One of the main complaints about healthy living is that it’s too expensive. If you’re like me, keeping a tight budget is just as much a priority as keeping up a healthy lifestyle. I’ve had spending problems in the past, and part of my problem was that I assumed that I had to spend a lot of money to get the things that I wanted. Gym memberships, Whole Foods bills over $200, yoga classes, and fancy cooking products can really add up. It really makes a girl wanna sit in front of the TV with a meal from the dollar menu at McDonald’s.
But being healthy is only expensive if you’re not doing it right.
I’m here as a reformed spend-a-holic to tell you: You can be healthy (or lose weight or whatever) on $40 a week. That’s the average amount I spend on groceries every week. All it takes is knowing how!
Here are my best tips for being healthy without breaking the bank:
- Either stop eating meat altogether, or drastically reduce your consumption. Meat is more expensive than almost all produce. (Sad but true: If your meat is cheap, you really shouldn’t be eating it.)
- As a general rule, food that comes in a box tends to be the most expensive. Some people think that the best way to lose weight or be healthy is by buying “diet” foods like 100 Calorie Packs or low calorie Smart Ones meals. This is an awful misconception. A lot of these products are just teeny tiny servings of highly caloric junk food, and have absolutely no nutritional value. Aside from being full of chemicals and other yucky things, those products are also SO expensive… $5 or $6 per box. Stay away.
- When you absolutely must buy something in a box, always buy store brand. I’m all about Kroger brand pasta and bread.
- Capitalize on the deals that your grocery store offers! If there’s a 2-for-1 deal on bread, buy 2 loaves and freeze one.
- If there are grocery store options in your area, take an afternoon to visit a few of them and compare prices on their store brand items and produce. Make it a habit to shop at the grocery store with the best quality and the lowest prices. The inconvenience of spending an afternoon comparing prices is a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing you’re getting good deals.
- It should go without saying, but make sure you get a frequent shoppers card where your grocery shop. If you’re a student, ask if they have student discounts. Our Kroger has an amazzzinnnggg student discount.
- Make loose meal plans for every week, and shop in your pantry first. What does that mean? If you know that you want to make pizza, make sure that you check your fridge first to see if you have any marinara sauce before you pick up a new jar from the store.
- Never ever ever ever ever shop without a grocery list, and never ever ever ever ever put something in your cart without first looking at the price. Shopping without a grocery list is the number one deadly sin of frugal/health minded shoppers.
- Go to the farmer’s market for produce! It can be less expensive because the produce is seasonal and local, and you’re supporting local farmers. It’s a bonus that the farmer’s market is so much fun!
- Make peace with the fact that you might have to do a little traveling to get everything you need at the prices you want. I have been known to get canned and dry goods at Big Lots (yes, Big Lots), produce and frozen goods at Kroger, and meat/cheese/specialty items at Whole Foods.
- Include it in your budget if you want to go out to dinner. But be honest with yourself: Going out is expensive, and it’s difficult to control the quality/quantity of food you get.
- I also want to make it clear…. You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the product for something less expensive. As an example, Kroger’s natural peanut butter is less expensive than Jiff peanut butter. And I think it tastes way better. (Side-rant: If your peanut butter has more ingredients than “peanuts” and “salt,” it isn’t real peanut butter. Go natural 100% of the time.)
- Bonus frugal shopping idea: Keep track of your receipts, and watch how the prices of your most frequently purchased items fluctuate. It will make you more aware of how you’re spending your money.
- Gym memberships are a luxury, not a necessity. Tough love: not being able to afford a gym membership is not an excuse to not exercise. I’ve searched and searched, and it seems as if the only gym in Charlottesville that’s worth going to has a membership fee of over $200/month. Even though I reallllly miss Zumba, that membership fee is not happening.
- I know, I know. You love the elliptical/stair master/pool. Good news! There’s cardio you can do for free. Before the 1980s when gyms got really popular, people burned their calories by running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, whatever. Do that! It’s more fun anyway!
- Strength training is easy to do without equipment. Look in any fitness magazine for short and easy routines, or make your own combination of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, etc.
- Try this AMAZING idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Cassie.
- Look up workouts on YouTube! There are TONS of good fitness resources on both YouTube and Netflix… some of the best yoga workouts I’ve ever had have been free videos online.
There you have it!! I’m always looking for more ways to spend less money on my food and fitness, so if you have any other tips… Share ’em!