11 Tips to Eat Healthy While Saving Money

You don’t have to sacrifice your budget or convenience to healthy eating. With a little planning and knowledge, you can make healthy food choices without breaking the bank.

Amy Gardner
Popular
How to become healthy and wealthy

Eating should be simple.

After all, it’s nothing more than a basic activity needed for survival.

And of course, for enjoyment, too.

The tastes and textures of our favorite foods provide the background to many of our best memories and times spent with friends and family.

And yet, this simple activity is complicated in so many ways.

First of all, the food that’s most readily available is not the food that provides the best fuel for your body. Some of it provides nothing more than a few empty calories...which give you a quick burst of energy, followed by exhaustion and hunger a mere hour later.

The foods that really give our bodies what they need are not always so visible, or so easy to find and prepare.

After all, when you feel like you’re starving, it’s much easier to rip open a bag of potato chips then to cook up a stir-fry.

Add to that the problems of budgeting, and you’re in a real bind.

Because let’s face it: a candy bar is usually cheaper and more convenient than a plate of sliced fruit.

But the good news is, you don’t have to sacrifice your budget or convenience to healthy eating. With a little planning and knowledge, you can make healthy food choices without breaking the bank.

Here’s how.

The 11 Tips to Healthy While Saving Money Summarized

  1. Reduce food waste
  2. Don’t buy more than you need
  3. Reuse meal leftovers
  4. Buy basics in bulk
  5. Plan your meals
  6. Buy local veggies cheap
  7. Frozen veggies are usually cheaper
  8. Eat at home instead of going out
  9. Purchase and use lots of beans and whole grains
  10. Eat yogurt
  11. Don’t shop when you’re hungry

1. Reduce food waste

Food waste

Did you know that about one-third of all food produced every year simply gets thrown out? [1]

This statistic alone should prompt you to reevaluate your use of the food items that you buy on a regular basis.

How much of it are you actually using?

Does the fruit in your fruit bowl rot before you eat it? Does the milk go bad before you can use it all?

If so, give some thought to the quantities that you’re buying.

By carefully tracking what you throw out on a given week, you can make better choices about the food items you buy.

If your plans change, come up with another way to use a food that you bought for a specific event. For example, if you purchased mushrooms to make a soup for a fancy dinner party that gets cancelled, consider putting them on some homemade pizza for your lunch instead.

Or you can use websites such as https://www.supercook.com, where you simply add the ingredients you have in your fridge and it comes up with easy recipes for you to use.

In addition, keep track of the expiration dates on the food in your fridge and pantry. Try to use the items that are closest to expiration first so you can avoid throwing them out. You can use this Expiration Reminder app to let you know when it’s time to use those last few eggs or finish off that packaged lettuce.

2. Don’t buy more than you need

Basket full of veggies

This goes along with our previous point. Every time you go to the grocery store, take an inventory of the foods you already have and use it to create a detailed list of only the items you really need. This way, you can avoid purchasing (or throwing out) unnecessary food. If you struggle with making an accurate list, try out a list-making app like Our Groceries.

It may also be helpful to carefully examine your “wants” vs. “needs.” Do you really need to buy a cookies every few days, or do you just want them? Perhaps you could reserve this is as a special treat once a month or every couple of weeks. Do you need that two-liter bottle of soda or would the less expensive option of sparkling water do just as well?

Often, the most expensive food items are the ones that you don’t actually “need,” but perhaps just want. Remember that in many parts of the world, people live on rice, beans, and even insects. While this extreme is probably too drastic for most of us, it’s helpful to remember that most of the foods you regularly enjoy are not “needs.”

3. Reuse meal leftovers

food leftovers

Ever cook a huge meal only to find out your family wasn’t as hungry as you thought they were?

It’s a common occurrence. But don’t throw out all that extra chicken parmesan or macaroni and cheese. Pack it up for tomorrow’s lunch or a quick dinner so you don’t have to buy more food or cook two days in a row.

Just be sure to put it in an airtight container so it won’t dry up or spoil. And keep your fridge temperature below five degrees Celsius.

Cooked vegetables should be completely cooled before placing in the refrigerator, and eaten within two days. Cooked pasta can be kept in the fridge for two to five days, or in the freezer for up to eight months [2]. Add a few drops of olive oil to your pasta before storing it to keep it from drying out.

Simply by using your leftovers instead of throwing them out, you can save almost $1000 per year [3].

4. Buy basics in bulk

Grains and legumes in bulk

Warehouse clubs and supermarkets offer huge discounts for purchasing food items in bulk. It has been found that savvy shoppers can save up to 83% by doing so [4]. You can use an app such as Shopular or Shop Savvy to find the best sales in your area.

Meat is easily the most expensive item on your grocery list, so if you spot a sale on ground beef or chicken, seize the opportunity to load up on as much of it as possible. Just make sure you have plenty of freezer space.

Dried beans are excellent for your health and your budget, and they can be safely stored in your pantry for 1-2 years...or even longer.

Oats are another healthy and inexpensive food with a long shelf life, and they can be used in a variety of breakfast and snack foods.

To maximize these savings even further, try gathering a friend or two to chip in with you on bulk food items that you all enjoy regularly.

5. Plan your meals

Meal Planning

Ever had to do an emergency run to the store because you had nothing to cook for dinner, or because you couldn’t find any snack foods that you liked in the house?

We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, this leaves you at the mercy of your cravings and of what is most readily available in the closest supermarket. And that’s bad for your pocketbook and your health.

Instead, plan exactly what foods you are going to eat for every meal for the next few days. It will get you thinking about what you eat, leading to healthier choices. And it also helps you save money by comparison shopping and taking advantage of sales.

Another small perk of meal planning: it gives you more variety in your diet. When you’re not thinking about your food, you have a tendency to eat the same things over and over. But by planning ahead, you can enjoy an array of foods throughout the week.

Here is a free meal plan for inspiration.

6. Buy local veggies cheap

Farmers market

For your best health, take advantage of your local farmers’ market for fresh fruits and veggies. While buying local can be expensive, it’s possible to offset this cost by using only cash and buying vegetables when they’re in season. If you really want to save, try growing your own veggies in a small garden. But if you’re not able to do this, the farmer’s market is an ideal solution.

Here you can find organic vegetables and fruits without paying top dollar for them like at the supermarket. And there’s nothing like knowing exactly where your food is coming from. Fresh, local fruits and veggies taste much better than anything you’ll find in the grocery store, making it more likely that you will actually eat them. And best of all, you’ll be supporting local farmers.

While the vegetables at your farmers’ market may seem more expensive, they’re actually not that pricey when you consider that the same quality would cost much more at your supermarket.

Find your local farmers market here.

7. Frozen veggies are usually cheaper

Frozen veggies

If you truly can’t afford veggies from the farmers’ market, frozen vegetables are a great alternative...and in fact, might even be better in some ways.

Frozen veggies are more convenient and easier to prepare than fresh, making it more likely that you will buy and eat more of them. They also don’t go bad nearly as quickly as fresh vegetables, which may rot if you don’t consume them in a couple of days. And they are just as nutritious, especially considering that fresh vegetables can lose some of their nutritional value after they’ve sat in the fridge for a while [5].

And of course, frozen veggies can cost about half as much as fresh vegetables do.

In fact, there is evidence that some vegetables (such as broccoli, peas and spinach) are actually healthier for you when purchased frozen [6]. That’s because these types of vegetables lose their nutrients over time when stored in the refrigerator.

8. Eat at home instead of going out

Family dinner

Yes, it’s easier and more tempting to head to the nearest restaurant, and that’s why most people do it. The USDA found that 82% of our total calories were consumed at home in 1978, as opposed to only 68% of them in 2008 [7]. Most experts agree that this shift in our culture has in all likelihood contributed to the burgeoning obesity epidemic.

Meals prepared at home often provide more fiber and iron and less fat and sugar than restaurant food. And preparing meals at home also increases your consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

You’ll also love the money you can save by eating home cooked meals. A meal cooked at home costs an average of about $4, as compared to $13 for the same meal purchased at a restaurant [3].

That all sounds great. But what if you just don’t know how to cook?

No worries. There are plenty of apps and YouTube videos out there to guide you. For example, check out this YouTube video of how to make 43 easy foods. Start with simple foods and work your way up.

9. Purchase and use lots of beans and whole grains

Beans in bulk

A diet packed with whole grains is a good idea for many reasons.

For one thing, they are full of fiber, which makes you feel full longer. That results in eating less, and of course, buying less food.

Whole grains and beans are a source of essential nutrients which have been stripped out of refined grains. These include Vitamin B and E, iron and magnesium. Simply put, these foods just give you more nutrition for your money.

So how do you know whether or not a food is a whole grain?

The only way is to check the label. The package should say “100% Whole Grain.” Otherwise, it probably isn’t.

To save money and pack your diet with nutrients at the same time, buy plenty of brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat. And as mentioned before, dried beans (while needing more preparation) are a more economical choice than canned beans are.

Here is an easy how to guide on cooking legumes http://theadplan.com/alzheimersdietblog/recipes/legumes-friend-or-foe-should-beans-be-part-of-healthy-alzheimers-nutrition/

10. Eat yogurt

Yogurt with fresh fruit

Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which keeps your bones strong and guards against osteoporosis. And the bacteria in yogurt aids in digestion.

Individual servings of yogurt can cost as little as 89 cents each at the grocery store, making it an affordable option as well as a healthy one.

It is important to look at the label, because the type of yogurt you choose makes a big difference. Some have a lot of added sugar, which offsets any health benefits.

Also avoid yogurt-covered raisins or cereal bars that claim to be made with real yogurt. These are not actually made with real yogurt, but with a coating of yogurt-flavored powder.

Your best bet is a serving of vegetable or a nonfat Greek yogurt, with some fresh fruit mixed in for flavor.

11. Don’t shop when you’re hungry

Hungry shopper

When you’re hungry, you simply become a prey to your cravings for cheap, easy and unhealthy food.

The research is clear that shoppers who haven’t eaten in a few hours make unhealthier food choices, choosing a larger proportion of high-calorie foods [7].

Scientists think that this has a biological basis; when we’re hungry, our bodies naturally prepare for a fast by choosing foods with high caloric content.

Another interesting finding from the study: shoppers who are hungry purchase the same amount of low-calorie foods as those who are not. However, they tend to purchase high-calorie foods in addition to the low-cal items.

So when you’re hungry, you’re apt to load up your cart with a lot more food...and much of that food is not what your body really needs. This inevitably leads to more expenditure, more waste and poorer nutrition.

So try to go grocery shopping right after a meal, or grab a small (healthy) snack beforehand.

Remember...health doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to sacrifice nutrition if you’re on a tight budget.

Armed with knowledge and planning, you can make food choices that are good for your health and your finances.

Before you go, let me know which of the tips you found the most useful to you in the comments section below :D

Keep reading

Sources:

  1. Key facts on food loss and waste you should know! (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/.
  2. Avis-Riordan, K. (17 August 2017) This is how you should actually be storing your leftover food. Retrieved from https://www.housebeautiful.com/uk/lifestyle/food-drink/a2237/storing-food-leftovers-tips/.
  3. Bergen, A. (14 January 2019) The true cost of eating out (and how to save). Retrieved from https://www.moneyunder30.com/the-true-cost-of-eating-in-restaurants-and-how-to-save.
  4. Does buying in bulk really save you money? (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www1.cbn.com/does-buying-bulk-really-save-you-money.
  5. Sass, C., MPH, RD. (3 August 2017). 4 reasons to buy more of your fruits and veggies frozen. Retrieved from https://www.health.com/nutrition/frozen-fruits-and-vegetables-benefits.
  6. Bolluyt, J. (1 March 2018) 15 foods you should buy frozen instead of fresh. Retrieved from https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/foods-you-should-buy-frozen-instead-fresh.html/.
  7. Pittman, G. (6 May 2013). No, really - don’t shop when you’re hungry: study. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-shop-hungry-idUSBRE9450TF20130506.