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Unless you’re naturally drawn to crunching on celery sticks while your buddies throwback cheeseburger sliders, eating healthy on a budget isn’t the easiest thing to do. But if you’re bent on staying fit, producing strong bones, and keeping costs low, you can make it happen.
This guide will help.
It’s an all-purpose guide for guys who want to eat the right foods but who aren’t willing to fork over half a month’s salary at Whole Foods or Nature’s Fare each week.
It’s a way to trim fat, gain strength, feel great, and generally reap all those great benefits that come your way when you eat a healthy diet.
And the best part? It doesn’t involve clipping coupons, eating Quinoa, or giving up your social life (you just may want to skip those cheeseburger sliders next time you’re out with your buds…)!
From saving money on whole foods at the supermarket to lowering your calorie intake at bars, here are the top six things you can do to eat healthy all week long (and on the cheap).
1. Revamp Your Protein Regimen With Leaner Sources
One big mistake that a lot of people make when they’re on a tight food budget is sacrificing on protein. Everyone needs protein — especially if they’re active. The key is limiting expensive cuts of red meat, which is both a gutbuster and a budget buster. And it’s full of saturated fat, which is responsible for raising your blood cholesterol and contributing to heart disease.
So, what else is there?
Lean protein is what you want to aim for. It’s lower in saturated fat and typically a more cost-effective option than steak or sausage. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or you’ve got some “help” in the kitchen by way of your spouse, choose from the following to add to the shopping list each week.
- Chicken breast
- Dried beans
- Non-fried fish
- Greek yogurt
But what do you do with these items once you get them home and you’ve unpacked them from their bags? That’s where your “protein plan” comes in.
2. Set Up a Protein Plan
The trick to eating healthy on a budget is to think like a pro boxer and make every bite count. Former pro welterweight champion Shawn Porter cooks up a customized mix of tuna, garlic, tofu, and brown rice. It’s full of protein and good carbs and also happens to be dirt cheap to prepare.
But you don’t have to be as meticulous as a welterweight champion to have good results from your protein plan. Just be on the lookout for ways to incorporate the right food items to your diet. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make lentil burgers or black bean burgers
- Skip the food truck at lunchtime and pack a tuna sandwich on whole grain bread instead
- Have a salad and add nuts or low-sodium cheese
- Add leftover chicken to a salad for dinner
- Add hard-boiled eggs to a salad
- Find a good recipe for bean soup
- Choose lean ground beef, lean ham, lean pork
3. Learn to Cook and Enjoy Whole Foods
Processed foods represent a double-whammy negative for your goals. They’re usually full of salt, sugar, and other carbs, offering little or no nutrition — and they can be expensive!
Here are a few pointers for shopping:
- Don’t buy pre-made food items and snacks
- Gather a collection of good recipes for frugal cooking
- Shop for fresh veggies and fruit, so there’s always a healthy snack option in the house
- Hunt for large, economy-sized bags of greens that can be eaten in smoothies, steamed, or eaten fresh in a salad — spinach comes to mind
- Choose sweet potatoes instead of the usual white variety
- Look for deals on frozen veggies and fruit — you get just as much nutrition, and they won’t go bad so fast
4. Eat at Home More Often
Eating at home instead of in restaurants helps you achieve both goals: it’s cheaper and it’s healthier (unless you and your spouse have a cheese fondue habit or you’ve got a pantry full of foie gras!).
It’s pretty safe to say that a family of four can eat at home for the same price you’ll pay to eat out at a restaurant on Date Night. We don’t advise cutting Date Night out of your schedule, but if you look at the rest of your week, there are probably at least a few instances where you could choose to eat at home instead of eating out.
If that means you cook for the entire week every Sunday, then find a way to make that work for you. Some people find that it’s easier to whip something up each night. If that’s more to your liking, then do yourself a favour and do a little research first. You’ll have better luck if you have a few useful tricks up your sleeve to make home cooking quick and easy.
5. Learn What to Order When Eating Out
Whether it’s pub food with the guys or fancier fare with your wife, there are always healthier, cheaper options to choose from. You just have to know how to identify them. At bars, practice moderation. The ubiquitous nut bowl on the bar? There’s your prime example of a “pretty good” snack (watch the salt) that can become a terrible idea if you don’t put a cap on your intake!
Other high-calorie temptations should be avoided altogether — like fries. And remember when we said you wouldn’t have to give up your social life to make this work? Here’s what we meant: it’s okay to go ahead and have a few beers on a Friday night after work. But skip the add-ons that usually come with a night out (fries, pizza, too many beers, pretzels, etc.).
6. Create a Personalised Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle
Budgets were never meant to be one-size-fits-all.
Eating healthy on a budget is something everyone can do. All it takes is a personalized approach — one that places your priorities front and center while also keeping an eye on the ultimate goal.
And don’t let anyone tell you that you have to give everything up — you can still find joy, even when you’re on a budget!
By creating a budget that’s customized for your priorities, you’ll create a plan that you can actually stick to. It has worked for lots of people, and it can work for you. That’s something to look forward to, since investing in a healthy lifestyle has all kinds of benefits. It strengthens your body, improves your finances, and puts you on track for achieving all of your life goals.
If one of those goals is to reduce the debt you owe, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee can help. They can look at your unique financial situation and propose a solution that’s tailored to you and your priorities in life. Talking with an LIT is free and can be the first step you take toward getting your finances — and your life — back in control. Call now — it’s free.