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How To Manage Healthy Eating On A Budget

How To Manage Healthy Eating On A Budget
Family, Self

As food prices rise, so does a trip to the grocery store.

As a shopper, with the combination of climbing prices and a falling budget, you are constantly challenged to find economical ways to keep your body and your bank account healthy. If you’re looking for cost-effective solutions on how to manage healthy eating on a budget, here are some strategies for saving money and preparing healthy meals your family.

It’s important to acknowledge that for the first time in history, Americans are spending more money eating out than they do at the supermarket. The average markup on restaurant food is 300%; this translates to a $15 entrée costing you only $5 to prepare for yourself at home. By preparing meals in your kitchen you not only save money but you gain the benefit of knowing exactly what is in the food you are feeding your family.

Also adding to our growing grocery bill is the average portion sizes of our meals and snacks. Over the past 20 years they have ballooned to the point that there is enough food for two or even three people on the plate. Today, what many American’s think of as a normal serving size, results in the gross underestimation of how much they are actually eating.

Plan ahead

Healthy eating on a budget begins with making smart choices at the grocery store; planning ahead will be essential to your success. This will require that you set aside some time to plan your upcoming meals for the week; include everything you will need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Check your fridge and pantry to see what you already have; only purchase what you are going to need and use so you don’t end up wasting food.

Tips for getting into a frugal frame of mind:

  • Plan your meals around and look for bargains in the sales flyer
  • Stock up on items you know you use regularly and can store safely
  • Participate in the store’s rewards program and save
  • Share a big box discount club membership with a friend
  • Shop for items that are in season or at a local farmer’s market

I can’t emphasize enough how much time and money meal planning will save you. Being organized means you won’t be making extra trips to the supermarket for single items and will result in fewer impulse buys. Research reveals that two thirds of what we purchase at the supermarket we had no intention of buying. A sure way to bust your grocery budget is by wandering franticly down the aisles and throwing whatever looks good into your cart. Once you’ve made your grocery list, stick to it!

Purchase wisely

Most people have enough food stored up to survive an apocalypse. The average pantry in today’s home resembles that of a food bunker. How and why did a small storage cabinet in the kitchen turn into a walk-in closet to be envied? Where did we come up with the idea that we need to buy and store so much processed food?

The average American household ends up wasting about 25% of the food and beverages purchased. While the percentage of the overall food budget has decreased greatly over the last few decades it’s still ranks as the third-largest expense for a household. Buy smarter in order to reduce the amount of food waste; get your pantry and refrigerator organized, making certain to use food by its expiration date.

Tips for healthy eating on a budget:

  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry or you’ll come home the proud owner of aisle 4
  • Stop buying junk/processed foods; load your cart with nutrient dense whole food
  • Compare unit prices, buy only what you know you will use; it’s no bargain if you end up throwing it away
  • Buy store/generic brands, take time to compare ingredients and nutrition facts; many are the same quality as pricier national brands
  • Purchase less expensive cuts of meats for preparing soups, stews, casseroles, etc.; learn by asking your market’s butcher for recommendations

As well, before going to the store you should know what your weekly budget is; set a price limit and keep track of your spending as you shop. Your cell phone has a calculator, use it!

Finally, avoid being obsessed with coupons and so called bargains. Just because something appears to be a great deal doesn’t mean you should purchase it. Steer clear of marketing tactics; you work too hard for your money to make foolish mistakes at the checkout line.

Prepare in advance

Nothing will ever beat your own home cooking for healthy eating on a budget. When you are making meals from scratch, with whole foods, you know exactly what is going into your body. Cooking at home will jumpstart your healthy lifestyle, therefore, you must find the time to prepare nutritious and delicious food for your family.

If you’re like most people you have commitments and responsibilities that can easily take you off course every day. When you have a well-stocked kitchen you will have the beginnings of healthy meals at your fingertips; you will be less likely to reach for junk food, order out, or swing through the drive-thru.

Tips for food preparation:

  • Cooking large meals will save you time and money. Many recipes freeze well and can be thawed to have healthy meals at your fingertips when your day doesn’t go as planned.
  • Repurpose leftovers as a budget friendly brown bag lunch. Plan ahead and pack the lunch, snacks, and drinks you need to get you through the day. Eating out regularly gets costly and can be unhealthy if you’re prone to giving into cravings.
  • Invest in small appliances for your kitchen. A slow cooker turns even the cheapest cut of meat into an incredibly tender and tasty meal. Food savers/vacuum sealers allow you to buy items in bulk and freeze them for months to come.

Involve your family in food preparation. Pass on the knowledge to your children so they will make healthier choices and establish good dietary habits when living on their own. Spend time with your children in the kitchen and around the table to connect, share thoughts, and celebrate being a family every day.

The payoff

A lot of people say healthy eating on a budget isn’t possible. I disagree. You will save money down the road by eating well today; poor health will always come at a cost.

Your new lifestyle does not have to break the bank; there are many ways to eat a well-balanced diet on a tight budget. You must take the time to plan your meals, make smart choices at the supermarket, and cook at home so that your grocery dollars go further than ever before. The most powerful tool to improve your health and wellness is your fork.

Judy Molinaro is a wellness coach and master yoga instructor. For practical solutions to your health, read the introduction to her wellness guide Eat Like You Give A Damn. To receive valuable health tips, sign up for her monthly newsletter.

This article was originally published at Fit You Wellness Solutions. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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