Many people say that they want to eat healthier, but then use the excuse that it is too expensive. They feel that they just can’t afford it. Ultimately, this is usually a problem of priorities and not finances.
There’s no doubt about it: We live in a broken food culture where government subsidies support the production of cheap, low-quality, toxin-filled foods that make us sick, fat, and depressed. It is not always easy to walk into a supermarket and choose the fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the multiple isles of chemically-manufactured foods that are purposely designed to attract your attention and condition your taste buds to eat ever more sugar, fat, and salt.
But this does not mean you can’t make better food choices and eat healthy on a budget. It may mean changing your habits and priorities a bit, but the results will absolutely be worth it.
Here are six tips for eating healthy when you are on a tight budget or a fixed income. Follow them, and you’ll find eating well is cheaper, healthier, and more delicious than you ever imagined.
Tip #1: Make Eating Healthy a Top Priority
This is the most important tip. The truth is that most people don’t make eating healthy a financial priority. I’m not going to tell you that you should give up all of your luxury purchases so you can buy healthier food. But I do think it’s worth it for you to take a look at how you’re spending your money and consider, “Am I really supporting my health and meeting my personal goals this way?”
Many people spend a fair amount of money on expensive coffee drinks, “nutrition bars”, candy, and snacks. Some people will spend over $15.00 a day on these things and then say they can’t afford to eat healthy. That’s just not true. They have the money to eat healthy, they simply choose not to.
How you spend your money is your business, and if that latte from Starbucks is a luxury you feel you can’t live without, so be it. But at least take a look at how you’re spending your hard-earned cash. I think you’ll find there’s more money in your budget for eating healthy that you initially realized.
Tip #2: Think Long Term
Think of the long-term savings by eating healthy. Many people spend hundreds of dollars each month on medications and diet plans. This is money that could be better spent. Medications are expensive. How much money do you spend a month on prescriptions. It adds up quickly! This is money that could be better spent on healthy food. Many people are able to stop some if not all of their medications by significantly improving their diets and losing weight. In fact, losing weight is the number one way to lower blood pressure permanently and naturally. Remember though, do not stop your medication on your own – always discuss with your personal physician first! Also, remember – diets do not work long term. Most people will eventually gain back all the weight they lost after stopping the diet and resuming their old eating habits. Skip the expensive diet in the first place. Start eating less food and calories in general. Increase healthier and lower calorie food into your daily diet. Finally, start exercising – walking is free. Overall, a healthy lifestyle is the smartest way to go long term.
Tip #3: Be a Mindful Shopper
Many times people go shopping in autopilot. It’s the end of a long day, you just got off work and on the way home you have to stop by the grocery store for a few items. You are focused on what happened earlier in the day or what your plans are for the weekend. So you walk in, and zone out. You head to the middle aisles of the supermarket, and absent-mindedly scoop items into your cart. (How did those cup cakes get into my basket?!)
If you want to eat healthy on a budget, I recommend you become a mindful shopper. (Just like being a mindful eater!) Bring a list with you to the supermarket. Become fully aware of the dazzling display of fresh foods around you. Realize that you are hunting and gathering the foods that are going to nourish the minds, bodies, and spirits of your entire family. Note which foods are good for you (the ones without labels) and which are built by food engineers and marketing experts to draw your attention away from your health goals. Choose accordingly. Shop the periphery of the store where all the natural healthy foods are. Keep your eyes peeled for healthy deals. For example, you can buy fresh foods that are on sale and freeze them. Seek out the bulk aisle of your supermarket or local health food store and see if you can get nuts, seeds, and specialty items like quinoa on the cheap.
Finally, check out the frozen section of your grocery store, especially if you live in an area where access to fresh vegetables is limited. While fresh produce is the best, frozen fruit and vegetables run a close second, and you can often purchase these items at discount prices. (Avoid canned items – frozen is healthier.)
Tip #4: Make Your Food Budget Go Farther
Join a local wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam’s club. Many of these mega-markets carry fresh, organic vegetables and pastured meats these days. Explore these clubs; you might be surprised what you find. If you can’t afford the membership yourself, split the price with a friend or family member (or several), so that you can take advantage of discount prices on healthy foods.
Tip #5: Grow Your Own Food
It doesn’t take much space, and it’s inexpensive. A few dollars on seeds and soil is all you need to get started growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The rewards are tremendous and go well beyond the free healthy food you get.
Tip #6: Shop Local
Find a local farmer’s market and talk to the farmers. Ask if they have special prices for buying seasonal vegetables in bulk. Getting local, organic, seasonal food is healthier. It helps you develop a closer connection to the foods you are consuming, and it’s often less expensive. You can freeze what you don’t eat, share it with another family, or learn how to preserve the food at home.
By following these six tips, you can eat healthy on a budget. And remember, when you shift away from highly processed carbohydrates and sugar-filled foods toward healing vegetables, fruits, and legumes your appetite will naturally diminish. You will not be as hungry if you eat healthier, which means you’ll eat less, save more money, and lose a few pounds in the process.
Paying attention to what you eat and how you spend your food dollars is worth it in every sense. You will have more energy and vitality, you’ll heal your body naturally with the multitude of phytochemicals, healthy fats and proteins in these foods, and you may see your mood, memory, and cognitive function improve as well.