One of the biggest, and most longstanding myths in all of health and fitness is the notion that eating healthy has to be expensive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from a client or blog reader who wants to get themselves on the right track, but simply can’t afford the high prices of “health” foods. They resort to the junk they know they shouldn’t be eating, but do so by default. While healthy eating may have once been cost prohibitive, these days the times are a changin’, and it’s all completely for the better.
Today, I’m going to break down how you can get out of the mindset that healthy eating is inherently expensive, and give you a quick “healthy” budget for foods that are going to help you meet and exceed all of your health and fitness goals.
First off, we need a little reference. Unfortunately, many people think the only way to be healthy, is to shop at places like Whole Foods or Wegman’s. Sure these places have plenty of healthy, and not so healthy, foods, but they come at a premium. There’s just no reason whatsoever you need to be plunking down 6 bucks for a pound of tofu, or $6.99 for a pound of apples. And before you even go there, no, they don’t taste better just because they’re from Whole Foods – it’s in your head.
These kind of stores cater to people who are looking for what you’re looking for. They make it seem as if they are the only, or at the very least, best choice for those of us looking to live a healthy, clean existence. The fact of the matter is, healthy foods come in a wide variety and are a found in an even wider selection of stores.
First things first, I want you to do a quick Google search (as soon as you’re done with this article of course) for “CSA + fill in your hometown”. Odds are you’re going to turn up some searches. For those unfamiliar, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to have organic, farm-fresh produce delivered directly to your home, or at a drop off location convenient to your home. I know what you’re thinking….sounds expensive. Surprisingly, CSA’s are extremely affordable. So affordable in fact, you’ll likely end up spending less than you would for the non-organic stuff at your local supermarket. With a standard CSA you’ll get 1-2 weeks worth of veggies and/or fruits, helping ensure you’re getting a steady supply of all of your vital nutrients.
For anyone wanting to learn how to eat healthy, a CSA is going to be the cornerstone you need to build off of.
From there, let’s look at some of the more common items you probably pass every time you’re at the grocery store but fail to think about. Coming in at a whopping 99 cents per can, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and other legumes are a vital source of fiber, as well as cancer-fighting nutrients. These nutrient-dense foods perfectly complement a salad, soup, or even served on their own.
Let’s talk about proteins for a minute now. It’s no surprise, organic, grass-fed, and the like is expensive. This is one thing you’ll have a hard time getting around. So here’s a couple of options for you. First off, most of us have no concept of what constitutes a serving size. A serving size of protein is 4-5 ounces; about the size of a deck of cards. Instead of eating a 12 ounce steak, break that thing up into three different servings. This will help make your meals last longer and stretch your dollar. In addition, look for low cost protein options if you’re wanting to learn how to eat healthy on a budget. Tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products provide a substantial boost of protein and can be had for as little as $1.99 per pound. Another must for anyone wanting to shape up their diet without blowing their budget is a membership to Costco. Costco provides chicken breasts for as little as $1.99 a pound for non-organic and $5.99 for the organic stuff. Grass-fed meats are available, and truthfully, I’ve yet to find another provider that can match their
Those are just the basics – the underlying theme I want to convey here though, is in order to eat healthy and not spend a bundle, you want to aim for foods that are closest to their natural state. Foods that come in lots of packaging, pre-made, and otherwise processed, are naturally going to be more expensive. Not only that, they’ve also likely lost a lot of their nutritional value. Do your wallet (and health) a favor, and opt for fresh, local, and sustainable products that cost very little to produce, ship, and store.
Now, one thing I often hear from people who want to start eating healthy, but complain about the high cost, is how often they eat meals outside of the home. That 8 dollar lunch from the sandwich spot by your office doesn’t seem like much at the time, but look at it like this. For that same $8 you could have just bought a pound and a half of grass fed beef and had enough animal protein to last you a full week. Eating healthy on a budget is all about making smart choices and cutting costs where you can. Start preparing your own lunches and dinners head of time – not only will you know exactly what’s going into your body, you’ll also start saving a ton of money.
Bottomline, if you want to eat healthy on a budget, it’s entirely possible. It may take a little effort, possibly some self-restraint, but if it’s something you truly want, you’ll find a way to make it happen. No more excuses, no more $8 subs from Quizno’s, no more shopping at the trendy “health” food stores. Stick to placs you can buy in bulk, sign up for a CSA, shop smartly at your local supermarket, and you’ll see, you’re actually saving money AND eating in a much better way.
To close things out, let me give you a quick budget breakdown for a typical week of healthy eating…
CSA produce box, covering all vegetables and fruits for one week – $25
Box of brown rice pasta – $2
1 lb Grass-fed skirt steak – $9
1 lb quinoa – $3
1 lb tofu – $2
1 dozen eggs – $3
1 lb oatmeal – $2
3 cans beans – $3
1 lb ground turkey – $5
1 gallon almond milk – $3
That comes out to just a hair over $50, and to be perfectly honest, you’re going to have left overs, so the true budget for one week of healthy foods, is going to be significantly less than that total.
Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what it takes to eat and healthy, and most importantly, show you exactly how you can you eat
healthy on a budget.
If you’re looking for additional ideas on how to eat healthy, along with recipes that are both cost-effective and tasty, check out our Official Nutritional Guidebook post where you can sign up to download a copy of our e-book and get living the life you deserve! You can also ask our resident Nutrition Coach questions anytime about how to make smarter, healthier choices in your daily diet!