Healthy Food Can Be Really Expensive — Here's How I Lost Weight on a Budget
Everything about losing weight can feel tough, from finding the motivation to exercise on days that you just want to watch Netflix, to fighting the temptation to indulge in the doughnuts your coworker brought in. It seems unfair, really, that your budget can add another layer of stress to the situation — but I learned the hard way that healthy food often comes with a higher price tag.
I'll admit that I struggled when I first decided to clean up my eating habits and get in better shape. But eventually, I came to realize that you don't have to drain your bank account to eat delicious, nutritious food. Here are the tricks I learned through trial and error that can help you eat healthy and lose weight, without destroying your budget.
Start Planning Your Meals in Advance
Planning out your menu ahead of time means you'll only buy the ingredients you need and won't spend money on things you won't use. Plus, you'll ensure that you have the most essential nutrients on every plate — including protein, fiber, and healthy fats, all of which can help keep cravings at bay. And if there's anything specific you want to eliminate from your diet (like refined sugar or dairy), meal planning can help with those goals, too.
Eat Lots and Lots of Plants
Meat can be expensive, and while you don't have to avoid it completely, I found that building roughly half my meals around plants helped cut down on my shopping budget. Protein-rich foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — and even animal-product-based items like eggs and cheese — are less expensive than cuts of meat, while still helping to keep you on track with your goals. Eat a heaping portion of vegetables at every meal, too, as they're very filling.
Don't Shop For Food When You're Hungry
It might sound simple, but this is something that can be detrimental to your budget. A lot of us do our shopping after work, during our lunch hour, or even first thing in the morning — all times when we should be snacking or eating a meal, but instead feel the need to multitask.
When you're hungry, you just don't think as clearly. You might grab what you want in that moment, instead of sticking to your plan for the week ahead. Or, if you're anything like me, you'll be hangry and grab whatever you can to get out of the store quickly. So, the next time you go to the supermarket, make sure you're not doing it on an empty stomach.
Eat What's in Season and Available Locally
Eating local and in-season fruits and vegetables is always a great way to save money and eat healthy. By choosing to buy local produce, you sidestep any extra fees that were added to ship exotic or out-of-season fruits and vegetables to your neighborhood. This is also a great way to support local farms and give back to your community.
Buy Dry Ingredients in Bulk
Dry ingredients will become your new best friend. Grains like quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta have a place in any weight-loss plan, and there are so many quick dishes you can make with them when you keep your kitchen fully stocked.
All you have to do is add some sauce, herbs, spices, and veg, and your healthy meal is all set. So, buy grains in bulk, ideally unpackaged — an option that's available in stores like Whole Foods and much cheaper than buying branded versions.
Claim the Produce No One Else Wants
Fruits and vegetables should make up a large part of your diet when you're trying to lose weight, which means you'll need to buy a whole lot of produce. Fortunately, some supermarkets sell "ugly" fruits and vegetables that are perfectly edible, but deemed too imperfect for the shelves because of ripped packaging or a damaged appearance. Seek those foods out, and also watch for items that have a shorter sell-by date, as the price is often reduced on these foods as well.
Pack Your Own Snacks
Snacking is one of the biggest culprits that can keep you from reaching your weight-loss goals, or at least that's true of overly processed snacks, which are often packed with sugar. Buying your snacks premade can also be expensive, so try making your own — even something as simple as a quarter cup of raw almonds can help power you through the afternoon.