Starting the New Year Off Right… How to Eat Healthy for Cheap

by Ryan

Every year people from around the world set new years resolutions as they celebrate another year passed and look forward with hope into the new year. Heck I did the same thing on my post yesterday.

By far the most common goals relate to getting in shape and doing better with finances, in particular saving money or paying off debt. If you’re reading this and one, or both of those topics are your goals for this year, please remember that this is a lifestyle change that you should embrace and enjoy. It’s not something that you simply do, for 6 months to check off your list, it’s something that becomes who you are every single day for the rest of your life. It becomes a habit.

Your diet determines how you look and feel. You can exercise all you want, but if you eat a bag of donuts every morning it won’t matter. Diet is the most important aspect of losing weight, I’ve seen this happen first hand with people who’ve simply made a few adjustments in how they eat and haven’t even changed the level of physical activity. Similarly budgeting could be related to dieting in that your cutting off the fat from your life, making proper spending a habit, and purchasing only healthy choices for your life.

Being the nice guy that I am and all, I’ve decided to help you with both your weight loss and financial new years resolutions!

Here’s a list of ideas that teach you How to Eat Healthy for Cheap.

1. Set a Budget – Gain an idea of how much you’d like to spend on your grocery bill each week / month and adapt accordingly. Setting this budget may also make you realize fresh foods are often cheaper than packaged foods full of preservatives and empty calories.

2. Make it or Do it Yourself – Prepackaged meals are horrible for you for several reasons. They often contain added flavorings, extra butter, or preservatives. Similarly they are frozen which removes vitamins from vegetables and fruits, and are often more expensive than fresh foods. If you prepare meals for yourself they can be fresh, cheaper, and have more nutritional value.

3. Drink Water
– Water is the best way to clean out your system and helps speed up your metabolism. Best of all, it’s very cheap, make sure to use tap water with a filter so you’re not wasting your money on bottled water.

4. Veggies! – Eating a vegetarian diet is completely healthy and helps cut back on the high cost of meat. Personally I eat a lot of chicken for protein when weight lifting and it’s the most expensive part of my grocery bill. If you don’t need meats in your diet this is a great way to reduce the grocery bill while staying healthy.

5. Have a Shopping List Ahead of Time – Make a list so that you aren’t wasting a ton of time at the store. Once you have your list, each week you’ll be able to head to the store without thinking twice about what you need.

6. Plan a Weekly Menu – You can save a ton of time by planning your menu a week ahead and making everything for the week at once. I do my shopping and food prep for the week every Sunday night, so when Monday rolls around my week starts out right and I don’t have to think about my meals for another week.

7. Never Shop When You’re Hungry – I’m not sure what Sesame Street character you turn into when hungry, but I’m similar to the cookie monster! Anything and every sweet goes in my cart if I’m hungry at the grocery store. It’s much easier if you eat a good meal before you head over to food paradise.

8. Shop the Perimeter of the Store – All the unhealthy foods are in the middle of the store, so simply shop the perimeter of the store. When you make your list order it so that you can go top to bottom as you walk around the store.

9. Support Your Local Farmers – Farmers markets are a great way to enjoy your weekend for free, while doing your grocery shopping for fresh produce at bargain prices. Plus you’re funding your local economy and neighbors.

10. Grow Your Own
– Take some time and learn a new hobby while getting healthy. Growing a garden can be a great family activity or even provide a sense of fulfillment. I always get a kick of watching things grow whether it’s my portfolio or a tree in the backyard. Frugal dad has a great post about creating square foot gardens that are easy even for the most beginner of green thumbs.

Eating Healthy for Cheap doesn’t have to be hard. Starting out it may feel a bit like work, but eventually it will just become part of your routine. I follow most of the tips above and save a ton of time by having a list established before I go, knowing exactly what I’m looking for, and buying fresh foods. I hope you adopt some of these habits as well and enjoy having more money and a smaller waste in the new year.

Do both your wallet and health a favor in 2010 by eating healthy for cheap!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

SavingDiva January 2, 2010 at 6:38 am

Great list! I also like to look at the store’s flyer before I go shopping (while I’m making my list). It helps me get ideas for meals :)

Tracy January 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Great list Ryan!
When I moved into my present abode, I resisted the urge to buy a microwave. I found that not having an instant cooker meant I had more reasons to fix fresh food. I also have to think before I eat. There is no easy way to pop some premade frozen mystery food into a machine for easy access. I also joined a CSA. There is a post about this on my blog if you are interested. All I can say, is that my veggie intake has increased exponentially, while my junk food habit has become much harder to feed. I think the old saying: “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard” works for me.

OlivAmor January 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I believe that some of the simplest foods prepared simply make the best meals. If I may, I will add some things that I like to do:
-I try to buy what is in season (tends to be more affordable)
-I like to prepare legumes (great sources of protein, readily available & affordable as well)
-I try using up what I have (I hate throwing food out & besides, I can be pretty creative with leftovers)
-I have used a slow cooker (Good for cheaper cuts of meats. It is also good for stews & the like)
-I like to prepare soups since they are filling and do not need that many ingredients (A good way to use up veggies etc )

All the best in this new year!

Kate January 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

Great idea about shopping the Perimeter of the store. I actually have to go grocery shopping tonight and was thinking of making a menu for the week combined with a list. Reading this post just helped that to become a reality. Another great way to save on money is to actually check the ads for each grocery store in your area for the week. I know that chicken is on sale at a particular chain so I am heading there tonight.

thriftygal January 7, 2010 at 9:44 am

Do you use coupons? I am interested in clicking coupons to see if it would help keep me within my grocery budget, but that would mean going to the store twice – once to get the Sunday paper and once to actually shop. Or are you one of those super humans that can plan the weekly menu, clip the coupons and do the shopping all during the same trip?

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