They say you are what you eat, and that’s pretty much true. If you eat unhealthy foods that are loaded with fat and sugar, you will be unhealthy. If you eat fresh, unprocessed, nutritious foods, you will be healthy. But when you’re on a budget, that notion tends to be passed over in favor of whatever is cheap.
At first glance, eating healthy may seem terribly expensive. Fresh meats can tack a lot onto your grocery bill. And those exotic fruits you’ve always wanted to try just never seem to go on sale. It’s tempting to just grab a week’s supply of those dinners in a box that cost a dollar or two each and be done with it.
But eating healthy on a budget isn’t as impossible as it seems. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can actually eat healthy for less than you would pay to eat a diet full of junk food. Here are some tips.
* Include more beans and pasta in your diet. Dried beans are very inexpensive, and they keep forever. The same is true for many types of pasta, as long as it is not packaged with sauce or other seasonings.
* Buy in bulk. The aforementioned beans are sold by the pound at some stores, so you can buy them without paying for expensive packaging. When other healthy foods with long shelf lives go on sale, stock up on them. By allocating just $10 or so of your food budget each week to bulk purchases, you will eventually have a well-stocked pantry and can spend less on your weekly shopping.
* Stock up on lean meats when they go on sale. Or better yet, buy larger cuts from a butcher and slice it up yourself. When frozen properly, meat can be stored for several months.
* Buy fresh fruits and vegetables as close as possible to their natural state. Instead of buying baby carrots, buy regular ones and peel and cut them. Buy heads of lettuce instead of bags of salad greens. You’ll pay much less by foregoing those little conveniences and preparing things yourself.
* Avoid exotic fruits and vegetables and those that are not in season in your area. Buying things that grow locally might limit your choices slightly, but it can save you money. You’ll also get much fresher produce this way.
* Visit your local farmer’s market. There you can find fruits and veggies at much lower prices than you would in the grocery store. They can afford to sell things cheaper because there’s no fancy packaging, the overhead costs are low and the goods do not have to be transported very far.
* Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs. If you have room for a large garden, that’s great. But even if you just grow some herbs and tomatoes in pots, you can save yourself some money.
* Grow extra fruits and veggies (or buy them when they’re cheap) and freeze or can them. Canning involves a learning curve, but the foods you can will last a very long time. Many fresh foods freeze well, and you can keep them in the freezer for up to a year in some cases.
Eating healthy foods doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you buy the right things at the right time, you can feed your family delicious, nutritious foods for less than you would pay for convenience foods with little to no nutritional value.