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Fit & Frugal: Tips for Healthy Eating On A Budget

Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive, you just have to shop smart! I have had one hell of a time learning this myself just from experience. My budget really became a major roadblock when I moved to L.A. for several years in my early 20s; money was tight. I had roommates, I had several jobs, I downsized, I budgeted, and I still could barely make ends meet. I had to be strategic, especially because I was exercising 6 days a week, and training heavily as a professional dancer. Health was, and still is, a priority.

The cheapest healthy meal I prepped in those days was a light fried rice. It had day old brown rice, lots of scrambled eggs, peas, onions, and honestly any other veggies I had laying around. It wasn't much but it did the trick for the time being. If I had a few extra bucks I would sauté chicken and put some pieces in. I also lived off of canned tuna, and lots of beans and lentils.

Thankfully, I grew out of my early twenties, I moved back to Washington, I have a much more stable income, and I have years of practicing healthy habits (financially and nutritionally) under my belt to keep me going. I have since become vegan, which is a whole new challenge in itself. At first I wasn't sure how to eat vegan, hit my ideal macros (carbs, protein, fats), and stay within my budget, especially as a new mom.

One of the major misconceptions, specifically with vegan and healthy eating, is that it is more expensive. To a point, that can be correct, if you're not spending all your money on pre made meals, meat substitutes, fancy supplements, or shopping at luxury health stores. You can find everything at your local grocery store, farmers market, and discount/bulk item store.

Instead of substitutes, look up recipes and make things from scratch. Instead of things like frozen burger patties, turn to google and get to work! Make sure your cabinet is stocked with plenty of flavorful spices, thats the key! (Spices are really cheap in the bulk section of your store, just bring your own container.)

I think out of all the financially conscious people out there, most are concerned with their protein options when on a budget. First of all, let me ease your concern by saying I don't think I know a single soul who has ever suffered from a "protein deficiency." There is plenty of protein hiding in many foods, and these foods are not as pricey as you may think. I actually find (in my biased opinion) that plant-based eating has actually saved me money in the long run and has many more options for protein sources. For the sake of the omnivores, I made sure to include some healthy animal proteins in the list too, don't worry! For healthy carb and fat options, check out my other post about portion control.

Remember the basics: think simple, plan ahead, and be resourceful. You can be healthy and still stay in your budget!


Other money saving tips:

  1. Buy the meat whole at the deli counter and ask for it to be ground. You can save quite a few bucks by asking the butcher to grind it for you, surprisingly! Same thing with deli slices.

  2. Buy in bulk: bring your own containers and purchase things like rice, nuts, dried beans, granola, and even spices in the bulk section. Often it is much cheaper, and you can get just what you need, avoiding the pain of throwing food out after it has spoiled

  3. Look for markdowns. A lot of the time they will sell dairy for super cheap as it nears its expiration date. Grab that yogurt, and use it in your recipes, or freeze it in an ice cube tray for smoothies before it goes bad

  4. Leftover produce: if your produce is starting to wilt in the fridge, you can blanch your vegetables and freeze them, and slice your fruit for smoothies and desserts and freeze it too.

  5. If you see items on sale such as bread, meat, or cheese, you can stock up in bulk and freeze what you don't use. An even more helpful tip is to pre cook your meats and freezing them in portions for later, and shredding your cheese and freezing it for baking and throwing in recipes.

  6. Always keep veggie or chicken broth on hand, you can quickly throw together a crock pot soup from your leftovers that tastes amazing with almost anything in it! My favorite is to toss a few cans of beans in with some sautéed veggies, chia seed, and leftover rice or noodles if I have it on hand. Some other yummy ingredients could be the remainder of a rotisserie chicken, or make a taco soup after taco night by throwing all the leftovers in with some cumin and paprika. Go crazy, get creative! If you have tons of leftover soup, portion it out in some freezer bags, freeze it, and save for later.

  7. Shop around the outside section of the store first before hitting the aisles. Typically the lean proteins and produce are around the edges of the store, and the processed and prepackaged foods are in the center. Fill your cart with the healthier whole foods first.

  8. Make as much as you can from scratch. Get crafty: make your own freezer meals like breakfast sandwiches or burrito bowls. Create your own salads instead of prepackaged, homemade pizza instead of frozen.

  9. Buy produce that is in season. Check google for a list of in-season foods before you plan your meals. If you see fruit or veggies that are wildly on sale, stock up and freeze! (see number 4)

  10. Buy "ugly" produce. Sometimes at the store you'll find an end cap or shelf with all the misshapen fruits and veggies, ugly baked goods, and more. They're always significantly cheaper than the "pretty" foods (newsflash: they taste the same!)

9 times out of 10, the store brand version is nearly identical to the name brand. Shop smart, check the nutrition labels and compare. You'll save lots in the long run.

Got questions? Have some other great suggestions? Let's talk!


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