How to Eat Healthy Without Wasting Your Money… and Saving Some Money
We all know that we should eat healthy food, but it’s easier said than done for a lot of people, including myself sometimes. You’re running late for work or you don’t feel like cooking or after a long day at work the last thing you want to do is meal plan and then go to the grocery store. Well I love the way I feel when I eat healthy and (so far) have found a way to do so while saving some money…and avoid wasting money.
- Buy organic food
The less processed your food is, the better it is for you. Now you might think I’m crazy here…How can this ever be cheap? Well I’ve found out that at least part of the year in Duluth I can do this for a lot of veggies by hitting local farmers markets. Today I went to one downtown and bought a grocery bag full of kale and a decent-sized zucchini for $1.50. I cringe at some of the prices of organic foods in stores, so just do the best you can. Check out this list for what you should make a priority to purchase organic.
- If feasible, plant a garden
Even if you can only plant a few things in pots like herbs, lettuce, or tomatoes, this will save you money because you’ll be less dependent on buying at the grocery store. And if you do it right, there’s your organic food. Plus, there’s just something about walking out in my backyard and cutting my own lettuce for a salad.
- Hit up Trader Joe’s (or if there’s something else like it in your area)
In Duluth we don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s and I recently experienced this foreign land of shopping goodness. I was surprised to find out that the food there is relatively affordable, if not cheap in a lot of cases, and/or not more than the grocery store…and there were plenty of organic items. I’m not saying that you’re going to find everything you want and I can’t guarantee that all the food is going to be the highest quality you can find anywhere, but personally I’ve had great luck there with produce, olive oil, and frozen goods. And it’s much cheaper than Whole Foods, for instance.
- Freeze more stuff
Yep…sounds simple, but I just didn’t think to do it before (or possibly more accurately I was just lazy and didn’t do it before). I would throw away banana after banana or find moldy strawberries in my fridge. Well instead of that, I invested in some freezer storage bags, threw them in the freezer, and used the frozen food when I needed it.
- Replace your meals with a Smoothie
They’re filling and as long as you choose the right ingredients, they’re also healthy. I use protein powder (look online at Amazon or at your local health food store for the best sales), frozen fruit (such as raspberries, bananas, pineapple, mango, and strawberries), a little bit of skim or almond milk, and a couple spoonfuls of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. You can also skip the milk and yogurt and just use ice and water. Watch for coupons/sales for smoothie ingredients to save you some money. You can also make green smoothies…add a mixture of lettuce/spinach/kale with a couple different kinds of fruit like green apples, mango, and grapes. Sounds weird at first, right? I thought so, too, but they’re delicious. Plus, they’re extremely healthy…not to mention they can help you use up your food so you don’t waste it.
- Replace junk food with a piece of fruit
Now I’m not saying that every single time you are craving junk food to have fruit, but the health benefits are obvious if you do so. Bananas are usually pretty cheap, so instead of having a donut, grab a banana (or whatever else is on sale). When I’m at work the sugar crash after a donut or something sugary can really kill my momentum.
- Keep meals fairly simple
What kept me from eating healthy a lot of times were the complicated recipes. Pinterest is an amazing source for every type of recipe you could possibly imagine. Look up a simple dry rub for meat and make shish kebabs with meat, veggies, and fruit. Then, use your leftovers in a salad. Or make a bunch of quinoa (a super healthy grain) that can replace noodles or rice. Make a few different kinds of salads with fresh lemon juice, cheese, fresh veggies, and meat if you so desire. These are a just a couple examples of healthy meals with which you can make your dollars (and time) stretch.
- Plan meals ahead of time and shop smart
As always, check out the sales and coupons. However, meal planning is even more important, so write them down. (If you buy a bunch of healthy, organic food and they don’t go together in obvious ways, you’ll be less likely to eat it.) Once you have some meals written down, you have a plan and you can alter it slightly or use the exact same list for the next time you go shopping. I recently learned this tip and it was life changing for me. Now instead of reinventing the wheel every time I make a grocery list, I just change or add a few things here and there.
- Get your friends or family involved
It’s much more tolerable to spend time in the kitchen when you have help/company, not to mention having help will save you time. Also, you could make it a monthly or weekly event to cook in bulk and have healthy meals prepared ahead of time. That way, you don’t have to hit the gas station or candy machine at work, which we all know adds up quickly and can be a budget buster.
- Drink lots of water It’s good for you and in most locations, won’t cost you anything if you have decent tap water. If you don’t, think about getting a water filter pitcher (for example, Brita) so that you always have cold, clean water in your fridge. Drinking water will fill you up leaving you less likely to want snacks sometimes. Not to mention all the studies out there about how bad sugary AND diet sodas are for you.
Don’t get me wrong – eating healthier is overall more expensive and I totally get that affordability is a HUGE factor for most people. So my advice if you can’t do everything is to pick out at least a few of these tips, or whatever you can reasonably afford to do, that fit YOUR lifestyle.
LSS Financial Counseling is here to help you take control of your finances, conquer your debt, and achieve your financial goals. If you want to set up a budget and create an action plan to improve your finances, give us a call at 888.577.2227 or get started online right now. Don’t wait – take action today!
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Financial Counseling Supervisor with LSS.