As much as we want to maintain a well-balanced diet, we can’t help but feel discouraged when we arrive at the health food aisle and everything costs a fortune. The cold, hard truth is, it’s tough to eat healthy when you’re broke. Organic produce costs a hell of a lot, the healthy snacks are way more expensive than the potato chips, and kombucha is pricey enough to break the bank if you drink it on the regular. We get it. We’ve all been there.
But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and just revert back to those frozen dinners and processed foods that make you feel sluggish. There are many ways to keep up a healthy diet even when you’re not financially soaring, and we’re here to give you some useful tips. The key to keeping a healthy lifestyle without having heaps of cash in the bank is to plan ahead. Be proactive, shop with intention, and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save while you’re feeding yourself all the good stuff.
Here are nine tips to eat healthy when you’re broke.
1. Buy more frozen vegetables instead of fresh
Studies have shown that there are many vegetables that retain just as much nutrition when they’re frozen as when they’re fresh. If the vegetables are harvested and frozen right away, they retain their fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin A, carotenoids, and vitamin E that could be lost if they aren’t eaten right away.
The best veggies to buy frozen are leafy greens, broccoli, and carrots. If you compare the prices to the same veggies in the produce aisle, you’ll see that you can save yourself a lot of money. However, when it comes to veggies that are high in vitamins B and C, like cabbage and bell peppers, it’s better to stick to the fresh variations.
2. Make your own fermented products
There’s a lot of research lately that proves how beneficial probiotics are for our overall health. Unfortunately, kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut are some of the most expensive things at the supermarket these days. The good news is you can make any of your favorite healthy fermented foods at home — for a fraction of the price.
3. Only buy in season produce
The prices of in season produce are a lot lower because there’s an abundance of it. Take advantage of that fact and stick to the fruits and vegetables that are currently in season. Keep a chart of seasonal produce in your kitchen and read it over before you head to the grocery store to ensure you don’t waste your money.
4. Put your leftovers to good use
If you’re broke, make this rule for yourself: never throw away food if it’s still good enough to eat. For example, if you’ve got a leftover stir-fry, find a recipe for a healthy veggie burger that will let you use all those cooked vegetables. Put your Google skills to good use and find some recipes that allow you to use all the foods that are left in your fridge.
5. Buy in bulk whenever you can
It may seem a bit scary upfront because it costs a little more, but buying in bulk is going to save you lots of money in the long run. This especially comes in handy when you’re buying things like cereal, nuts, coconut oil, and quinoa. Just make sure you store everything tightly in the right place, and you won’t waste a cent.
6. Cook more vegan food
The concept of Meatless Mondays has saved many families around the country a good amount of money, because foods like meat and dairy are much more expensive than the alternatives, such as tofu, beans, and grains. Consider cooking vegan a couple days of the week if you’re worried about saving money. This healthy change in your diet will also contribute to you getting more nutrition on a regular basis.
Don’t worry if you’ve never made vegan grub before — it’s a cinch! Start with this Mushroom Lentil Spaghetti “Bolognese” or these Crispy Zucchini Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage Slaw & Lime Crema. Yum times a million.
7. Don’t buy vegetables that are pre-chopped
Foods like mushrooms, carrots, and celery are much cheaper if you purchase them whole, rather than already chopped up. It might take you a few extra minutes to cut up before you start cooking, but that’s a small price to pay to save some moola.
8. Plan your meals ahead of time
We know you’re a busy bee and sometimes you have to sort out your dinner at the very last minute. But if you take some time on the weekend to plan out your healthy meals for the week, you’ll find that you need less trips to the grocery store over the next several days. Additionally, if you specifically plan out your meals, you won’t let any of your fresh produce go to waste. Find some recipes that include overlapping ingredients to save yourself even more cash.
9. Use all the coupons you can get your hands on
There’s no shame in coupon hoarding (okay, maybe not hoarding, but you get the picture). Grocery stores offer all kinds of discounts if you keep your eyes open for them, like 2 for 1 deals or 30 percent off. You could save yourself a good chunk of money every month if you just follow the sales.