Having a healthy diet and keeping it frugal can bring challenges to the food area of your budget. However, if we look at the psychological mindset of our eating, often, we can see where our healthy eating has gone wrong. For instance, I tend to not like washing dishes and typically wait until I am starving to eat. This lends itself to convenience foods, which are usually not healthy or cheap (unless we are talking the dollar menu). Even then, it’s investing in something that is not going to give you a good return health wise. Here are five steps to setting up your meals and making them healthy and cheap on your budget.
Make Healthy Food into Convenience Food
If you want to eat more veggies and fruits, prepare them in advance for snacking or meals. When you purchase lettuce, broccoli, grapes, or other fruits and veggies, go ahead and wash them when you get home from the store. Then, distribute them in small single serving containers or Ziploc bags. Place these in the fridge for a quick snack on the go or to place in your lunch box each day.
Make Vegetables Fun
It really don’t like vegetables, but I like vegetables with stuff on them. Stuff like peanut butter or humus. Some people even like ranch. If you can, fix small containers of humus, peanut butter, or salad dressing to dip your veggies. I know it is extra calories, but give yourself a high-five that you are at least not eating french fries and cheeseburgers. A little cauliflower with ranch is a step in the right direction even if the ranch dressing has calories.
Plan a Dinner Menu Ahead of Time
I know you have heard this before, but if you wait until you are hungry when you decide what to eat, you are likely not going to make a healthy choice. Most will cook something very fatty and satisfying or drive through the fast food lane. However, knowing in the morning what you plan to cook for dinner, can put you in a healthy place. Actually, I recommend sitting down and creating a menu for the week (at least for dinner), so you know what groceries you need to buy and what meat or items needs to be prepared ahead of time. This not only saves you from eating out, which is harder on your budget than cooking at home, but it also saves you from eating food that is not good for you.
Have a Protein Shake or Meal Replacement Shake
I have found that if I have one less meal to decide what to eat, it can make things a little easier. That’s why I have incorporated a chocolate meal replacement shake into my meals every day. Typically, I have it for lunch. I enjoy breakfast with coffee, but at lunch, am often on the go. Having a meal replacement shake already prepared ensures I get something healthy. Plus, the one I drink is equivalent to five trips to the salad bar. So, I get my veggies in as well. In addition, it’s chocolate. Vitamins, minerals, veggies, probiotic, and chocolate sounds like a winner for lunch to me. You can typically find protein shakes or meal replacement shakes at health food stores or places like Whole Foods in the nutritional section. Divided out over 30 days, my shake a day typically costs me about $4. That’s cheaper than a combo meal at McDonald’s.
Shoot for Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day
Many years ago, I visited a nutritionist when I felt that I needed guidance in eating healthy. One of her suggestions was just to try to get in five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. She said it didn’t matter what else I ate, but to concentrate less on eliminating things from my diet and more on hitting the number 5. This positive conditioning has stuck with me. If you are stuffed from eating fruits and vegetables, you typically do not want the cheeseburger and fries. In addition, you actually begin to crave healthy foods as you begin to eat them often.
By incorporating these guidelines of planning ahead and making healthy food more convenient, you can make sure what you are putting into your body is good for you and that it is better on your wallet as well!