Sam Sly

Eating Healthy on a Budget

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Eating Healthy on a Budget

Good nutrition is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle. Often people complain that healthy eating is too expensive and too time consuming. In this post we will share some tips to save money and time while eating well.

We usually focus on exercise and physical activity since Biostrap is a tool to track results from our physical fitness routines. However, even the best fitness plan falls short if it isn't paired with healthy nutrition. There is truth to the expression, "we are what we eat."

Plan Before You Shop

Plan Your Menu

Many people succumb to impulse shopping. Often impulse groceries are not the healthiest choices and they are an unnecessary expense. If you make meal plans for the week, you save time and money by reducing your risk of impulse shopping. This strategy also helps you eat healthier and reduces food waste.

Bonus: If you use savings apps like Ibotta, you can plan around what is on sale. Be wary of the trap of coupon shopping. If you follow coupons and discounts to food you would plan to eat then you can save money. However, some end up buying processed foods they don't normally eat just because they are on sale.

Shop From The Outer Perimeter First

Most grocery stores feature fresh foods on the perimeter or the store and more processed foods inside. So the outer perimeter usually includes the fresh produce, fresh protein, bakery, deli and dairy. Shopping from the outside first saves time as you can choose your fresh foods first. Keep in mind that the outer parameter might include the bakery, alcoholic beverages and deli. Not everything on the outside is healthy or thrifty. They tend to do this because the outer perimeter has easy access to refrigeration, ovens and other appliances.

Saving On Groceries

Research Discounts and Coupons Wisely

Shop for sales and discounts. Coupons may help, but unfortunately many coupon deals are for branded, processed foods and many are not healthy choices. Non-branded items like fresh produce are rarely included in coupon promotions. However there are exceptions. Look for discounts on foods you would plan to eat or healthy foods you would like to try.

Savings apps are a modern, convenient update on classic coupon clipping. Many savings apps also include fresh foods within their promotion though usually with a smaller savings than with branded processed foods.

Shop Seasonally

Plan your menu around seasonal foods as they tend to be freshest and cheapest. You may notice that tomatoes are cheaper certain times of the year and squash at other times. The same applies to seafood and other fresh foods.

Consider Healthy Frozen Foods

Frozen produce and seafood often goes on sale and may be just as healthy as non-frozen foods. If the food is frozen immediately after harvest, it retains nutrition value.

According to Tufts University, a 2013 study found that frozen produce was just as nutritious as fresh produce if the fresh produce is consumed within five days of purchase. After five days, the fresh produce actually retained less nutrients than the frozen.

Freezing food is like pressing the pause button. For the cost conscious shopper, this means you can buy healthy frozen foods on sale and save money on your annual grocery bill. Be sure to read the labels to make sure the frozen food doesn't contain excessive added sugar, salt, or other unnecessary ingredients.

Consider A Meatless Meal

If you eat meat, consider having a meatless day each week. Even one meatless meal is a healthy way to save money on your food bill. The "Meatless Monday" challenge is based on the idea that it is heart healthy, environmentally friendly, and frugal to reduce meat consumption even a little. It also offers a fun opportunity to try new foods and to increase produce consumption. You are not limited to Monday, if you choose to try this option you can schedule your meatless meal for any day of the week.

Make a Plan for Leftovers

Some homemade meals are most cost effective in multiple portions. For example, it is easier to make a pot of soup for six people than for just one. If you are single or have a small household this may pose a challenge.

Make a plan for your leftovers. For example, an insulated Hydro Flask or Thermos makes it easy to take some of that soup to work for lunch later in the week. Alternately, freeze it in single portion sizes for convenient lunches or dinners. This is like making your own frozen dinners that are likely cheaper and healthier than commercial, processed frozen dinners.

Decrease Convenience Foods

Some convenience foods are healthy and save time. Others are less healthy versions of foods that could be healthy. This recommendation isn't a criticism of all the healthy convenience foods, but from a savings prospective you pay extra for the convenience. For example, bagged salad leaves are more expensive than a head of lettuce. Dry beans are less expensive than canned beans (and usually have less sodium). Carrot sticks are more expensive than buying whole carrots.

You don't have to give up convenience. Many people find that bulk preparation saves them time throughout the week while making healthy, inexpensive foods convenient. For example, once a week you could clean and cut up fresh fruits and vegetables to make salads, crudites, and smoothie ingredients. A slow cooker or Instant Pot pressure cooker could cook dry beans while you are doing something else.

With a little planning and creativity you can eat healthy on a budget.

Sources and Resources

Pros and Cons of Frozen Foods, Tufts University

Meatless Monday

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