asian markets. You can find a large variety at quite affordable prices. Also, do not neglect the reduced price section. Sometimes the products you will find there were on the regular produce shelf just minutes earlier, but they got shifted to the reduced-price bin because a new delivery of fresher items arrived. So, you can find cheap products that are still fresh and have a lot of nutrients.
4. Incorporate dense proteins into your diet
Try to add nutritious proteins to your meals. You may think that protein foods are costly; however, there are many affordable varieties of protein foods, too.
- Eggs are a nutritious and powerful protein, and they are also cheap.
- Learn to cook dry beans. They will require soaking, but they are cheaper than the canned variety.
- Lentils are a good protein option and they are easier to cook than beans as they don’t require soaking. Red lentils can make for a great addition of fiber and nutrients to plain white rice, for instance.
- A great, filling and cheap breakfast option is oatmeal combined with peanut butter. Just make sure you avoid the sugared varieties of oatmeal as they not only cost twice as much as unsweetened oatmeal but they are not a healthy option either.
5. Make sure you use everything in your inventory
There is nothing more uneconomical than throwing away food because you haven’t used it on time. Throwing away food is like throwing money directly down the drain. You should monitor your inventory closely and track the expiry dates of all the products you have. Use the food items that are about to expire soon with priority. That way, you will avoid wasting food and you will save money.
- Purchase smaller amounts of food from bulk shops, especially when it comes to dry goods. That way, you won’t have your money tied up in your inventory.
- Things such as carrot and beet tops, broccoli stalks, etc. are nourishing and edible. Don’t just toss them away; use them in soups, vegetable stock and stews instead.
- Reassess what you throw away. Onion trims and skins, bones, carrots and celery can be used in nourishing stock and soups. Many of the items that we toss into the garbage bin can still be of use.
It is not obligatory to spend a lot of money in order to follow a healthy meal plan. You just need some smart planning and thinking ahead and you too can eat healthy on a budget. Surely, it may be a bit more time consuming to prepare your meals at home and take care of all the other aspects mentioned above, but it is well worth it, as you will not only cut on your food expenditures, but you will also know exactly what you eat.
If you want to learn more about the affordable ways to make use of different food groups, you can also take a look at the info graphic to the right.