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5 tips to living a healthier life without breaking the bank

BY: BRIANNA DIORIO

It is more than possible to eat healthy on a limited budget; it is all a matter of making healthy habits a priority. While cheaper food may seem to be more convenient and cost efficient initially, it is likely that you will pay the price of cutting cost, with interest, when it comes to your healthcare down the road. In fact, a recent international analysis found that the difference between buying food for the most healthy diet pattern or the least healthy diet pattern came out to about $1.50 per day (1). You need to ask yourself, how much is your health worth to you, and at what “cost” is healthy eating a priority? Below are five tips and money saving strategies you can use to stay on track with your budget while keeping your healthy eating habits a main goal.

1- Save money in other areas

Allocating money to your wellness efforts is an investment worth taking, as your health is one of your most valuable assets! Reassessing other areas of your budget is a great first step when trying to prioritize healthy eating. Look at your current spending and see where you can save money elsewhere to help you become a savvier shopper. Cut back on eating out, which not only will save you money, but will allow you to better control the quality and portions of your food choices. Keep a journal for a week and write down how much you are actually spending on frivolous things, like gum, coffee, sodas, even impulse buys like snacks at the checkout counter. Once you’ve tallied up your extra spending, ask yourself if you are allocating your funds appropriately and prioritizing your spending. Determine if you are buying and spending money on anything that is unnecessary; do you really need that fancy water bottle at the checkout counter? If you cut out an extra cup of coffee here and there and pass up on impulse buys you might find that you actually have some extra money that you can take and invest in yourself and your health. These aren’t super hard choices, it just a matter of placing importance on what matters most to you; the extra lunch outings with your co-workers or healthier eating.           

2- Befriend your freezer and bulk bins

 Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Frozen produce is often picked at the peak of their season, making it a great choice for the money and health conscious shopper. Check out the freezer section of your favorite health food store and look for frozen fish, meats and berries. Don’t shy away from bulk discount items, such as nuts and seeds, and even more pricy protein options, such as grass-fed beef and wild caught fish, which go on sale occasionally. Take full advantage of these price saving opportunities and stock up and freeze these items for future snacks and meals.

3-Plan your meals

We know how the saying goes; failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning is an integral part of creating healthy lifestyle habits that will stay for the long haul. Taking time to sit down and plan your meals, grocery shopping, and meal prep in advance is essential for being successful when it comes to cutting costs. Take time to plan out when you can hit up your local farmers market, search the paper for when your favorite natural food store is promoting some in-store special pricing, even plan when you are going to eat out with friends and family so you can budget your money accordingly. Plan your meals ahead of time to cut costs on last minute splurges that generally tend to be fast-food or expensive premade foods. If you have premade meals ready to go in your fridge you will be less likely to run out of food options and be forced to get takeout or some fast food potion. Fast food is meant to be fast, not necessarily the most nutritious option, so taking time to plan and make healthy meals is a must when trying to stay on track with healthy eating and budgeting. If you know you are eating out for a co-workers lunch you can save that money earlier in the week and make the rest of your meals for the week. Making meals ahead of time allows you to have leftovers for the entire week, helping you to save time and money.

4-Shop local and seasonally

Support your local farmers market, not only will you know where you food is coming from, you can often find great prices on super fresh produce. You can even consider signing up for a local CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture group. CSA’s are a different way of getting fresh food right to your table. CSA’s are usually a loosely organized group of customers and farmers that sell “shares” of the farmer’s crops right to the customer, sometimes even offering direct delivery to customers homes or allowing you to pick up your food at a local collection point. You can find high quality, in season, an often organic food at great prices at CSA’s and local farmers markets. Websites like Local Harvest, Eat Well Guide, and Eat Wild have resources for finding local suppliers.

 

5-Crowd out processed products and replace with ingredients

Eating healthy, whole, real foods doesn’t have to be more expensive. Try eating less from a box and more from the earth. Cutting down on purchasing these prepackaged goods can be a quick way to see your grocery bill go down effortlessly. I mean really, what do you think is more expensive, a bag of real, natural, whole potatoes or a bag of processed potato chips? Many of these posed “health” snacks are really just candy in drag, cheating your health and taking advantage of your wallet. An entire bag of fresh apples can cost less than a box of health bars, being not only cheaper but healthier for your entire family. Processed foods often come in packages, which costs manufactures to produce. These costs have to be made up somewhere, which is on the shelf of the grocery stores. Buying raw ingredients, instead of products, can be more cost effective and healthier for you and your entire family. Don’t get fooled by clever health marketing claims either; just because something is gluten free or Paleo or low-carb, doesn’t mean it is necessarily healthy. Real food doesn’t have ingredients, real food is ingredients, so if you must buy prepackaged goods make sure you can identify, pronounce, and read all of the ingredients listed.  

 

1 Roa, M. Singh, G, & Mozaffarian, D (2013). Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis.. PubMed, 3(12). from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24309174
2 Raynor, H.A., Kilanowski, C.K., Esterli, I., et al. 2002. A cost-analysis of adopting a healthful diet in a family-based treatment program. J Am Diet Assoc.102(5): 645-650, 655-656.
3  Cutler D.M., Rosen A.B., and S. Vijan. 2006. The value of medical spending in the United States, 1960-2000. N Engl J Med. 355(9): 920-7.
4 Hyman, M. (2013, April, 3). Why Eating Quick, Cheap Food is Actually More Expensive. from Dr. Mark Hyman Web Site: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/13/why-eating-quick-cheap-food-is-actually-more-expensive/

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