Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

You know me- I'm all about eating healthy, on a minimal budget. So this guest post by Mark was totally up my alley!

If you’ve ever tried to eat healthily, you may have noticed how expensive it can get. If you plan and strategize, though, you can absolutely maintain a high-quality, nutritious diet and also stick with your budget. Here are five strategies you can use to save some money while also eating well.

One tried-and-true way to save money on all groceries is to buy packaged items in bulk. This strategy is something people often think of in terms of snacks and things like that, but it absolutely works for healthful food items as well. Packaged foods like pasta, quinoa and protein bars can be bought in bulk for great discounts. You can use this strategy at normal grocery stores, but to save even more, you may want to consider shopping at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco. To make sure you’re saving money, compare the cost per ounce of the larger package to the cost per ounce of the smaller package. It’s often possible to get a significantly lower cost per ounce when you’re buying larger packages.

When you visit the produce section, you’ll see a couple of different options. There are raw, whole fruits and vegetables as well as pre-cut, pre-packaged fruits and vegetables. While the packaged fruits and veggies -- sliced pineapples, corn that’s already been shucked, etc. -- are extremely convenient, they’re also extremely expensive. If you’re trying to keep your costs down, you absolutely must buy the raw, whole produce. It’s exponentially cheaper and it’s not all that hard to cut fruits down into the sizes you need. If you really don’t have the time to prepare them, focus on produce that doesn’t require much preparation. So rather than, say, pineapples, go for apples. Buying fruits and vegetables in this manner is one of the easiest ways to save money and keep your diet super healthy.

Instead of adding unhealthy sauces and dressings, consider using a mix of herbs and spices to enhance the food you’re making. Some fresh sage, oregano or basil can make such a huge difference in a dish that could be bland without some extras. Though buying fresh herbs can be pretty expensive, there’s a very easy solution in growing your own herbs. Most herbs don’t require a garden, nor do they even need to be grown outside, so you can absolutely grow herbs even if you live in an apartment. You can buy everything you need -- soil, seeds and pots -- at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot for basically nothing. After you plant the seeds, set the pots on a windowsill and ensure they get the sun exposure and water they need. You’ll have all the fresh herbs you need in just a few weeks.

Snacks are basically the only type of food that are actually cheaper to buy healthily. Potato chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos -- they are all very expensive. Healthier snacks like raisins, sunflower seeds and popcorn you make on the stove are all incredibly cheap and offer lots of health benefits. Of course, some healthy snacks can be quite expensive as well. Things like pre-packaged banana chips can cost a pretty penny. If you have the time and the desire, you can make snacks like kale chips, banana chips and more on your own in the oven.

One other great way to save money on healthy foods is by making your own juice. You do have to have a blender for this, of course, but it can be a really good investment. When you look at the prices of healthy and yummy juice brands like Odwalla, Pom Wonderful and Naked Juice, it really doesn’t take that long to make up the cost of the blender. You absolutely don’t have to invest in those high-end blenders like Vitamix or Blendtec and spend $400. The less expensive options work just as well as long as you cut the fruits and vegetables into smaller pieces than you normally would. This is also an excellent way to keep yourself from wasting any of the produce you weren’t going to use. Stores like Macy’s have a great selection of both high and low-end blenders to choose from.

See my disclaimer.