Whether they’re trying to lose weight or just looking to improve their diets so they’ll have more energy and feel better, consumers on a budget have the cards stacked against them.
Many specialty diet foods cost a small fortune, but preparing them at home takes up time that most budget-conscious dieters just don’t have.
This article will introduce eight expert tips intended to make eating healthy on a budget or in a time crunch a little easier.
Pay attention to individual needs
Every person has slightly different dietary requirements, so learning to eat better requires dieters to pay careful attention to their bodies and how they’re responding to adding extra nutrients or taking them away. Fad diets tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating and weight loss.
For some people, the ketogenic diet will work great but for others, it might pose a risk of kidney damage. Similarly, the Whole 30 diet helps some people restrict their intake of foods like gluten that may cause GI distress but it causes others to become discouraged due to how restrictive it is.
The key isn’t to pick a diet that’s trending right now and follow it to a T, but to take what works and create a plan that incorporates plenty of healthy foods.
Read nutrition labels
Some foods pack more bang for the buck when it comes to nutrition. It makes more sense to determine the value of a food product based not on its dollar amount alone but also on its nutrient density.
When heading to the store to stock up the pantry, pay attention to nutrition labels and come up with a budget that accounts for calories per dollar value.
Generally speaking, meat, fish, and fresh produce all tend to have a fairly high calorie per dollar value, while potatoes, beans, and grains are all relatively inexpensive. Dairy products tend to fall somewhere in the middle but they provide essential nutrients, so don’t neglect them.
Buy in bulk
Buy essential, non-perishable items in bulk to take advantage of extra savings and ensure that they’re always on hand. Things like oil, vinegar, and spices keep almost indefinitely, as do canned vegetables, fish, beans, pasta, rice, and frozen fruits.
Since these items tend to be inexpensive and form the basis of a variety of meals, it’s a great idea to stock up any time they’re on sale.
Cook in bulk
Just like buying in bulk saves money, cooking in bulk can save healthy eaters a lot of time. Come up with a healthy, balanced, and tasty meal and cook a large portion for later use.
A large pot of soup, for example, can be stored in the fridge and eaten throughout the week or frozen for later use if it gets boring. This cooking strategy will make it easy for home chefs to make the most of their kitchen time.
Use lots of spices
One reason that consumers have trouble sticking to healthy diets while eating at home is that many home chefs don’t know how to use spices and just tossing a bunch of salt in everything isn’t very healthy.
Many spices are expensive by weight, but chefs only need to use a little bit of them so they’re worth the money.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices, and use plenty of onions, garlic, and other plants from this family for extra flavor.
Hot peppers are also both affordable and flavorful, so consumers who like them spicy may want to either stock up on dried peppers or add fresh ones to their weekly shopping lists.
Buy cheaper cuts of meat
Meat, fish, and chicken are all rich in protein and other essential nutrients but they can be expensive. Try looking for cheaper cuts of meat or buy whole chickens and turkeys and process the meat at home.
This latter solution requires a little bit more flexibility in terms of storage space and it takes some extra time, but if chefs choose a day when they have a few extra hours after grocery shopping, they’ll be able to stock up on meat for the week without spending a small fortune.
Buy fresh produce In season
There are both health benefits and economic benefits to buying fresh produce when it’s in season. It usually costs less, for one thing.
For another, produce that is not in season must be transported thousands of miles before it gets to the store, which means it is usually picked before it’s ripe, giving it less flavor and depleting it of vital nutrients. It’s fine to buy extra produce and freeze it, too.
Start a garden or get creative
Starting a produce garden takes a little bit of time but it saves a ton of money. Even if they only have small yards or balconies, consumers can start container gardens to grow herbs, microgreens, tomatoes, beans, and other tasty crops.
Most modern crops are easier to grow than new gardeners might think and they require relatively little attention once they’ve gotten established.
Those who don’t have space for any kind of garden might need to get a bit more creative if they want to cut their production costs back to zero.
They can try signing up for a plot at a community garden or, if they’re particularly adventurous, they can start learning about harvesting and foraging wild foods.
Even most cities have enough green spaces to accommodate a wide variety of wild edibles and many go out of their way to plant fruit and nut trees along residential streets.
The bottom line
Eating healthier requires a little time and effort, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. By using shopping techniques like bulk ordering, buying spices, and incorporating more affordable foods into their diets, consumers can start cooking healthier and tastier meals at home instead of resorting to expensive pre-prepared meals or eating out.
Most can do so without even significantly raising their monthly food budgets. Just follow the tips above and try to stay on track to a healthier lifestyle.