Healthy Meals on a Budget
You don’t have to spend a fortune to improve your health. There are various ways you can stay fit and lose weight for cheap. Read on to learn how budgeting for healthy meals works and some tips that can help you achieve a healthier you without damaging your bank account.
How budgeting for healthy meals works
Budgeting for healthy meals involves setting aside money to cover any expenses related to healthy eating. With a healthy meal budget, you can buy, make, and eat food that is both affordable and good for your health. Whether you would like to lose weight or just live a healthier lifestyle, a budget for healthy meals can allow you to accomplish any health-related goals.
Can I eat healthy on a budget?
It may seem daunting to stick to healthy eating without breaking the bank. But with consistency and the right budgeting strategy, you can eat healthy on a budget. By following our tips outlined below, you might even be surprised at how simple eating healthy on a budget can be!
Tips for buying budget-friendly healthy food
The key to eating healthy for cheap is shopping smart when you're at the grocery store. While it may be tempting to toss any healthy food into your cart, doing so can sometimes hurt your budget. Here are some great tips that'll help you buy healthy meals on a budget and save money while shopping for groceries.
#1 Compare Unit Prices
Don’t just go by an item’s price tag. Instead, compare unit prices to determine which food products offer the best value. For example, your grocery store likely sells carrots in different forms and different-sized bags. If they're selling two pounds of bagged carrots for $1.89 ($0.94 per pound) or one pound of bagged carrots for $0.68 ($0.68 per pound), the one-pound bag is the better deal. Most supermarkets provide the per-pound price (or unit price) on the shelve labels to make this comparison simple.
#2 Buy Generic or Store Brands
Believe it or not, many generic or store-brand products are just as good as their name-brand counterparts — sometimes they are even sourced by the same distributors! A study by Consumer Reports discovered that store brands offer the same overall taste and quality as name brands and are typically 15 to 30% lower in price. You may be surprised to find out that store-branded cheese is just as good as any of its branded counterparts.
#3 Buy Bulk or Family Sizes
Even if you don't have a big family, you can save big on healthy meals by buying in bulk or going for the family-size pack. If you see a sale on chicken, for example, it might make sense to buy in bulk and load your freezer so that you can defrost and then cook it over the next month. Meat is expensive, so it's a great item to buy in bulk.
#4 Use Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Produce can help you lose weight, but the truth is, it's expensive. Since most frozen fruits and veggies are steamed, boiled, or blanched and frozen within hours of being picked, they offer a fresh taste and nutritional value without the high price tag. They're also available year-round, so you don't have to wait until the summer to get your corn fix.
#5 Find Cheaper Cuts of Meat
To save money on meat, go for cheaper cuts. Rather than top sirloin, try pork loin. It's one of the most affordable meats because of its nutrient value- plus, it tastes delicious with a quick seasoning rub or long marinade.
When looking for chicken, chicken thighs offer great value compared to chicken breasts, so look for the cuts that offer the lower unit prices to maximize your savings.
#6 Find Other Proteins to Fill You Up
If meat is too pricey for your grocery budget, there are other delicious and cost-effective proteins to fill you up. Eggs are cheap protein sources that you can enjoy scrambled, over easy, or hard-boiled. If you're not a fan of eggs, cheese, soy, yogurt, lentils, and quinoa can keep you full for a lower cost than comparable portions of meat.
Tips for losing weight on a budget
After a long day at work, it's all too easy to order some Chinese takeout or cruise through the drive-thru line at a fast-food chain. Takeout and delivery also tend to rely on salts and calories to keep you coming back, making it more difficult to meet your weight loss goals. Try these options instead to maintain a healthy diet on a budget:
#1 Set Up a Meal Plan Schedule
Meal planning is one of the best ways to stick to eating healthy and resist the urge to eat takeout and fast food. Dedicate some time on Sunday to create healthy meal plans on a budget, for the upcoming week. Make sure you have all the ingredients in your fridge and a written meal plan of what you'll be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
#2 Make Dinner Portions for Tomorrow's Lunch
Make a little extra when you're cooking dinner so you can set a portion aside for your lunch or your children's lunchbox the next day. This way, you'll have a nutritious, homemade meal to eat and you won't be spending your hard-earned cash on unhealthy and high-calorie lunches out.
#3 Start a Garden
Gardening is a great way to get physically active while treating yourself to fresh, affordable produce. You may be motivated to eat more veggies when you know they're garden-fresh and you've worked hard to bring them to life.
#4 Use Every Scrap
There's no reason to throw out scraps of food when you can easily use them for other meals. For example, if you have leftover fruits and veggies, save them for a smoothie or soup. Before you toss scraps in the trash, get creative and think about how you can use them to prepare healthy meals including soups and salads or even flavors to boost your next meal.
Tips for finding healthy meals on a budget
The internet is packed with resources that can help you make healthy meals on a budget. Some of these resources include:
#1 Meal Plan Recipes
Unsure of how to meal plan? Search for healthy recipes for weight loss on a budget and you're sure to find countless ideas to help you maximize nutrients and minimize cost. Meal plan recipes can open your eyes to new dishes that will encourage you to maintain healthy eating habits every day.
#2 Family Shopping Blogs
There are many bloggers that openly share how they eat healthy for less. These blogs can give you some inspiration to build recipes and meal plans that satisfy the entire family and maintain a healthy diet on a budget.
#3 Find Coupons or Savings Apps
Online coupons or savings apps can also help you save on healthy meals. Check out online coupon sites for printable coupons and use them for buying food on a budget. Research and read reviews of various savings apps, that can be downloaded for free and help you with your budget plan. You can also see if your preferred supermarket has an app so you can download it and start eating healthy on a budget today.
How to create a budget for healthy meals
Here are a few steps people can take to create a budget for healthy meals:
1. Calculate your income
First, it’s important to calculate your monthly income. This can give you a good idea of how much money you can set aside for healthy meals.
2. List your healthy meal expenses
Next, list out your healthy meal expenses for each month. Calculate how much you’ll need for all meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks.
3. Set your budgeting goals
Now it’s time to set your budgeting goals for each month. Based on your income and healthy meal expenses, figure out how much money you want to spend on food and how much you should save each month. It’s also important to think about how these goals tie in with your overall budget.
4. Choose a budgeting method
Choose a budgeting method that will work for your healthy meal goals, along with your overall spending and saving goals. Some budgeting methods you can choose from include the 50/30/20 budget, the zero-based budget, and the pay-yourself-first budget. You can also create your own budget that’s tailored to your unique financial situation.
5. Stick to your healthy meal budget and adjust as needed
Once you’ve created a budget for healthy meals, be consistent! Stick to your budget and revisit your plan regularly to make sure it still aligns with your income and expenses. Keep in mind that you can adjust this budget at any time if needed.
What to do if you’re low on budget funds
If you’re low on funds for your healthy meal budget, Advance America can help. We offer payday loans, installment loans, lines of credit, and title loans that can supplement your budget and help you continue to eat healthy food. Visit Advance America and get started on a loan application today.