You went to work this morning like any other day — but things were different when you arrived. Your boss announced the company is cutting back hours, and you are one of the employees affected. Your plan to go to that fancy new restaurant down the street for lunch has been nixed and you have realized that your days of restaurant-hopping are coming to an end. How can you continue to eat well now that your budget has suddenly been dramatically reduced?
Avoid Junk Food and Eating Out
Financial stress can lead to many bad habits as people look for ways to momentarily escape from the situation. These can include alcohol, smoking, gambling, and eating junk food to comfort themselves. Not only will indulging these crutches cost you money; they can also contribute to declining health.
Fast food may be a quick way to get something in your stomach, but the quality of the food is not conducive to a healthy body. Studies have linked a high intake of fast food to a number of health conditions, such as digestive issues, obesity, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. It may seem like a quick and cheap fix to keep you fed in trying times, but in the end, it could cost you far more than you saved.
Eating out at fancy restaurants will also need to be put on hold. These may be a convenient way to get food and relax, but they tend to be pricey. When you are on a tight budget, cooking your meals at home will be cheaper, as you can manage the types of food you purchase and you won’t have to tip your server.
A common belief among most Americans is that eating healthy is expensive. This is a misconception though as, when done right, eating healthy can actually save you money. For starters, when you are eating a well-balanced, healthy diet you end up getting full faster and therefore eat less. A good diet will provide you with the nutrients your body needs and therefore fill you up with less consumption.
If you prepare large enough meals, you will also have leftovers that can feed you for days at a time. With a little bit of planning, you can refrigerate or freeze portions of the food you cook to be convenient meals at later dates. There is a reason Grandma used to cook enough food to feed an army.
Before you head out to the store, make a list of the items you want to purchase to help avoid impulse buys. This can be a good way to save you money when under financial strain. On the other hand, if you find a sale on an item you know you will use a lot of, stock up with as much as you can afford at the time. Something on sale that you don’t usually buy? Take a moment to consider how you could use it. Make sure you can properly store whatever you buy, too. Spoiled food is the same as throwing money in the trash.
Purchasing whole foods is a good way to save money when shopping. A block of cheese will usually cost less than buying the same quantity of cheese that has been shredded and bagged for your convenience. Unprocessed foods tend to be cheaper than their processed counterparts and come in larger quantities, so they provide more bang for your buck.
Generic brands are another way to save money when preparing meals for yourself. All food products must meet the same safety standards. Generic products are often the same quality as big brand name equivalents, just at a fraction of the cost. You should check the ingredients list on these products prior to purchasing them, though, just to be sure.
How to Eat Healthily
Eating healthy begins at the grocer. When you go shopping for food, make sure you go in with a list of specific items to purchase. Make meal plans and stick to them. Once you are in the store, stick to the outside ring as most of the inner aisles are filled with processed foods that aren’t going to fit in with your new lifestyle. You are going to want to fill your cart with fresh produce and whole foods that you can prepare yourself. The last tip for the store — and this is a big one — is to make sure you never go shopping when you are hungry. If you go in hungry, you will be much more likely to make random purchases of products that are not on your grocery list.
Cooking your meals also puts the entire process under your control. You will determine what goes into your meals and can make sure you are not adding unhealthy ingredients that may be present in restaurant food. With careful planning, a family of four can eat a home-cooked meal for the same price as two people would pay at a restaurant.
If your palate is accustomed to restaurant-quality tastes, you can spice up your meals with a variety of ingredients to add flavor. Additives such as cinnamon, sage, peppermint, ginger, and curry can add some flair to your meals without breaking your budget.
We have looked at quite a few ways to eat healthy on a budget, from avoiding fast food to how to shop at the grocery store. Here are a few more tips to help you save money and eat well under financial strain:
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables
- Pack your lunch
- Drink water instead of soda
- Make your plate colorful – different colors of fruits and vegetables have different nutrients in them.
- Use coupons when shopping
- Buy less expensive cuts of meat
- Replace meat with eggs in meals for protein
- Buy produce by the bag rather than individually – it tends to be cheaper this way
- Eat canned fish such as tuna
- Buy frozen fruits and vegetables – these can last longer (already frozen) and are cheaper when the items are out of season
~Here’s to Your Survival!
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