I’ll be honest – I’m not someone who obsessively counts her calories or completely eliminates certain food group for months on end. Plus, I’ve been conditioned to believe that ‘healthy’ also means ‘unnecessarily costly’, thanks to the likes of juice cleanse programs and fancy “healthy” options.
As it turns out, there are a multitude of ways to eat healthy regularly while you’re on a stringent budget. I was just too occupied with whining about how much cheaper a Ramly burger costs as opposed to a bland bowl of salad to notice:
Plan your meals
The rule of thumb to saving money at the grocery store will always be to plan ahead. Use one day of the week to plan what you’re going to prepare at home and then make a list based off that. Also important – make sure to scan your fridge and pantry prior to making that list so you don’t buy anything you already have.
Keep it sustainable (for you)
Budget-wise, that is. If that bag of organic/non-GMO apples cost way more than a bag of regular apples, buy regular apples. If you have an option to buy a large and inexpensive cut of meat instead of a premium package that’s only enough for two, always get large and inexpensive. Cheaper cuts of meat work well in stir-fries, soups or stews and since you’re buying a larger piece, you could stretch it out for more than one meal! Don’t stress yourself spending half your paycheck on a new diet fad’s list of approved groceries and stick to something that works for you.
Stick to your list religiously
It’s very easy to get sidetracked when you’re at a grocery store as you’re just constantly being confronted by stuff. A bar of chocolate seems harmless to add ot your basket…until you see another bar of chocolate that seems way better than that first one. You’ll soon find yourself with a “should I get this or that?” conundrum and end up getting both because “they’re fairly affordable”. Don’t go down this rabbit hole and stick. To. Your. List.
Whole foods or no food
I know alot of people who would much rather buy a container of peeled garlic cloves or cut fruits or a bag of shredded cheese, which is fine if you’re not too worried about buying several containers to make sure you’re getting the quantities you need. Just bear in mind that the labour that goes into peeling, cutting and repackaging costs a pretty penny (the extra packaging that comes with isn’t the best for the environment either).
Not all canned foods are bad for you
A 250-300 g of salmon fillet could easily cost you RM30, but a can of salmon in water would only cost you RM10 or less. Both items are packed with the same omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and the only difference is how much you’re paying for it. Plus, you could make some pretty awesome burger patties out of canned salmon. While you’re in the canned food aisle, make sure to stock up on some high-protein stuff like beans (if that’s on your shopping list for the week).
Frozen vegetables and fruits are better for you than you think
Though fresh produce seems ideal and looks better when it’s sat in your pantry, science proves that frozen fruits and vegetables contain way more nutrients than fresh produce. After the third day of harvest, the nutrient content in fresh fruits and vegetables significantly drops. Frozen fruits and vegetable are usually processed shortly after picking and you really don’t have to worry about rushing to use it before it starts limping in the vegetable crisper.
Buy in bulk
It is often cheaper to buy essentials like whole grains, canned and dry goods, frozen produce or even oils in larger quantities than to continuosly buy a little at a time. It all adds up, eventually.
Stop buying salad dressing
Seriously, stop it. Instead, add ingredients for a simple salad dressing recipe to your list! If you’ve got olive oil, dijon mustard and some honey, you’ve already got the main ingredients for a classic honey mustard vinaigrette. Just add some garlic for some punch and don’t forget to season your vinaigrette.
Invest in spices
I use the word “invest” because it does cost quite abit to pay for a jar of spice upfront, but it could last you a couple of months in addition to making your food taste better. So don’t shy away from spending on spices, just make sure to incorporate them whenever possible!
Cook at home and in bulk
Cooking in bulk will really save you a lot of time and money. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind eating the same thing several days a week, make a big pot of stew or something on the weekend for the entire week. If not, just cook a little extra for lunch or dinner the next day and have that. Cooking gets monotonous at times so it’s important to always try to get the most out of your cooking time. Also remember to season your food so that it actually tastes good for you. There’s really no point in putting in all the work if you’re just going to waste everything later.
Do you have any tips for eating healthy on a budget? Sound off in comments below!