Yes, You CAN – Eat Healthy on a Budget!

IMG_3731

For a long time, I’ve subscribed to the belief that you can eat healthy on any budget. Though I still believe that to be true, I have recently come to realize that it’s a lot easier said than done.

I was preaching that message from the top of the mountain. Well, I’ve been in the valley for the past 10 months, and my perspective has changed.

There is no better teacher than the experience of walking a mile in another man’s shoes.

After moving to Florida last year my income dropped significantly. That’s when I had the epiphany that it’s much harder to maintain my lifestyle on a budget.

Suddenly, I had to decide between gluten free bread and whole grain; organic and non-organic; cage-free or regular eggs.

I was forced to reevaluate my lifestyle. Initially, I made the cheap, less healthy choices. But that took a toll on my health and my weight.

That’s when I began to ask myself the tough questions. How much was I willing to compromise for my health?”

My decision was I want to live a healthy lifestyle by any means necessary. So, I had to figure out which compromises I was willing to make. When you have a limited budget, it’s important to make every dollar count.

I realized I may not be able to buy the volume of things I normally bought, but I could make some changes and get the same results.

So, here are some simple things you can do to live healthy on a budget.

IMG_3732

1. Eat what’s in season – when it comes to buying fruit and veggies, this is the biggest budget savings. Foods that are in season are always much cheaper. Have you noticed how much cheaper it is to buy watermelon in July than it is to buy it in December? That’s because it’s not in season in December. Become familiar with which fruits and veggies harvest at what time of year. Right now, it’s the best time to buy apples. They’re in harvest.  They will taste much better and are a lot cheaper. In fact, this is the time of year I can actually afford to buy organic apples. There are several websites that can help you find out what’s in season. Here’s a link I used - https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org

2. Purchase more sustaining foods – when you can’t buy as much food, you have to be selective about the foods you buy. You don’t want to waste money on unhealthy, nutrient deprived foods that won’t sustain you. I’m forced to make better choices. I can either spend $3 on a bag of kettle potato chips, or that same amount on six sweet potatoes. Obviously, the sweet potatoes are the better value to my budget and my health.

On the flip side, avocados may be a little more expensive, depending on when you buy them, but their value far outweighs the expense. They are high in fiber and rich in nutrients. They’re considered to be a healthy fat, so they keep you full longer. They also contain antioxidants, so you will have amazing, glowing skin.

You just have to know how to buy them. You want to buy them with varying degrees of ripeness. Buy a couple you can use right away, and some that won’t be ripe for at least another 3 or 4 days. The harder they are, the longer it takes them to ripen. You want them squeezable if you plan to eat them right away. If you don’t understand how to buy them you end up wasting money because they all ripen at the same time, and you can’t possibly eat them all. Ultimately, if you make better food choices, you will be more nourished and you won’t have the desire for chips and cookies.

3. Choose different brands – often times we have certain brands we prefer because of our history of use or brand recognition. More often than not, preferred brands are more expensive. So, when possible, shop the store brand or a less popular brand. Just make sure the ingredients are the same. For example, I prefer to buy Silk or Blue Diamond Almond Milk, but the store brand (Winn Dixie, Trader Joes, Publix, Walmart, etc.) will be at least a dollar cheaper. Yet, it’s the same exact product.

4. Shop at alternate locations – if money isn’t a factor, I’d much rather shop at Whole Foods or the local natural foods market. These stores offer a quality and fun shopping experience for me, but that usually comes with a price. Whole Foods has the variety of whole, organic produce that I prefer, but I have to pay a premium for it. So, an alternative is to go directly to the source and shop the farmer’s market. This is great when you live in an area that offers a really good, affordable farmer’s market. It saves you save A LOT of money.

I had the BEST options when I lived in Atlanta. But now that I’m in Jacksonville, FL I don’t have a good farmer’s market. At least nothing that I believe compares to what I had in Atlanta. However, I’ve found a great alternative in Aldi’s. It’s a much cheaper grocery store that offers so many organic options, and at very low costs. They also offer a good variety of organic fruit and veggies. It’s a semi-traditional grocery store environment, with farmer’s market prices.

5. Distinguish between luxury and necessity items – one thing this year has shown me is the difference between what I want and what I need. A lot of things I’ve enjoyed buying in the past were just things I liked, but didn’t need. For example, I enjoyed a good plant-based protein powder. That little indulgence typically cost me anywhere from $12-25 depending on the brand. So, I’ve chosen to temporarily cut that out of my diet.

At this point, I think I’ve made my own case for the fact that you CAN eat healthy on a budget. You just have to be strategic and you have to be committed to living a healthy lifestyle. It’s a little harder to do, but it can be done.

Just remember – you’re WORTH it!

Until next time…

Peace, Love & Fitness

7 Ways to Eat Clean on a Lean Budget


I would have to say the most common excuse I get from people about why they can’t lead a healthy lifestyle is -“healthy food costs too much.” Granted, there are some healthy options that are more expensive, especially organic foods, but my objective with this week’s blog is to challenge that line of thinking with evidence to the contrary.

One of the reasons I was inspired to write this blog is because I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the past few months, including buying a house and switching jobs. With the house comes additional expenses, and leaving the private sector to work for the government brings its own set of financial adjustments as well. So, in this season of my life it’s very important for me to live on a budget.

I have grown accustomed to shopping at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Sevenanda and the like – all of which are a bit more expensive. However, I have always considered them worth it because my health is important to me, and following a vegan lifestyle I am very particular about what I eat.

Since I’m watching my spending – and I refuse to compromise my health – I’ve had to come up with some alternatives that allow me to maintain my lifestyle. Truth be told, it has become a rather fun challenge for me. I’ve always loved a good bargain – I love shopping in thrift stores and consignment shops. For me, the best part is telling people how much I saved on whatever items I do purchase.

So, as I was doing my grocery shopping I realized this is a perfect opportunity to share with you some strategies to eat healthy, plant based, whole foods on a budget.

Here are 7 ways to Eat Clean on a Lean Budget:

1. Buy frozen veggies – they are just as good as fresh veggies in the produce section, but a lot less expensive. Just avoid the veggies in sauces and cheese. Keep it simple.

2. Buy the store brand whenever possible. The generic Kroger or Publix brand veggies are the same as those from Green Giant. Just check out the ingredients —they read the same.

3. Shop at discount stores because many of them offer healthy, name brand options. I cannot tell you how surprised I was to find that Wal-Mart carries Quinoa. Not only that, but they carry the SAME brand I buy in Whole Foods, but it’s more than $1 cheaper. I typically spend about $3.50 -$3.99 for Quinoa; the bag I bought in Wal-Mart was about $2.60.

4. Shop the farmers market. This is one of my favorite things to do for so many reasons. Obviously, it’s helping the farmers; it’s fresh, and much cheaper. You’re avoiding the extra overhead costs the supermarkets factor in to the cost of food.

5. Buy what’s seasonal. When buying fresh produce, look for what’s in season. If you buy food that’s in season it’s a lot cheaper. You ever notice how much more it costs to buy something like watermelon outside the summer months. Now you can get it for about $4.99, but if you get it off season, you can pay anywhere from $7-$8!

6. Buy beans and peas in the bag instead of those in the can. Overall, you’re getting a much better value and they’re healthier. I am not a fan of canned food, but the only thing I will buy in cans is beans (black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo). Honestly, I didn’t want to take the extra time to cook them. But they actually digest better when you cook them. So, I’ve decided to stop buying canned food. Buying the bags of beans and peas, is a much better deal. So instead of buying an eight ounce can for 99 cents, I bought a 20 oz bag for a little more than two dollars, which produces a lot more beans than the two servings in the can. You cook them once a week and have enough to eat for at least three days.

7. Buy high fiber foods – they keep you full longer and you require less of it. High fiber foods have less refined sugar; refined sugars and hydrogenated oils increase your appetite, and therefore increase your spending on food. Also, a lot of processed food contains food additives that interfere with the chemical in your brain that tells your body it’s full. Certain additives actually inhibit that chemical from telling you you’re full, so you constantly feel hungry. When you buy genetically modified, processed food, it’s appears cheaper on the surface, but it’s costing you more in the long run. You have to consume much more of it to feel full, and you pay for it in healthcare costs because of all the illness and diseases it triggers, i.e. diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.

Now that you’ve heard some of the things I’m doing to eat healthy on a budget, I’d love to hear from you. What can you do to eat healthier on a budget?

Until next time…

Peace, Love & Fitness