Finding ways to be healthy and stay in good physical condition is obviously important, but it’s often more challenging than it seems at first glance. Unfortunately, many people believe that they do not have the time or the budget to properly make healthy meals several times a day—and if you’re using the wrong strategies, then you probably don’t. The secret to eating healthy on a budget is a combination of smart budgeting, meal planning, and meal prep. Here’s how it works:
1. Plan a Menu
Start by deciding what kind of food you want to eat. Pick a healthy menu with foods that you like and that are simple to cook. By making this decision ahead of time and preparing the food in advance, you are already taking proactive steps to fight food temptations. Are there donuts in the breakroom at work? Doesn’t matter, you don’t need them because you already have your food and your snacks prepared. Did you hit the snooze buttons too many times, and now you don’t have time to eat breakfast or make a lunch? That’s ok, because your breakfast and lunch are ready, sitting in your fridge.
Another tip for menu planning is to avoid monotony. One reason why people struggle to stick to a diet and continue to eat healthy is that they get bored of the food that they have prepared. One of the best ways to avoid doing this is to make sure that you do not repeat the same meals too frequently. This can help to keep things interesting and make you look forward to eating your healthy mix of meals.
2. Build a Budget
Estimate how much money you will need to spend at the grocery store. Break down the expenses week by week. Make the estimation for your budget based on the recipes that you picked when you planned your menu. If you find a budget imbalance, it will be much easier to make an adjustment to it or your recipes at home before you go shopping than it will be when you’re standing in front of the cashier.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they meal prep is that they end up buying too much food in advance. They can then end up wasting meals, which is also a waste of money. Because of this, you should monitor your purchases each week and determine what the right amount of food to buy is.
3. Shop Smart
Draft a grocery list based on your menu and your budget, and stick to it. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry; you’ll be more likely to impulse buy food you don’t need. Try to shop alone; shopping with other people might pull your focus away from the grocery list. Refrain from browsing aisles that don’t have the items on your list.
Consider using services such as recurring deliveries or curbside pickup (such as are available from Walmart or Amazon Pantry) which allow you to get all the groceries on your list without having to set foot in the store. That way, everything you need to eat a healthy diet on a budget is delivered to you without the temptation of spending money on food you don’t need.
4. Pick a Prep Day
Pick a day of the week and designate it for cooking your meals. For many people, it is usually easiest to do this on a Saturday or a Sunday, as these weekdays will give you the time and flexibility to cook as much food as you need for the upcoming week. If you can’t cook absolutely everything at once, then ideally you should at least prepare the main dish of your meal. For example, grill the chicken breasts for all your lunches at once, or steam your vegetables in one giant batch.
5. Allow for Flexibility
When you are looking to eat healthier and want to meal prep, you also want to make sure that you allow for some flexibility. While you can try to bring your lunch to work everyday, you should still allow yourself to go out for lunch once in awhile. This will give you something to look forward to and will also give you a much needed break to socialize.
No matter what physical shape you are in, you should prioritize your diet by consistently eating nutritious foods. With these habits, you will save time, money, and stress, all while giving your body the nutrition it needs.