Healthy eating on a budget.

There are a lot of things that come to mind when someone says “health food”. For some – they think of dense, bland, unappealing food. So people imagine fat-free, sugar-free, low calorie food. Other people think organic, unprocessed and whole grain. But most people will think of one thing when you say “health food” or “health food store” and that is – expensive.

The truth of the matter is that health food can get a bit pricey – particularly if it’s organic. Because of the higher quality ingredients the manufacturers have to make the price what it is in order to stay in business. But the mistake most people make is to assume that since they can’t “afford” health food and products they should go back to their fast food and ramen noodles with a sigh and hope that someday they’ll be rich enough to be able to afford a healthier lifestyle.

But just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to give up healthy eating. As a matter of fact if you play your cards right you can spend less and eat better than if you live off fast food.

Being in collage means I’m on a VERY tight budget. Unfortunately in my family there was no such thing as a college fund, and for now studying full time leaves no time for even a part time job (assuming there were one available). I am currently applying for a grant that will enable me to study, but right now I’m living off some pretty sparse savings. So I’m no stranger to needing to count your pennies and watch where money is going. But I like to think that in spite of all this I’m doing pretty ok in the healthy eating department and here are a few things that have helped me to accomplish this.

Letting go of the “all or nothing at all” mentality. When I read other healthy living blogs and see the authors buying only organic vegetables, or free-range eggs I’m tempted to compare myself with them and feel that since I’m not able to do these things, I might as well not even try. But if you think about it, that is a very counterproductive way to look at things. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do – focus on what you CAN do. I buy most of my veggies at a farmers market because they are actually cheaper there, and if I have a choice I will go for what locally available. But sometimes that’s not possible, and it’s ok to buy produce from the supermarket once in a while – the important part is that you eat your veggies.

Lunch: Whole wheat bread with egg and brocolli (the egg wasn’t organic – gasp!!)

 

Settle for the simple stuff – healthy eating doesn’t have to mean chia seeds, coconut flour and sunflower seed milk. If you don’t have those things available – don’t despair. Most of the same nutrients are found in other foods, or a combination of them. Here what is readily available and cheap are whole grains – barley, millet, oats, buckwheat – you name it, it’s cheap. That along with beans are pretty much a staple for me, and I don’t mind at all.

Buckweat, brocolli and soy “meat”. Nothing fancy – but it gets the job done 😉

If you can’t buy it – make your own. Where I live nut butters are virtually non-existent, and the ones that are available are packed with sugar and hydrogenated fats – no thank you. Hummus and other vegetarian staples are also nowhere to be found. So what do I do – make my own. It’s amazing how simple some of these things are to make, and it’s always MUCH cheaper then anything store-bought. Better yet, you get to experiment and tailor make things according to your personal tastes and preferences.

A pinto bean hummus I made for my sanwhiches this week.

Very scary looking homemade sunflower seed butter

When shopping, buy things in bulk. Single servings and small packages are convenient, but bigger usually = cheeper. Also the canned or frozen foods are always more expensive then when they have to be prepared from scratch. You may need sacrifice a bit of time and effort figuring out how and when to cook these foods (particularly if you’re on a tight schedule) but it’s always doable.

I pre-cooked a big lentil curry this week- yum, yum

Look for marked down prices or products close to their expiry date – particularly if you know you’ll be eating these foods soon. I always buy banana’s that are marked down – usually because I know they will be  gone within a day or two with me, while with others they might last a week or so. Plus REALLY ripe is just how I like’m.

Don’t be afraid to settle for classics. Yes Kath’s lunches are amazing, but that doesn’t mean you Peanut butter and banana sandwich isn’t great as well.  Healthy living is doing the best with what you’ve got and not worrying about the rest. Sure everything might not be “perfectly balanced” but who cares? In any case it’s a heck of a lot better than giving up and not trying at all.

I’ve been totally OD-ing on oats recently. And that’s ok!!!

I hope you found these things useful. And if you’re one of the lucky few that can buy 100% natural health products at an available price – feel free to make a donation (KIDDING!!!!!!!)

Do you buy any products in bulk?

What are you top “money saving” health tips?

Is there any food you think tastes better on it’s “last leg”?

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9 comments

  1. I need to get on to making my own nut butters and houmous. I tend to make meals to freeze, like chickpea stews and lentil curry dishes. I do find meal planning a good tool for budgeting especially if I am out and about. Thanks for all the tips, think I may make my own houmous at some point. I think sometimes bloggers can get carried away with all the new “health buzz words” like chai seeds, coconut oil etc. But I think the bog standard brocolli is one of the most readily available superfoods out their!!

  2. Great post. I’m heading to college in a year and I’m going to have to deal with buying my own stuff on a very tight budget. But it is so true that eating healthy doesn’t mean you buy these crazy special name brand organic free range whatever. It means cutting out the bad and going for more of the good. Vegetable at a grocery store are still vegetables.

  3. Dry products are okay in bulk and I always take advantage of buy one get one free offers on pasta, rice, lentils etc but not on fruit and veg since I invariably can’t eat double the amount in time and it ends up going mouldy!

    If you don’t eat meat or fish you already save a huge chunk of money. I buy free-range eggs and organic milk religiously but other than that I try not to get in a tizz about organic food. Like you say, it best to do what you can rather than nothing at all. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Weekend Digest « Cinnamon Bums

  5. This is such a great post! I think in the blogging community there is a certain pressure to eat a particular way, but some of the common products you see on blogs are so expensive! You’re 100% right that healthy eating doesn’t have to be so costly and complicated. 🙂 And I love all your tips. I like to save money by buying store brand versions of things like rice and mustard. They taste no different and they’re a lot cheaper!

  6. Excellent thought inspiring ideas and questions!
    Healthy and hopefully less $$ – food shopping tips:
    Buy ingredients to cook rather than prepared foods,
    Purchase locally as much as possible. Buy what’s in season. Except I don’t know a local banana farmer – but then again I’m in New York 😀
    I’m not a Co-op member, like where you work at the fresh grocery and then get a discount, but I bet that’s cheaper. If you’re in college I bet you don’t have much time for that. I think reading labels is key, because I don’t think there is a set standard for what “Organic”, ” All Natural”, or “Free Range” means, at least here there isn’t. Go to the store with a list and don’t stray from what is on your list – and when you shop make sure you’re not hungry. Cheers!

  7. I love this post because obviously these are issues I have to deal with. You make a lot of really excellent suggestions!
    I definitely agree that you have to keep it simple, sometimes I look at some bloggers and I think, damn I want all of that stuff, but I know that for now I just have to find easier ways to be healthy.
    Also love the suggestion to make your own – it is pretty much always cheaper to make something yourself than buy it ready made!
    Great post 🙂


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