The obesity epidemic in America is claiming more lives every year, causing health complications like heart disease and diabetes, and one of the worst parts is that it affects those who are least prepared to deal with it, the poor. Unlike centuries past, when being poor meant laboring in fields, and only the very wealthy had enough resources to actually get fat, in modern times, it’s reversed. Physical labor is less and less a part of the workforce, and the struggle isn’t about access to food, but about access to quality food and exercise. But just because you’re not loaded doesn’t mean that you can’t stay healthy on a cheap budget.
Plan Ahead (and Stick to the Plan)
Before you go to the grocery store, write down a list first. Don’t just choose haphazardly, either. Plan out the meals that you will be making for the week, determine what ingredients are in each. Develop a set of courses for every meal. And when you get to the grocery store, stick to your plan! Don’t grab any extra things off your list just because they looked tasty, and especially don’t go to the grocery store hungry, or you might not be able to help yourself.
Don’t Waste Food
The average household wastes roughly a quarter of the food they buy, which is, frankly, an absurd amount. Part of that is due to the misleading expiration dates on many foods. The government doesn’t actually control or set those dates, they’re just put there to make consumers feel comfortable, and they aren’t based on any real science. Get rid of food if it seems like it’s gone bad, not because it’s a couple days after an arbitrary date. In addition, never shy away from eating leftovers; they’re basically a free meal.
Chose the Frozen Variety
Very often, the frozen variety of a fruit or vegetable costs much less than their fresh counterpart. Obviously, this depends on what you intend on using the produce for; no one wants to bite into a previously frozen apple. But if you’re going to be cooking with it anyway, the frozen version isn’t any worse or less nutrition than the fresh.
Stay in Season
Always buy fresh produce that’s in season, since it will cost less than getting it out of season. Getting out of season fruits and vegetables require long transportation from regions far off, which means, not only are they more expensive, they’re also generally less fresh and lower quality.
Generic food isn’t automatically worse than the brand name. Granted, as much as you can, you should be avoiding prepackaged foods, but if they’re a necessity, go for the supermarket version. Usually, it’s just the same thing in a different box.
Go For Produce
If you’re a heavy meat-eater, that might be cutting into your budget a bit. Meat is one of the most expensive foods that you can buy. You don’t have to shut out meat entirely, but limiting it more will not only help out your budget, it will also be better for your circulatory system and your cholesterol.
Freeze Your Bread
Another source of that food waste I mentioned before is that bread goes bad relatively quickly. If you buy an entire loaf, it can be unhealthy to eat that much grain before it would go bad. Since there’s no way to buy individual slices, freeze your bread after you use it, holding in the freshness and making sure it doesn’t go bad.
Don’t Avoid Cheap Cuts
Cheap cuts of meat aren’t necessarily bad for you, they can just be tougher and hard to deal with. If you’re willing, though, they can be just as healthy and taste just as good as the prime cut meats. Learn recipes that can make good use out of cheaper cuts, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Do Your Homework
The biggest part of shopping healthy is knowing what to buy, and the only way to do that, is to learn recipes. Search online, try to find recipes that sound like you’d like them that are comprised of inexpensive ingredients. It will not only save you money, it will also widen your repertoire when it comes to cooking.
Don’t make a bunch of food and then eat until you’re full. Either make a specific amount of food, based on how much that you’ll be eating that sitting, or make a larger dish that is to be separated into specific portions, and have those other portions as future meals. No matter what, every bit of food that you are cooking should generally be accounted for.
Get the Whole Chicken
A whole chicken costs much less than the equivalent in chicken parts. That’s because you’re paying for the labor, separating, sometimes deboning, and packaging of the chicken. If you instead just purchase a whole rotisserie chicken, you can save a whole bunch of money. Figure out different recipes for different parts of the bird, just try to make sure to use every bit of it.
No Junk Food
Junk food is a killer in multiple ways. For one, all that processing and packaging and advertising costs money. A bag of potato chips will always cost way more than it’s caloric equivalent in produce. Junk food is expensive, and buying a lot will ruin your budget. Furthermore, it just about goes without saying that junk food is extremely bad for you. Out of every option on this list, if you just cut out junk food entirely, and that means anything that’s processed or has added sugars, including drinks, you will have the largest impact on your health and your wallet.
Don’t Eat Out (and Pack a Lunch)
When you go out to eat, you’re paying for the convenience of not having to cook. If you’re well off, then you can afford that convenience, but if you’ve gotten this far, then you’re not. Avoid eating out on all but special occasions. Especially when you go to work, always bring a lunch with you, as even just buying a sandwich every day for lunch adds up massively over time.