Healthy Eating on a Budget
for busy people
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I remember reading an expression: “We offer the highest quality, fastest service, and lowest prices. But you can have only two at a time.” The same could be true with HEALTHY eating for BUSY people on a BUDGET.
It seems nearly impossible to hit all 3 goals. Do not get discouraged, please. It took me a while before I could tackle all 3 goals and didn’t stress about it. I enjoy the healthy eater lifestyle, now.
After all, it comes down to two things: making educated decisions and having an action plan.
You are gonna educate yourself during the process of researching new healthy easy recipes, finding the truth about ingredients, and during your weekly planning. And no, you don’t have to go to school for that. Planning, on the other hand, starts now.
They say, “A plan is 90% of your success.” I couldn’t agree more.
Our plan for healthy eating on a budget has 3 stages with step-by-step instructions. That makes it easy and “digestible”.
PREPARATION AND PLANNING
This is by far, the most important stage. At first, it might take some time for you to plan your healthy-er week. Good news is that it will get easier and take less and less time as you learn and progress.
I’ve gotten it down to 20 mins/ week, now. Not bad, right?
Plan a Week Ahead
Ultimately, healthy cooking starts with thorough planning. You have to decide only two things: what to COOK and what to BUY.
Usually, I find 3-4 easy healthy recipes for breakfast. I rotate them throughout a week. It is very convenient to find easy healthy breakfast recipes which can be prepared the night before.
Then, I plan 5-7 option for dinner. You can repeat some recipes or cook enough for two nights in a row.
I try to be creative about lunch. It is very convenient to cook more for dinner and leave some for tomorrow’s lunch. Also, it is a time saver.
If you don’t want to eat the same thing two days in a row, you still can prepare your lunch the day before while making your dinner. If you cross-utilize ingredients, it becomes very convenient to cook two things at the same time.
You don’t have to come up with 7 options for snacks. Just add a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds to your list and you will be fine.
Pro tip: Get 4-5 mason jars (16 oz) and premix your nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in those jars. Put them somewhere visible so you can grab one to-go, on your way out.
And remember, a snack isn’t a meal. Do not get 6 pounds of nuts for one week.
Important: Try to cross-utilize ingredient and buy in bulk as much as you can. This will make it easy to avoid wrong choices and will be less expensive in the long run.
For example, if you decided to make carrot soup for lunch, research some salad or dinner recipes with carrots. This way you can get a larger bag of carrots and pay less per pound.
Also, check what you already have in your fridge and pantry before you go grocery shopping.
To make your life easier, here are a few links with easy healthy recipes:
Every time before you start planning, look through these 3 lists to refresh your memory:
Your grocery shopping list is a key ingredient for your success!
Check What's in Season in Your Area
Buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season is the way to go. Produce is not only the freshest but also the most nutritious when it is in season - the way mother nature always meant it to be.
As a bonus, items in season are also cheaper because they are readily abundant. It means, you can get the best and save money.
If it is something you can store for a while (like potatoes or apples) or freeze (like chives, parsley, broccoli, etc), get more of it and preserve for later.Seasonal Food Guide (consider that while planning your menu).
Sign Up for Deals
Before you go shopping, research deals in your local grocery store. Sign up for deals or a membership card. It definitely can save you a few dollars here and there.
A very good thing is to check your grocery store’s website before you start your menu planning. If you find some nice deals, you can utilize those products in your menu and save money.
I’m talking about deals on product which are good for you and which you use (supposed to use) on a regular basis.
Remember! Do not compromise on quality! Do not buy cookies or junk just because they are on sale.
AT THE STORE
This stage requires your full attention. Choosing the right ingredients is the key to healthy eating. Find our guidance below.
Don't Shop on an empty stomach
That is a well known rule # 1. If you are hungry while doing your weekly grocery shopping, you can forget about your healthy eating menu. You can’t reason with hunger. Your mind will think only about food. Usually bad food. A lot of it.
Just save yourself a headache and money.
Shop according to your list
You came up with a healthy eating menu for a week for a number of reasons:
- It saves you time and money at the grocery store
- You won’t end up buying extra food
- It gives you confidence
Oh, and did I already say that, it saves you time and money. Trust me, it does!
So, stick to your healthy eater grocery shopping list, and don’t come up with excuses why you need a box of cookies or chocolate milk. If it is not on your list (and it shouldn’t be), just keep moving.
Do not overstock your fridge. You will end up overeating.
Learn how to understand prices
It came to my surprise that so many people are lost in numbers when they go grocery shopping. To be fair, prices on many items are not very straightforward. You gotta watch out!
Here are some tips you can use at the grocery store:
1) First, you have to figure out if the price is per measure of weight (oz, lb) or per item (ea). This is extremely important to know when you shop for veggies and fruits.
2) Compare prices by finding a common denominator. For example, you see 2 boxes of your favorite brown rice pasta, but the amount of pasta in them is different. The one which has 8 oz costs $2.99, and the one which has 14 oz costs $4.95. Which one will you take?
Pay attention on the price tag. There should be a price per pound on both tags! Compare prices per pound (lb), not actual prices.
If your grocery store doesn’t provide price per pound for packaged items, just do some math 🙂
(The right answer is the 14 oz box).
buy ingredients in bulk
There are situations when it makes sense to buy a lot of something and use overtime. Very often, grocery stores run promotions and have deals on items.
If that is something you use on a regular basis, take advantage of the deal. That will save you some money down the road.
Be very careful with expiration date and check it carefully. Make sure that the product will last a while. I wouldn’t suggest buying in bulk perishable items unless you can freeze them.
Also, do not buy something because it is on sale. Only get it if you use it regularly and it contributes to your healthy eating lifestyle.
For example, you need 2 cups of rice to cook one of your meals for this week. It doesn't make sense to look for the smallest bag of rice in the store. Get a larger bag which will cost you less per pound, and use it over a course of a few weeks.
Do not buy junk food
When it comes to snacks, be smart. Don’t fall for fancy packaging or smart marketing promotions, deals, and sales.
Remember that your snack options are: fruits, veggies, berries, nuts (peanuts are not nuts!), plain yogurt, kefir.
Forget about chips, cookies, bars, etc. Literally, anything prepared may mean processed, chemically loaded, or packaged with harmful packaging.
That’s true not only for snacks but also for your shopping in general. Sauces, dressings, dips, desserts… Those things must go from your list.
Shop around the perimeter. I personally go through the isles only for spices, good cooking oils, and paper products.
IN THE KITCHEN
Looking good, Chef! Just a bit of organization and time management and you are there! Remember, love for cooking comes with practice!
Cook at home
If you really want to save money and eat healthy, you should consider eating at home 100%.
Restaurants operate on a pretty high mark up. In the end of the day, they need to make money and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as there are customers who are willing to pay a few extra bucks for the experience and the quality, those restaurants are in business.
Now the question is: Are you that type of customer?
Or are you trying to budget your expenses on food and eat more responsibly? If the answer is yes, you are welcome on board!
Now, let me explain you the benefits of healthy cooking at home in dollar signs.
Imagine, you ordered a cup of your favorite soup. It costs about 5-7$, right? Do you realize that you can make a big pot of soup at home for that much money? You can feed the entire family for the price of one. Yes, you can.
On top of the money savings, cooking at home gives you complete control of your food. In simple words, you will know for sure what goes in that soup.
I agree that cooking at home can be time consuming. But it doesn’t have to be. I manage to whip up dinner on a busy day in 20-30 mins. By now, I’ve collected enough easy healthy recipes not to stress about that.
Definitely, healthy cooking at home will save you money and will give you peace of mind.
And don’t worry about “wasting” your time on cooking! You are ultimately doing one of the noblest things and feeding yourself and others.
Pro tip: Slow cookers can become your best friend in the kitchen.
Soups are great in so many ways! First of all, they are fast to make.
Second, you can make a big batch at once.
Third, you can utilize your leftovers. There are so many varieties of soups you can prepare. Don’t even get me started!
Forth, soups are inexpensive and light - making them one of the healthiest options for dinner.
Grab your FREE Meal Planner and a Grocery Shopping List HERE.
BE PROUD OF YOURSELF
It is hard work to be a healthy eater in the world where we are surrounded by all kinds of culinary seductions! If you accomplished that goal even for a short period of time, be proud of yourself! Enjoy the feeling! That will give you motivation to continue.
If you've got family and managed to feed them a healthy diet, you are allowed to brag about it left and right!
Enjoy your healthy eater lifestyle and remember....