If you're determined to get healthy this year and are working on a tight budget, you might be wondering how to save money on the basics. It's easier to put together cheap meals for weight loss or just to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you know how and where to shop. You can get healthy without making too many compromises with the right game plan. Here are 10 easy ways to bundle your plans to save money and get healthy.
1. Shop the Farmers Market for Produce
You'll get first dibs on the latest crops of the season and can save money on salad essentials and fresh veggies for roasting or stewing when shopping the farmers market. The farmers market can be your go-to destination for all types of fresh foods and you won't be paying premium prices for items like bagged salad mixes.
When you've made your rounds at the farmers market, consider making your own bagged salad mixes if you want some variety or canning some of your favorite fruits and veggies of the season to use a few months later. Pick up different types of in-season fruits and veggies you haven't tried before to add some new flavors to your plate and beat diet boredom.
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2. Plan Around Produce and Protein Sales
"Eating healthy on a budget is a bit of a game," says Erin Chase of $5 Dinners. "You plan ahead based around the produce and protein sales, and then mix and match ingredients that you purchased on sale to transform them into delicious and healthful meals."
Some other money saving tips to help you trim down the budget include seeking out special savings on in-store flyers and the weekly paper for coupons and deals. Buying these foods each week can help you eat a healthy diet and save money.
3. Create a ‘3-Part Plate’ Meal
Chase says she focuses on the three essential parts of the dinner plate — the starch, vegetable and protein — to make a complete meal. This can help you achieve your healthy living goals even when you're on a tight budget. You can often find vegetables and protein on sale or at a discount at the grocery store which helps you stay on budget. Her favorite 3-part plate meal? Lemon Garlic Salmon that includes salmon bought on sale with some steamed broccoli and brown rice.
4. Work With a Meal Plan
If you don't decide what to buy until you get to the grocery store, you could end up loading your cart with extra foods you don't need. You might also cave into your latest craving on those last-minute food runs. Putting together a meal plan of healthy meals and a list of ingredients can help you figure out exactly what you need — and what can be cut out of your budget this week.
Meal planning can also make it easier to avoid those last-minute fast food runs that can easily do some diet damage. Use a simple budget template to organize your grocery pickups so you know your spending limits.
5. Trade Soda for Water
Bottled water purchases have already surpassed carbonated soft drink consumption in the United States, according to the latest report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Cutting back on sugar calories found in popular brands of soft drinks could help you diet smarter and also save you money — especially if you're buying generic bottled water and seeking out discounts at warehouse clubs for bulk buys.
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6. Eat More Whole Foods
When you're trying to live a healthy lifestyle, it's best to skip the boxed and processed foods in favor of more fresh and whole ingredients. Chase says, "You have to be strategic with the way you 're-allocate' your grocery dollars." Shopping the perimeter of the store instead of the aisles can lead you to fresher and more wholesome foods. You can save money on groceries and, in some cases, on health bills as you keep up with your healthy living goals.
7. Cook From Scratch
Eating out can derail your diet and also eat up your hard-earned money. Making more meals at home can help you exercise more calorie and portion control so you stick to your diet goals and can also help you save money. Even though many restaurants provide health tips on the menu to help you find vegetarian, low-calorie, or gluten-free options, you won't always know all the ingredients or nutritional value of the foods you order. Eating at home more often than not can help you keep tabs on everything that ends up on your plate and make it easier to make healthy choices.
8. Cook in Bulk
As you get into the habit of cooking meals from scratch, seek out recipes for larger portions and bulk cooking so you don't waste any ingredients. You can buy produce and meat when it's on sale, in bulk, and then cook up large batches of soups and entrees to freeze.
Just make sure you label your foods going into the freezer so you don't end up throwing out food that isn't as fresh as it should be a few weeks or months down the road. As long as you organize your cooking and meals in this way, this approach can help you eat well without blowing the budget.
9. Flavor Meals With Spices
Skip the heavily salted recipes and meals for some fresh new flavors. You can easily make chicken several different ways by using a combination of different spices for as a chicken rub. Buying spices foods in bulk at the grocery store, natural foods store, online, or even bulk bin destinations like Bulk Nation can help you save money.
10. Portion Out Your Own Snacks
Most health-conscious consumers know that eating healthy snacks like nuts, trail mix or other wholesome snacks can tide you over to the next meal without doing too much diet damage. You can find pre-portioned bags of nuts and other snacks at the grocery store but these are priced at a premium — you're paying for the convenience of having it portioned out for you into a serving size.
An easy way to save money is to buy your snacks in bulk instead and portion them up in your own baggies or containers. It's an extra step that won't take a lot of time and will also reduce the amount of packaging going into the dumpster or landfills.