healthy on a budget

Beginner’s Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy on a budget is not as hard as you might think. There are a lot of ways you can work with your specific dietary restrictions while keeping your wallet happy. For instance, you can start by planning your meals, purchasing and cooking food in bulk as well as simply making the most use of coupons and sales.

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Other than that, you should make sure to buy whole foods and try to purchase store-brand products. You can also try swapping out large meat portions of your diet with a different protein. 

Before we start with eating healthy on a budget, let’s first understand our eating habits and how we can eat healthily.

The Science Behind Eating Healthy

Now, most of us understand the importance of a proper diet. We have probably heard countless lectures and sessions about how eating healthy improves not just your health but gives you an energy boost as well as increases your productivity levels.

It helps you maintain your ideal weight and thus decreases the risk of many ailments and diseases like heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and so on. Of course, it doesn’t eliminate the risk, but it does make your chances of having such illnesses significantly less.

However, even though we know that there are so many reasons why we should eat healthy on a budget, why is it still so hard to do? For that, we should first understand why we actually crave unhealthy junk food.

The Junk Food Secret

Food Cravings are pretty much a universal experience. You could be doing the most random things and suddenly just have the urge for some pizza or a tub of ice cream. There is a science behind why we crave certain foods.

First of all, we crave foods because our bodies lack those nutrients. Our cravings come from various emotional, social, and environmental factors. Basically, our bodies seek serotonin, and certain foods like french fries, sweets, and cookies give you a brief serotonin boost. 

Unlike things like spinach or broccoli, these foods help balance your brain chemistry but just for a short while.

Fast food manufacturers search for the best combination of salty, sweet, and fat to thrill your brain to keep you from craving more junk food. They experiment with things like crunch response which basically refers to how our brain finds biting into crunchy food a thrilling experience. 

Besides that, food that melts in your mouth or salivatory foods have a unique effect on our brains. They convince you that the food has to be eaten. Or if you eat a “melt in your mouth” food, your brain believes that you’re not full or satisfied even if you eat a lot of it.

So now that you understand why exactly you crave the things you do let’s understand the secret behind eating healthy.

The Secret to Healthy Eating 

Most people believe that changing your habits or behavior is all about determination or desire. But your environment is the most important factor behind an effective change in behavior.

Your surroundings have a tremendous influence on your behavior. This is especially true when it comes to eating. What we eat on a daily basis is frequently a response to what we are given. So change your surroundings to make your life a little easier and can help your journey to eat healthy on a budget.

Besides that, you can also use small hacks or strategies to start eating healthy without you noticing. Some great ways are:

  • Using smaller plates allows you to eat smaller portions and be satisfied. It tells your brain that you have a full plate while also allowing you to eat less than a small portion on a big plate. 
  • When drinking soda or sugary drinks, you can opt for a longer, sleeker glass which allows you to drink less. 
  • Display your healthy foods out where you can see them so that you’re more likely to grab them than your other junk food. 
  • You can also try packing your healthier items in large containers that are easily noticeable and keep the other junk food in smaller Ziploc bags or containers.

Now that you have a basic understanding of healthy eating let’s find a way you can keep eating healthy on a budget.

The Secret to Eating Healthy on a Budget 

If you’re having trouble finding an affordable approach to eating healthy, here are some great tips you can follow.

#1. Make a Meal Plan

Planning ahead is key to eating healthy on a budget. If you know you need to strain your budget during the week, then meal planning can be really beneficial.

Choose a day every week to plan your menus for the coming week. Make a shopping list of whatever you’ll need to create those meals. 

Besides that, check your refrigerator and pantry for what you might already have. You could have products in the back that could be utilized, or you can structure your dishes around things that must be eaten before their expiration date.

You can also customize certain recipes to fit your specific dietary needs. For instance, if your PCOS diet plan has a low-carb and high-protein diet, then you can decide on veggie noodles with an egg or some chicken. 

Look for recipes that use simple and common ingredients. Using various herbs and spices can transform simple ingredients into meals with distinct flavors. If chicken is your favorite protein, prepare one whole chicken and use it in a variety of recipes. You can alternate between chicken and veggie stir fry one night and chicken tacos or kebabs the next.

Also, don’t push yourself to eat things you don’t like or buy items you won’t use. If pre-chopped fruit or healthier microwavable meals are more convenient for your schedule, buy those! 

#2. Stick to Your Grocery List

Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need after you’ve scheduled your dishes for the entire week. A shopping list makes shopping quicker and faster, allowing you to avoid impulsive purchases and bring home only what you need. It also saves you from running to the grocery shop for things you forget and allows you to keep eating healthy on a budget.

After you’ve structured your meals as well as created an ideal grocery list, you should stick to it. Grocery stores and supermarkets are designed to sidetrack you with offers on all your favorite items. This leads to unnecessary purchases and unintentional expenses. 

You can try the outer-ring technique while shopping. Basically, it refers to shopping on the perimeter of your store. Typically, most of the whole foods and healthier items are placed on the outskirts of the store. For instance, you can find your fruits and veggies, thin cuts of meat, eggs, fish, and nuts on the outer ring. 

The center of a store usually has processed food items. If you need to purchase any of these, then it is best that you choose items on the lower or higher shelves. The more expensive foods will usually be at your eye level.

#3. Prepare Home-Cooked Meals

Home-cooked meals could be less expensive than eating out. In most cases, feeding a family costs the same as a couple eating out. Some people prefer to prepare food for the full week on weekends, whereas others cook single meals daily.

Cooking at home also gives you the advantage of knowing what exactly you’re putting into your body. So, instead of eating out at the last minute, make it a practice to cook at home. Thus allowing you to keep eating healthy on a budget.

#4. Purchase Frozen or Canned Goods

When buying fruits and vegetables, frozen and canned products can be healthy choices too. Moreover, they are less expensive and last longer. 

Fresh fruits, berries, and greens are usually only available for a few months out of the year, and they are often expensive. Frozen versions of these are perfect for making smoothies and toppings for oats or yogurt.

In addition to that, frozen produce is generally just as nutritious as the fresh stuff. It’s also less expensive, accessible year-round, and typically sold in bulk.

Many frozen fruits and vegetables come in zippered packaging, allowing you to use the portion required and save the balance. This allows you to enjoy your favorites even if they aren’t in season and helps you stay on task while eating healthy on a budget.

#5. Buy and Cook in Bulk

Purchasing certain foods in large quantities can help you cut down costs as well as keeps you eating healthy on a budget. If nuts, oats, and grains like brown rice, millet, and barley, are on your shopping list, you can buy them in bulk. Thus ensuring your cupboard is well-stocked for future meal planning.

They also last a long time if stored in airtight containers. This also applies to beans, lentils, certain nuts, and dried fruit. Besides that, these are all cheap staple ingredients that may be included in a number of healthy meals.

Cooking in bulk could also save you time as well as money. You can even use leftovers for sandwiches or different recipes. They can also be used several times in soups, veggies, and tacos.

In addition to that, leftovers help you avoid eating out when you don’t have enough time to prepare a dish from scratch. You could also refrigerate leftovers in small portions to eat later.

a family buying groceries in a supermarket
Photo by Greta Hoffman on Pexels.com

#6. Use Coupons, Sales, and Online Stores to Save Money

If you have favorite items or staples that are used frequently, purchase them in bulk when they are on sale. If you’re certain that you’ll use the item, you might as well get it right away to save money later. It also lets you keep eating healthy on a budget. 

However, make sure it will last a long time and will not perish in the meantime. You won’t save any cash if you get something you’ll only use once.

Coupons, too, are a great way to save some money, but you are sure to use them wisely. Sort through the good prices and load up on cleaning supplies, nutritional meals, and other basics you’ll likely use.

You can also try switching to online retailers. You gain access to regular discounts and promotions by registering. In addition to that, the goods are shipped straight to your house.

Several online vendors sell healthier foods for up to 50% less than the local supermarket. Besides that, there are virtual stores that only sell healthy and unprocessed goods. Purchasing as much as possible from these kinds of vendors will help you save money.

In Conclusion

Eating healthy on a budget is not as foreign a concept as you may think. Families have been doing it for years, and many have mastered the art of wallet-friendly meals.

The first thing you should understand about healthy eating is how you can control and curb your cravings with healthier options. You can also discover strategies to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with healthy foods.

By eating healthy on a budget, you can work with what you already have and then add to it. For instance, making the most of your staples, following a set meal plan, and setting a grocery list.

Besides that, you can also try your hand at gardening, which not only cuts down on costs but results in a great hobby. Another great way to keep your wallet happy is to pack your own lunches, which ensures you don’t need to get take-out at the last minute.

What are some of your best healthy food hacks? How do you work through cravings? Which are your favorite healthy but affordable brands? Let us know in the comments section below!


Author Bio: Danielle D’silva

Danielle is a content writer with love for books, music, and lifestyle blogs. She enjoys trying different types of Indian curries or shopping for trending vintage aesthetic outfits

Gravatar ID: danielledsilva02@wolfthemes

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