One of the main deterrents for people when getting healthy is the myth that it costs a lot of money when grocery shopping. It’s easy to see why you may think that, as some studies have shown that the average American will spend over $100,000 on their health over the course of a lifetime. That’s a big scary number but, the reality is that it comes to about $2,000 a year and if you introduce some of the tips we have below into your routine, that number can be even lower.
In order to make educated financial decisions and maximize your health, it’s important to keep a long-term view of your overall goals and set milestones along the way to help you achieve them. Below are some tips on how to be healthy in the New Year while on a budget.
Focusing on your health is good for your finances
When you think about your retirement and what you’ll need to reach that goal the first items that come to mind are an IRA, a 401K, and a healthy investment portfolio. Your health is often an overlooked part of a retirement strategy.
But if you really think about it, what good will retirement be if you’re too weak or sick to enjoy it?
There are some obvious advantages to being healthy and the effect it has on your bank account. First off, the healthier you are, the less you’ll pay for health insurance premiums. This has an immediate effect on your monthly costs and can amount to save tens-of-thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.
How you eat also has a large impact on both your health and your finances. While eating out or eating fast food may be considered easier, the negative impact these types of foods have on your health is well-documented. There’s a well-circulated myth that eating healthy is expensive, but the surprising truth is that you can eat an entire day’s worth of healthy meals for the cost of one fast food meal.
Additionally, when you eat at home you get to choose the portion size, the ingredients, and the types of meals you want to eat so you can switch it up and keep it fun.
How to have a nutritious diet without breaking the bank
The biggest and easiest way to save money on the cost of food is to meal prep. Making a meal plan for the week along with a corresponding grocery list can help you to:
- Reduce impulse buys
- Make sure you have healthy options on busy days
- Avoid food waste
- Provide a shoppers guideline to budget for grocery expenses
By becoming more conscious of what you are buying and what you are spending, you get the bonus of knowing how food impacts both your body and your bank account. This awareness makes being healthy and saving money easier as time goes by.
Here are some great strategies for getting started on meal prepping.
- Set aside some time each week for meal prepping—like an hour every Sunday
- Join a wholesale club for increased savings on a purchase
- Make multiple meals ahead of time that can be frozen and cooked on busier days
- Take advantage of slow cooker meals as an easy and inexpensive dinner option
- Switch up meal plans for variety and to keep it fun
Pack a lunch
Using leftovers to pack a lunch helps you in a few ways: it cuts down on your food waste; it allows you to ensure you have healthy food options for lunch, and it cuts down on the amount of money you spend on food by eliminating the need to go out for lunch.
Avoid impulse shopping
It’s been shown that the hungrier you are when you go shopping the more likely you are to choose high caloric foods that are both more expensive and worse for your health. You are also more likely to impulse purchase snacks and pre-prepared meals that were not part of your original grocery list.
Avoid these tendencies by making sure you don’t shop when you’re hungry and that you stick to the outer parameter of your grocery store. Most grocery stores keep the healthier departments such as produce and fresh meats on the outside, while the inner aisles house the pre-prepared meals and expensive, high-calorie foods.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is the best way to cut your grocery bill. In fact, a study by the Bulk Is Green Council found that buying in bulk can be up to 89 percent cheaper than buying in small portions. That’s a huge store saving on a monthly basis and can amount to thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.
Combine bulk buying with things like a Walmart grocery coupon and you’ll be racking up the savings and cash in no time.
Find healthy substitutions
Creating a healthy diet means eliminating things like white bread, soda, candy, cake, cookies, and donuts (from day-to-day life, parties should still be fun!) and making healthy recipe substitutions where possible. For instance, substitute whole wheat flour items for all-purpose flour, and include lots of healthy proteins and fats.
Track your meals
Understanding what you are putting into your body is a great way to notice eating patterns. You may be surprised to find that you are eating more or even less than you thought you were. By educating yourself on what goes into your body you’ll become more aware with a list of proper portion sizes, avoid mindless eating, and set daily achievable goals.
Using your leftovers for another meal is the best way to cut back on waste and help you stretch your food budget a little further. Pack up those leftovers for lunch or freeze them for another quick and easy-to-reheat dinner option for busy nights or when you just don’t feel like cooking.
Working out on a budget
Working out doesn’t have to break the bank and—depending on your own level of commitment and motivation—can be done without leaving the house.
First, there are easy ways to incorporate fitness into your everyday life. For example, never use the elevator or escalator when you can take the stairs. Depending on where you work or live, this can introduce an awesome amount of fitness into your daily life and won’t cost you a penny.
Second, ride your bike to places instead of driving. If you can bike to work do so. You’ll be an incredibly healthier version of yourself in as little as a few weeks. Plus, if you already own a bike, you will have made yourself healthier long-term without spending a dollar.
If you need to outsource your motivation—because, let’s face it, sometimes sitting on the couch and watching TV is more enticing than working out—join a local fitness group service. You can find one online that will encourage you and keep you accountable.
Craigslist is a great place to find gently used exercise equipment that you can put in your home for a fraction of the price of new equipment. But, if you absolutely must join a gym to ensure you are successful in your health goals, then make sure you shop for bargain class passes, take advantage of membership deals, and know your employee benefits as they may be able to lower or even cover the cost of your membership.
Being healthy in the new year while on a budget can give you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Follow these easy steps and you’ll ensure a lifetime of healthy living and a healthy bank account.