Have you tried eating healthier but gave it up because it appeared to be too expensive? You’re not alone. Most of us begin with good intentions but abandon them because they appear untenable in the long term. One of the most common reasons for failure can be attributed to following trends and popular opinions. On our way to eating healthier, we make our first choices based on what’s trending on social media or what the commercials tell us. We push ourselves out of our comfort zone to try something new, but when we don’t adapt well, we abandon our goals.
But does eating healthy really require a lot of money? Here are smarter ways to do it without breaking the budget.
Three P’s to Eating Healthy- Plan, Purchase, and Prepare
Popular culture tells us that eating healthy costs more because we require specific foods. So we rush out to buy these expensive items, only to later complain about the high grocery bills. So is it really the price or did we get off to a bad start? Let’s rethink.
To put together the right plan, answer some questions that can help you understand more about your own eating habits:
- How do I describe my current eating habits: unhealthy, very unhealthy, or moderately unhealthy?
- Do I depend a lot on junk food? If yes, what are the reasons? Is it lack of time, or simply because I am used to the taste?
- Is it worth spending time on planning my meals in advance? If not, why? If yes, what are the benefits?
- Do I like cooking? If yes, what amount of time can I practically spend on cooking in a week?
Getting answers to these questions will help you build a foundation to eating healthy, based on your lifestyle and customized to your unique needs. No celebrity or influencer trend can ever achieve that for you. Based on your understanding, draw up a weekly meal plan to get to the next step.
This is where most of us lose the plot. But with the right plan, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Once you know exactly what you want, you also know what you don’t want.
Stay away from them as much as you can. There’s a reason why pre-packaged, refined, and processed foods are cheaper: they’re mass-produced, high in sugar/sodium, and, in general, have low nutritional value. For example -condiments such as ketchup, sauces, mayonnaise, and dips are all high in sugar, salt, and fat. These sauces and dressings can easily be prepared at home. Homemade condiments not only taste better but, being chemical-free, are also better for you. You don’t need organic produce to prepare them; they can be prepared with the simplest ingredients. For example, a delicious salad dressing can be made in no time with lemon, olive oil, and honey.
Organic produce is healthier, but it comes at a cost. Have you ever wondered what the nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food is? If the difference isn’t significant, there’s no reason to avoid non-organic food. According to a new Stanford University study led by researcher Crystal Smith-Spangler and her colleagues, organic foods do not have significantly higher nutritional value compared to conventionally grown foods. If you want to eat healthier, as a consumer, you should be aware of which produce contains a higher concentration of chemicals and which do not. You may benefit from buying organic food if you buy fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, or spinach (they’re generally consumed with the peel) but otherwise, conventionally grown cheaper options do equally well. Another word of advice: buy seasonal foods. Non-seasonal produce are expensive because of the higher production and transportation costs involved.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk will always be cheaper. You can purchase things like rice, seeds, nuts, and beans in bulk. This will significantly bring your expenses down. With these basic ingredients at your disposal, you can whip up new recipes anytime, without having to worry about ordering food every time you’re hungry.
Choose your recipes based on how much you enjoy cooking. If you dislike it, pick recipes that take less than 15 minutes to prepare and mostly require basic things like steaming or boiling. For example, a “Buddha bowl” is not only a balanced meal but is also quick to prepare. If you don’t want to waste time chopping, opt for frozen pre-chopped vegetables, which are both reasonably priced and time-saving.
Those who enjoy cooking can invest more time in making their own soups and stews in large batches to store for later use. Another way to eat healthier on a budget is to use less expensive, but nutritious, animal proteins such as eggs or canned tuna. For snacking during the day, plan a list of healthy treats for each day of the week. Like carrot sticks with hummus (homemade) on one day, fruits with nut butter on another, Edamame, homemade trail mix, cut fruits like watermelon, and hard-boiled eggs.
Eating healthier is not just for those who have the means to do so. On the contrary, you can start eating healthy well within the limits of what you can afford. Your health is not determined by how much more you spend on your groceries; rather, it’s a result of becoming more aware and making food choices based on your needs.