Eating is a basic human need, yet for many it is often surrounded by mystery, mystique and confusion – differentiating healthy from non-healthy is often a difficult task. This, coupled with the challenge of eating healthy while on a budget, intensifies the issue to epidemic proportions. Searching out the proper way to eat, while also saving on costs, can be an overwhelming task. Below, I outline the best ways to eat well on a budget, and I hope this will aid in your mission!
Before beginning, I want to point out that these are general guidelines. As the director of fitness and wellness at the American Institute of Healthcare & Fitness, we assess patients with a full day comprehensive wellness exam, and part of their day is spent with a nutritionist. Family history, lifestyle, blood work results and genetic risk factors all come into play when designing an eating plan, and should be an important factor and consideration for you as well. That being said, there are important guidelines out there that everyone can benefit from, while improving not only health, but quality of life as well.
First of all, planning is essential. Before going the store, plan ahead for how you will maneuver the grocery aisles by bringing along a list of all the foods you need to support your lifestyle. This will prevent you from buying on impulse by sticking to the list you made ahead of time. You can even get grocery lists for your phone now that you can save and use to compare prices of certain products in competing stores. This also makes putting your list together a snap. Most meals should consist of protein, carbohydrates and good fats. Eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, cottage cheese and protein powders are great sources of protein. For carbohydrates eat your veggies, some fruit and limit or completely eliminate your starchy carbohydrates. Don’t forget to get your good fats from fish, olive oil, almonds, avocado’s, etc.
Also keep in mind, you can buy tons of great food in bulk that can be stored in your pantry or freezer. Tuna, Nuts, Olive Oil, Beans, and other healthy items can be bought in bulk to save money and can go right into your pantry. Frozen chicken breasts, turkey breast, lean beef, fish, etc can go into your freeze, saving you a ton of money and preparing for months ahead. A full pantry & freezer loaded with the essentials – healthy items – is a must. Buying generic also helps cut costs: Shop for VALUE! Brand loyalties are a thing of the past as many store brand items are just as good as the highly marketed name brand foods, just less expensive. This goes for some of your nutritional supplements as well.
Nothing can ruin your budget faster than being so hungry that the drive through lures you in. Once your blood sugar drops, so does your will power. Items such as homemade trail mix with nuts and seeds and other foods will help with this. One great way to prepare snacks for the week is planning ahead at the beginning of the week. Cook up a batch of food in the beginning of the week and the divide it into zip lock bags. When you are getting ready to leave the house you simply grab a zip lock bag or two and you have all your meals for the day. The crock pot is also an incredible tool for those wanting to eat healthy on a budget and save time. Simply put chicken in the crock pot in the morning and then when you get home at night add some veggies and you have a meal. Take the left overs and use them for meals later in the week by using the zip lock bag trick.
Eating well doesn’t have to be a mystery if you pay close attention and plan effectively. Eating well on a budget is just a matter of paying attention to what you are buying and where you are buying it. Trade the cookies, chips, ice cream and fast food for fresh fish, eggs, meat and veggies and you will save money but also enhance your health so you will not only look better but feel better which in turn will enhance every area of your life including your income. The better you eat the more healthy, energetic and vibrant you will become which is sure to affect your income in a positive way!
John Rowley, Director of Fitness & Wellness at The American Institute of Healthcare & Fitness (www.aihfwellness.com)