Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet is essential for many aspects of your health, including your brain function, physical well-being, and even your mood. Although consuming healthy foods is a smart investment in your health, many people find that buying whole foods can quickly lead to an expensive grocery bill.
With a few smart hacks and practical tips, eating nutritious meals on a budget is certainly possible. In this guide, we'll offer expert tips to help you adhere to a healthy diet even on a tight budget.
Planning meals ahead and creating shopping lists
Heading into the grocery store without a plan can leave you feeling lost, which may lead to poor shopping choices. Instead, it's always a good idea to create a shopping list before going to the store. Creating a weekly meal plan will help you stay on track, ensuring a well-balanced mix of meals for your week. As you look at the week ahead, you can plan meals that include a healthy balance of high-quality fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Crafting a plan for your meals ahead of time will also make it easier to create a list of ingredients to buy. When you head into the store, you'll have a clear list to follow (which will also help you save time at the grocery store). It may even be helpful to include quantities on the grocery list to ensure the proper portions are purchased (reducing money spent on excess ingredients).
To make the week ahead even easier, many people have begun meal prepping, which involves preparing meals in sectioned plates to help adhere to portion control.
Choosing cost-effective yet nutrient-dense foods
Healthy diets include a diverse selection of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and high-quality sources of protein. As such, choosing cost-effective foods can help your money go further while still ensuring you get the vitamins and minerals you need.
Beans are a great food to incorporate into your meals, offering a frugal option for high-quality protein. Not only are beans a cost-effective plant-based form of protein, but they also contain a high level of healthy fiber, iron, potassium, and other essential minerals. Plus, there are many creative ways you can use beans in recipes, such as in hummus or chili.
Other examples of cost-effective yet nutrient-dense foods include Greek yogurt, spinach, and walnuts. Foods such as Greek yogurt are relatively inexpensive, yet contain many essential vitamins and nutrients.
Making the most of leftovers and reducing food waste
Using leftovers wisely to reduce food waste can also help you to keep your grocery bill down. For example, after you've purchased a bunch of ingredients for a recipe, look to create something new with the leftovers. Instead of tossing leftovers that go bad, proactively freeze individual portions for the future to reduce food waste.
Budget-friendly cooking techniques and recipes
Over time, you'll begin to pick up on new techniques that help you become an even smarter shopper. For example, check your local grocery store for discounts or clearance racks on almost-expired groceries. Most of the time, these healthy foods can be purchased at great prices and frozen to be used at a later date.
To ensure your food is safe, be sure to check "best by" and "use by" dates before buying discounted food items.
Investing in a budget-friendly cookbook can also help you learn healthy new recipes that utilize inexpensive ingredients.
Finding affordable sources of fresh produce
Fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive. However, produce can certainly make a dent in your grocery bill when shopping at large grocery stores. To help save money on fresh produce purchases, check out the USDA's local farmer's market search to look for farmer's markets in your region where you can find discounts on fresh produce.
Buying produce in bulk during sales is another way to help you save. Check out your region's supermarkets' weekly flyers and consider freezing fruits and vegetables when you can get them at reduced prices. Or, check out grocers that sell imperfect produce at a discounted price.
Eating Healthy Doesn't Have to Break the Bank
Maintaining a healthy well-rounded diet is possible for everyone, regardless of their financial situation. Trying a few new strategies, such as planning a shopping list in advance or heading to a local's farmers market, can help your money go further on fresh groceries. Plus, repurposing leftovers for new recipes and choosing cost-effective ingredients can help you eat a wholesome diet while adhering to your budget.
Smart planning and decision-making are the keys to maintaining a healthy diet while on a strict budget. Be sure to check into the ActiveFit+ blog for more healthy dieting tips.