Eat Healthy On A Budget!
Dieting and healthy eating do not have to be expensive. Contrary to popular belief, healthy eating can and likely will, save you money. In this article we’re going to go over 5 points about healthier eating and changing bad habits.
1. Create a plan
Plan out your meals for the week. It takes the guesswork out of what you’re eating that week and avoids impulsive eating. When you’re planning your meals use the following schedule for help:
“Snacks” here are healthy options. Nuts, fruits, or vegetables. Apples for instance are high in fiber and will keep you full longer.
2. Meal Prepping and planning
Meal prepping. Some people love it, others hate it. Try to make it fun and enjoy the time saved later in the week. Prep most of your meals for the week at the same time and freeze what you can. There’s a litany of resources out there to aid in meal prepping based on what you’re eating. Back when bodybuilding was my focus my prepped meals looked like this:
1 cup rice — cooked
1 cup rice
1/2 cup beans
8oz steak, usually sirloin tips or chuck roast
1 can of green beans
I would eat these meals 2x per day, so I made A LOT of them on Sunday nights. I bought a big pack of large food containers and just threw the food into it. Nothing fancy or glamorous in my approach back then.
Unless you’re actively trying to pack on pounds, these portions would be well outside of your scope. So, let’s look at an example of what your meals / meal prep might look like.
Breakfast — Eggs or Oatmeal. Overnight oats and egg “muffins” are a great way to prep breakfast and save time in the morning.
Snack 1: Fruit, no need to prep this, just grab and go! Nuts, small containers or baggies are a good way to prep these. If you’re like me and try to avoid single use plastics when possible then mason jars, paper snack bags or other small containers work just as well.
Lunch: 4oz chicken, 4oz sweet potato, ½ cup broccoli. This meal will provide 233 calories, and 26 grams of protein which will help you stay full. This meal can be prepped easily and it’s cheap.
Snack 2: Same as snack 1 if you need a little something before dinner.
Dinner: Same concept as your lunch time meal. I would try to give yourself bigger portions to ensure you’re full. If you’re full you won’t have the urge to snack before bed.
3. Fresh produce vs frozen.
There are a lot of studies and articles out there which show that frozen produce can have just as much and, in some cases, more nutrients than fresh produce. If fresh produce is more expensive, based on season and store, then the frozen option would be your best choice.
Frozen produce can last for months in the freezer. Fresh produce goes bad much faster and wastes money if not consumed quickly enough.
4. Do’s and Don’ts
Let’s review some dos and don’ts for healthy options. Regardless of weight goals, these are the cornerstones to success and better health.
Consume vegetables at least 2–3 times per day. More is better, but this is a good rule of thumb.
Consume more lean meats, chicken, and fish.
Put a glass 8–10oz of water in the refrigerator at night and drink as soon as you wake up. Yes, the whole glass. This will jumpstart your metabolism and give you a full feeling to start the day.
Exercise 4–5 days per week, stretching daily. Staying active is a great way of stopping impulse eating.
Track your calories! This is the most important thing on this list. Download MyFitnessPal and get to tracking. I’ve used DOZENS of apps like this over the years and not one of them I would recommend. This app makes tracking easy and it’s free!
Eat foods with added sugar. Your body needs sugar but foods with added sugar will give you way more than what you need which can put you at risk for heart disease, and type 2 Diabetes amongst a list of other health concerns.
Snack after dinner. Late night snacking is a good way to gain weight. If you must have something after dinner, Mayo Clinic recommends a full glass of water first and a tablespoon of peanut butter, a few baby carrots or a hardboiled egg if you’re still in need of a little something.
Eat cereal for breakfast. This applies to things like chips for snacking as well because it’s hard to control how much you eat. Breakfast cereals are often sweetened and unless you’re weighing and measuring the exact amount of cereal you’re going to consume, it will likely be too much. The idea is to eat with a purpose. Don’t waste your time with cereal or snacking with chips when they offer little to no nutritional benefit. Opt for healthy options instead.
Make Excuses. Don’t make excuses for why you “need” something. The faster you break the habit of saying, “I need, insert unhealthy food” or “I ate, unhealthy food, because…” the better off you’ll be. If you eat something unhealthy, log it and move on, without going over your calories for the day. Eat with a purpose.
We’ve laid out planning, meal prepping and the importance of healthy food. Let’s talk about cost. For cost comparisons I’m going off my local Kroger through Instacart. Obviously, costs fluctuate by region.
Too keep this simple, we’re going to look at the costs of a healthy shopping list to an unhealthy one.
Healthy shopping list:
Eggs, large 60 ct: $7.29
Oatmeal, plain 30 servings: $2.69
Milk 2% gallon: $3.19
Fuji apples 3lb Bag: $3.99
Clementine bag 48oz: $4.49
Cashews 16oz: $7.99
Bananas 2lb: $1.10
Frozen Broccoli 12oz x 5: $5.00
Frozen Carrots 12oz x 5: $5.00
Frozen Berries. Triple berry medley 16oz: $4.99 — Add these to oatmeal!
Chicken Breast: $10.29 ($1.99/lb × 5.17 lb)
Asparagus Bunch: $3.42
Baby Carrots 16oz: $0.99
Rice 5lb: $2.99
Chuck Roast: $28.07
Peanut Butter: $1.50
For under $100 we have more than a weeks worth of healthy food. Most of these items do not need to be bought every trip to the store, and some are completely optional. This is just an example.
Unhealthy shopping list:
Eggs, large 60 ct: $7.29
Milk 2% gallon: $3.19
Cereal, Life 24.8oz: $4.49
Granola Bars: $5.29
Chip snacks mix, 28 bag: $11.99
Soda, 12 pack cans: $5.99
Frozen dinner family size X 3: $23.37
Pork chops: 5lbs $22.45
Chuck Roast: $28.07
Apple juice, 1gal: $5.49
Spaghetti, box X 5: $7.95
White bread, loaf: $3.49
I stopped here. I could keep going based on the foods typically consumed on the Standard American Diet (ironically the abbreviation is S.A.D) but I don’t think it’s necessary.
The point is that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating expensive. Learn creative ways of seasoning and preparing your food to make eating healthy a more fulfilling experience. We’re up against a hard foe in junk food. Dopamine is the “feel good” hormone and we get a little hit of it every time we eat junk food. It’s designed that way. Here’s an in-depth review of some of the tactics and tricks used by the food industry.
I hope that this has helped clear the lens a little bit, eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Eating a junk diet is more expensive now and can cause some very serious health conditions, which will also be expensive to fix.
Do not start any diet or exercise plan without first consulting with your physician! Let your doctor know about any drugs or supplements you are using and what the plan consists of.
This content is meant to be informative and should not be considered medical advice.
Jimmy Crawford, Stoked American Fitness