Healthy living shouldn’t cost a fortune. Although many people may say that it’s cheaper to buy junk food than it is to buy healthy food, that’s not actually true. With some effort, willingness to invest a little in supplies, some creativity and the following practical tools, you can stay healthy on any budget. Many people are living on significantly reduced income since COVID. With so many closures and layoffs, money is tighter than ever before. That’s why these tools and tips are designed with the budget-conscious in mind. There’s lots of room for innovation and flexibility, so if you can think of different ways to accomplish the same things outlined here, more power to you!
Make Meal Plans
Meal plans aren’t just for saving time in the kitchen; they can save hundreds in the grocery store. Have you ever come home from the market and then wondered what on earth there is to eat in your kitchen? That’s another sign you need to start making meal plans. Meal plans keep you from buying food that either you don’t need or that is difficult to turn into a nutritious meal. To save the most money possible, write up your meal plan with a copy of your local store’s weekly ad. You’ll be able to take advantage of coupons and discounts in addition to your overall savings from not buying on impulse.
Stick to the List
Make sure you stick to your list when you shop for food. Even if you see something that’s on sale, if it’s not on the list, keep moving. Buying items on impulse is a real budget-buster because when you meant to spend $50 you end up spending $75 or more. When you limit your purchases to your list, your budget remains intact and you’ll have money left over to spend on other necessities.
Shop the Ends of the Aisles
The ends of the aisles are where grocery stores put their marked down items. Check these areas for items that are on your list like meat, bread and even vegetables. Most stores have a rolling cart in certain departments with day old bread or fruits and vegetables that are about to turn. You can save 50% or more on food that’s still very nutritious, even if it doesn’t look perfect anymore.
Eating Keto on a Budget
Keto is arguably one of the most expensive diets, just because so much protein is involved in each meal. But there are all kinds of ways to do the Keto diet on a budget, too. Consider eggs, cheese and less popular meats like turkey and liver. Another way to lighten up your protein budget is to buy a whole chicken instead of chicken parts. You can buy a whole chicken for between 99 cents a pound (on sale) to about $1.39 per pound for an organic whole chicken. If you have a large family you could buy a whole turkey (yes, even when it’s not Thanksgiving) and freeze it in portions.
Learn to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
Of course, next you’ll need to learn how to cut up a whole chicken into its parts. You can watch instructional videos on YouTube (Martha Stewart has an excellent video). When you first do it, it can feel awkward. But once you do it a couple of times you’ll be a master at it.
Freeze Portions Like a Pro
When you buy meat in bulk, you save money, too. You can buy whole poultry and whole beef and pork roasts and cut into portions at home. Invest in freezer paper and masking tape. Learn how butchers fold meat into paper so it doesn’t get freezer burn. Tape the packages and label everything neatly and you’ll have excellent protein for your meals.
Start a Potted Garden
You’d be surprised what you can grow in pots on your patio or balcony. Some vegetable plants that do well in pots include tomatoes, peppers, spinach, kale, lettuce, carrots, garlic and more. Just make sure that your pot is deep enough according to the seed packet instructions. You can take a shortcut and invest in seedlings from your local nursery, too. This is a great way to save money and have fresh, nutritious food on hand in your own home!
Regrow Food From the Store
Did you know that a lot of the food that you purchase from the grocery store can be regenerated and grown at home when you’re finished with it? For instance, consider the hydroponic butter lettuce that comes in a plastic container and has that root pod at its base. Once you use up the lettuce, take what’s left and plant it in a pot with fertile soil. At first it will look like it’s rotting, but in a few days you’ll notice the leaves are starting to grow again. Lettuce will regrow like this for a minimum of three times and sometimes more. You can work similar “magic” with garlic, scallions, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. This is a fun and awesome way to get free food right in your own kitchen or backyard. All you need to invest is soil, water, sunlight and TLC.
Invest in a Slow Cooker
Get your mother’s slow cooker off the dusty top shelf in your closet and put it to good use. Or you can invest in a new Instapot, which is all the rage right now. Either kitchen appliance can be used to make delicious and healthy meals with little money and even less effort. You can buy really inexpensive cuts of meat and roast them slowly in a slow cooker and get melt in your mouth deliciousness. Plus, having a slow cooker in your kitchen will inspire you to make more soups and stews, which are the most under-rated when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. And, you’ll have a chance to toss in some of those vegetables you’ve been growing in your potted garden!
Make Smart Substitutions
Sometimes it’s hard to eat healthy on a budget when you have certain cravings. This is where it’s good to learn how to make smart—and cheaper—substitutions. For example:
- Freeze probiotic yogurt instead of chowing on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream
- Snack on frozen grapes instead of ice pops
- Drink seltzer water instead of white wine
- Bake homemade kale chips instead of eating potato chips
- Munch on homemade roasted chickpeas instead of pretzels
Join a Support Group
There are lots of free support groups online where you can surround yourself with others who have similar health goals. One to consider is SparkPeople where you can even access free diet plans. Even if you don’t want the diet plans, joining groups like this can be inspiring and encouraging, especially if you’re suffering from isolation and a little depression from the COVID situation. Facebook also has a few public groups you can join where there’s a supportive community of women going through similar circumstances. Just knowing that you’re not alone can be a way to support healthy goals.
Use a Fitness App
For this tip, all you need is a smartphone. Go to Google Play and search fitness apps. You’ll see dozens of apps that you can download for free that will help you to exercise more and eat healthier. You might have to navigate in-app ads, but there are some fitness apps that are ad-free, too.
Focus on Moving
If you’ve been stuck in lockdown mode, you’re probably feeling sluggish. Focus on finding more ways to get moving. Moving improves circulation, helps joints and may even help you lose a few pounds if that’s your goal. You don’t need to invest a penny, either. Just think of creative ways to get more activity into your life. Park at the far end of the parking lot so you have to walk farther. Do a really thorough housecleaning. Commit to walking around the block after lunch every day. Run in place or just stretch when the commercials come on TV. Start a garden project like building a trellis or making a raised garden bed. The more active you are, the healthier you’ll be.
Your health is paramount and you shouldn’t have to go broke protecting it. You don’t have to go broke to be healthy. These eating and lifestyle tips will help you to get and stay healthy no matter how small your budget it.