It seems that healthy food far out prices the cheaper, faster, but much more health-destroying option. It can be really tempting to throw in the proverbial fork and think, ‘yes the drive thru is totally the easiest, cheapest and therefore best option’. But I beg to differ in that opinion.
Eating healthy on a budget is important because being your best self needn’t be the only thing you spend your money on. Gone are the days where eating healthy means that you can’t have a social life or travel. Now you can have it all; eating healthy and have spare money in order to enjoy the best things in your life.
In this article I’m going to show you how you can eat healthy on a budget so you can enjoy your body, energy and results of eating healthy whilst also having the funds to do all the other things you want like traveling and hanging with your friends.
Why eating healthy is important
Eating healthy is defined here as eating a balanced diet profile containing all three macronutrients and all the micronutrients. It has many benefits:
- Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, allows your body to grow and repair and provides essential building blocks for hormones, neurotransmitters, enzyme and antibodies. By consuming adequate protein, your body with be satiated longer–therefore, needing to snack less frequently.
- Fat helps to support metabolism, cell signaling, the health of various body tissues, immunity, hormone production and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. And by doing so eliminates cravings for fast, unhealthy foods that add up to a small fortune over the month.
- Carbohydrates help you get more lean, improve performance and/or lose weight
They are a preliminary source of energy within the body – when they are broken down, they travel to the liver to replenish energy stores after which they enter the bloodstream and other cells of the body to allow for movement and concentration. Often consumed as vegetables, they can be cheap and high volume for their calories; therefore stimulating satiety quicker than their smaller, more calorific fast food options.
- The macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) are the building blocks of your body. The micronutrients (driven from vegetables and a balanced, varied diet) are the cement holding the building together.
If you’re anything like me and want to feel amazing on the inside, look great on the outside and be able to perform at your top capacity whilst remaining pain-free, eating healthy is essential.
If you want all of that and to still be able to enjoy your life, rather than simply living out of Tupperware for the foreseeable future, then doing so on a budget is the utmost tier of goal.
How to start eating healthy on a budget
Firstly, it’s important to make eating healthy on a budget a priority. I see so many people ‘fail’ when it comes to just eating healthy that adding another ‘string to that bow’ can over complicate into inaction. As I would say for anyone looking to make positive change, begin with a solid ‘why’. As Tony Robbins says,
“Find your why, find your way.”
In order to begin really committing to eating healthy on a budget, ask yourself why it’s important to you, how it will affect your life and what the benefits will be.
Once you’ve gained that clarity, I suggest looking at the points I’ve listed below and pick one or two to start with.
Eat Healthy without costing much
Figuratively and metaphorically food doesn’t have to cost a lot and doesn’t have to cost the health of the planet. Often the price of food is hiked up because of the great lengths that have gone to obtain it (think planes, agriculture, GMO, engineering, water consumption, transport, etc).
The great thing about the hacks I’m going to give you is that they won’t only help you to eat on a budget, but they’ll also have a positive impact upon Earth.
Eating Healthy from your kitchen
This is my favorite place to start; as often when one is attempting to cut back on food spending, the first thing that goes is the ‘eating out’ part. When in actual fact we can make a big difference from our homes first.
By making these simple and easy choices first, you will see big impacts upon your spending at the weekly check out. Those extra pennies can be stored away for more outings with friends, travel or simply saving for your future.
Here are the ‘at-home-hacks’:
- Eat slowly. Unless you’re a body builder aiming to gain weight, eating slowly will help you manage and maintain weight because you naturally eat slightly less. By taking upwards of 20 minutes to consume each meal will allow your body to notice when it is satiated rather than over-eating your budget.
- Invest in a good foraging book or join a free foraging community group on Facebook. Foraging books such as Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers is my favorite. And forage away – I often will pick up bits and bobs (especially wild garlic in Spring) on my morning walks with my pooch to include into breakfast.
- Make friends with your local farm shop, farmer or green grocer. The more you can connect with real people who have their hands in the ground, the more likely they will let you have the best, most fresh and abundant food available locally (i.e. anything that is over produced will be cheaper and if it’s local, there won’t be an included transportation costs). You can even pickle and preserve over-abundant food to store for later in the year when it is no longer in season.
- Use up everything in your fridge before buying new produce. Save waste, consume everything you’ve bought – just keep an eye out for moldy stuff because you don’t want to get ill.
- Go for walks and pick food from free plants because it’s nutritious and free. Just don’t pick the hallucinogenic type!
Eating healthy from a working kitchen
I won’t lie to you – I blooming love a good brunch. I actually feel that without an occasional brunch, I’m missing out on life. I love the act of going somewhere new, meeting friends and hanging out in cool spaces. So when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, this is one thing that I really struggle and don’t want to let go of. So I’m going to share with you now my mini-strategies I use when I go out to eat.
- Grab a light snack before you head out so that you’re not in a state of hanger and ordering a 3-course meal without realizing it until the bill smacks you in the face.
- Go with friends and order together a few sides with the strategy to try to taste as many things as possible on the menu whilst spreading the price load between you.
- Order a starter not a main. It’ll probably be big enough if you use that eating slowly tip I mentioned earlier.
- Opt for tap water rather than expensive cocktails and lattes which quickly add up on your bill.
Make it work for you
Eating healthy on a budget is really about finding what works for you and keeping it simple. Try the above tips around food that you love – eat varied food that is available in abundance, use up all your left overs to make crazy tasty concoctions that’ll become signature dishes and enjoy your food with friends.
This is really what we all want with our food, at a basic level – to connect and enjoy. Just go do that as much as possible and you’re literally going to be doing all the things you need to do in order to eat healthy on a budget.
The Great Wall of China was not built in a day, and neither will your eating healthy on a budget habits. Conquer them one at a time, starting with the easiest. All the pennies add up!