A common misconception I hear is that eating healthy is expensive. Too often, I’m told that eating healthy just isn’t in the budget, and therefore just isn’t an option despite said person’s complaints about various health concerns or ailments. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pointing fingers and I totally understand where you’re coming from. Money is tight and there are so many choices on how and where to spend it! However, this is where I caution those who feel that they can’t afford to eat healthier to consider a few alternative ways of thinking so that you CAN eat healthy…even if you’re on a budget and don’t think it’s possible.
First, it’s important to take into account the long-term costs of making “cheaper” food choices which may not show up immediately, rather becoming expensive and possibly life-threatening costs down the road. Granted, you may not see the impact on your daily cash or grocery budget but that doesn’t negate the significant impact making unhealthy choices will have to your finances and your lifestyle in the long run.
That being said, most people I consult with are more concerned with the here and now, and how to fit healthier choices into their budget today. Here are a few guidelines I recommend:
- Eat out less. A recent statistic showed the average American eats on average 3 meals at home each week! That’s a staggering statistic when you consider the typical 3 meals a day times 7 days a week. The advent of the Fast Food Drive-In made eating on the go, even breakfasts, convenient and “economical”. However, even choosing off the dollar menu, that really adds up, especially when you consider that very few fast food choices have much in the way of nutritional value. As a result, you’ll find yourself hungry again soon after eating, since your body is still craving the nutrition it needs. Opting for more meals at home, you can better control the ingredients thus giving your body better nutrition…and there are many fast and easy choices that are both economical and convenient. While it’s not necessary to spend long hours in the kitchen in order to eat healthier, you may need to spend some time in the kitchen, and familiarizing yourself with simple recipes will save a great deal on the budget.
- Drink Water. Americans drink an average of 11.2 cans of soda each week or 582 cans each year. Take that number times the average cost per can of $.57 and you could save over $330 per year just on soft drink savings. Coupled with the detrimental health side-effects soft drinks have on the body, and you’re well ahead of the game by switching to water.
- Choose healthy products wisely. The “Health Food” Industry is big business and just like any other industry out there, you need to be a wise and savvy consumer. Not all “health food products” are good for you and just because it’s labeled organic doesn’t always mean it’s worth the extra money. Many products may have been grown organically yet aren’t labelled such due to the high costs to the farmer to get “certified”. Conversely, products that ARE labeled “organic” just mean that synthetic chemical compounds were more or less not used in the production of the food. This can get confusing since it’s a blanket statement that leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. Therefore, as with any product, do your research, consider alternatives, and know the true nutritional value and the impact it will have on your body. You don’t necessarily need to spend more for the same product just because it’s sold at the Health Food Store. For fresh produce, you can find some great deals by purchasing locally in your area, with the added benefit that you can talk to the farmer who grew/raised it.
- Buy in Bulk. Some items like nuts, rice, beans, sugar, salt, and herbs are have huge cost savings by buying in bulk. Where you may spend a little extra for the bigger bag, you save considerably over time. Co-ops and online sources are great resources to find bulk savings.
- Make Broth/Stock once a Week. Homemade meat stocks/broths like chicken and beef are incredibly nutritious, fast and easy to make, and have been the basis of nourishing peasant diets for centuries. Loaded with proteins, collagen, gelatin, amino acids, and minerals, you can get by with less meat in your diet which can be the most expensive purchases in your budget. One organic free-range chicken gives you meat for several meals, plus up to a gallon of nutritious and delicious stock that can be used for a wide variety of recipes like soups, stews, rice and bean dishes. For more information about broths, click here.
- Grow your own. Regardless of where you live, even if it’s just a small balcony apartment, you can grow some of your own fruits, veggies, and herbs. Many varieties of vegetables and herbs can be grown in pots, and even some fruits like strawberries, lemons, and limes work well in containers. For the best nutrition for the money, we always recommend growing sprouts and microgreens. Costing literally pennies to grow and containing up to 30 times the nutrient density of their adult counterparts, microgreens are delicious and take often less than a week to grow. For more information about growing sprouts and microgreens, click here.
- Shop for Nutrition. Many of the most nutritious foods are also the less expensive such as potatoes, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, onions, garlic, chard, beets, kale, and eggs. Not only are they economical but they are also easy to prepare.
- Make your own Ferments. Fermented foods or cultured foods like kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables are becoming a trend in healthy eating…and for good reason. Scientists and doctors agree that our health is paramount to supporting a healthy bacterial balance in our guts. Eating more living foods with probiotics are cornerstone to maintaining a healthy gut flora. Purchasing supplement probiotics are expensive and not as effective as consuming the active probiotics found in cultured foods. Purchasing these foods commercially is one option, but making them yourself is better and much more economical. Kombucha, for example, costs on average (depending on your ingredients) around $1.75 per gallon when you make it yourself…and in my opinion has much better flavor too! To learn more about making your own cultured foods, click here.
Regardless of your current budget, there is room for adding a few healthier choices into your routine. Start with one or two and add more from there. You CAN afford to eat healthier, and your body will thank you. What steps have you taken to eat healthy on a budget? We’d love to hear from you and hear your stories. Like us on Facebook and comment here with how you eat healthy on a budget. God Bless and to your health!