Healthy food can be expensive. Therefore, it can be difficult to eat well when you’re on a tight budget. However, there are many ways to save money and still eat whole, single-ingredient foods. Here are 17 clever tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget.
1. Snag Free Health Apps
There are about 3,000 iTunes applications designed to boost your health and fitness and many are free. MyNetDiary has 91,000 foods in its database to help you plan healthy meals, and its community forum is reviewed by a registered dietitian. Free Menstrual Calendar helps you predict your periods and fertile days. Runkeeper uses GPS tracking for runners who want to keep tabs on their distance, speed, and calories burned.
2. Sign Up for a Prescription Savings Program
Many pharmacies offer programs that give you cheaper meds for a small annual cost. For an enrollment fee of $10, for instance, CVS allows you to fill a 90-day prescription for one of more than 400 generic medications for $10 each. At WalMart, you can buy a month’s worth of generic meds for $4 each (or a 90-day supply for $10) with no up-front fee.
3. Use Coupons
Sign up for a service that sends you exactly what you need from discounts on healthy frozen entrees ($2 off five Lean Cuisine meals at Target, for example) to organic, gluten-free, or all-natural foods for a small handling fee. Try TheCouponClippers.com, TheCouponMaster.com, or Health.com’s sister site AllYou.
4. Eat Organic For Cheap
Buy organically grown food. You don’t need certified organic, just organically grown. Some farmers use organic farming practices but have chosen not to become certified organic because of the added red tape and expenses. This means you can often buy organic fruits and veggies from these farmers for around 50% less than what the certified farmers charge.
5. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
If you go grocery shopping while you’re hungry, you’re liable to wind up with a cart filled with foods that curb your cravings: snack bars, pretzels, and more crackers than you know what do to with. These convenience foods are among the most expensive in the supermarket and add little nutritional value to your diet. So next time you go shopping, avoid temptation and go on a full stomach.
6. Bargain Hard
Many health clubs and gyms are willing to cut you deals or give you free passes to try their facilities. Bally Total Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and 24 Hour Fitness offer free seven-day trials. Remember that everything is negotiable. And once you’re a member, train with a buddy to cut trainer costs in half, or sign up for 30-minute training sessions instead of hour-long ones. Besides it being cheaper, the shorter workout may move faster and be more intense.
7. Stop Wasting Food
Embarrassed by how much overdue food you toss out each week? That waste can add up to hundreds of dollars a year! Cut your losses by using a food vacuum sealer (Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s), which preps meats, fruits, and vegetables for long-term freezer storage. Simply defrost the frozen ingredients when you’re ready to use them. Or stock up on Oxy-Sorb Oxygen Food Packets ($9.99): They neutralize the food-spoiling ethylene gas that produce releases in the fridge as it ripens.
8. Strike a Pose
Try your Downward Dog for free (or pretty cheap), thanks to the Internet. Every week, Yoga Today streams a free, one-hour class. (Downloads cost $4.) Yoga increases flexibility and strength, relieves stress and controls weight, and lowers risks of heart disease and sleep problems.
9. Cook at Home
The best way to stretch your food budget is to eat in more often. A takeout lunch can cost $10 or more, but you can make a sandwich or have soup and salad from home for around $2. Pack lunches in Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid 42-Piece Food Storage Container Set from Amazon for just $19.99.
10. Eat More Eggs
Eggs are easy on your diet and your budget. Two large eggs have around 150 calories. Combine with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese and whatever veggies are on sale, and you have a healthy treat that won’t break your calorie bank. Use caution though if you have heart disease, or are at risk for heart disease.
11. Buy in Bulk
Hit up bulk stores with a group but be sure to bring only your healthy-minded friends along. It’s hard to beat prices at retailers like Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse, but few families can go through a big bushel of bananas before they go bad. You won’t feel guilty loading up on your favorite fresh produce if you’re splitting the cost, but steer clear of processed-food aisles. Just because there’s a deal on an economy-size box of Oreos, doesn’t mean you should fall for it.
12. Skip the Gourmet Coffee
Quit that expensive Starbucks habit. Instead of ordering a $4 cappuccino, make yourself a cup of coffee at home. Amazon always has good deals on coffee makers and coffee (Peet’s Coffee). Use a whisk to whip up some steamed skim milk on your stove top, and add a dash of cinnamon. Spices like cinnamon are low-cal and low-cost, plus they’re full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making them a great investment for your long-term health.
13. Eat More Vegetables
The foods that cost the most per serving are high-quality proteins (i.e., beef, poultry, and seafood). Consider this: Salmon costs about 62 cents an ounce and beans cost 4 cents an ounce, making the salmon 15 times more expensive than the beans. When you do eat meat, make it go further financially by adding a lot more vegetables to the dish.
14. Compare Prices
Using the unit pricing system (shelf tags), you can do your own price checks on comparable items to see which offers the best deal. Unit pricing provides the price per standard unit, often 1 ounce. For example, Tropicana orange juice costs 9 cents an ounce, but the exotic pomegranate-blueberry juice next to it is 25 cents an ounce more than twice the price. In the cereal aisle, most big brands are around 30 cents an ounce, but store brands are about 15 cents an ounce, or half the price. Check out the apps ShopSavvy and BuyVia for price comparisons.
15. Buy From Cheap, Online Retailers
There are several online retailers that offer healthy foods for up to 50% cheaper. By registering, you get access to daily discounts and deals. What’s more, the products are then delivered straight to your door. Amazon has a huge selection of nonperishable grocery items, but its two main strengths are its extensive variety of organic and otherwise hard-to-find foods, and the ability to get a discount on many items through the Subscribe & Save program.
16. Stock Up on Sales
If you have favorite products or staples that you use frequently, you should stock up on them when they’re on sale. If you’re sure that it’s something you’ll definitely use, you may as well stock up and save a little money. Just make sure that it will last for a while and won’t expire in the meantime. It will not save you any money to buy something you’ll end up throwing out later on. Amazon offers great stock deals on healthy snacks/groceries.
17. Stick to Your Grocery List
Once you’ve planned your meals and made your grocery list, stick to it. It’s very easy to get sidetracked at the grocery store, which can lead to unintended, expensive purchases. As a general rule, try to shop the perimeter of the store first. This will make you more likely to fill your cart with whole foods. The middle of the store often contains the most processed and unhealthy foods. If you find yourself in these aisles, look to the top or bottom of the shelves rather than straight ahead. The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level.
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