After indulging in rich food for the past two months, between Thanksgiving and all the holiday parties, you might be resolved to start eating healthier come New Year’s. I know I am! There’s nothing like an endless buffet of pigs-in-a-blanket to make me regret not picking a chunkier sweater this year.
If you’ve ever felt like your juice habit was costing you a fortune, then you know that eating healthy can sometimes be expensive. This is especially true around New Year’s when companies start marketing resolutions to get people to buy their products. They make it seem like chia seed muffins and maple water will help you achieve your goals, but really they’re just empty promises.
If you’re like me, after all the holiday spending my new year’s resolutions include being more mindful of my budget. So, I’ve put together some tips on how to eat well without stretching your wallet too thin in the process.
1. It’s time to recommit to your cooking habits and shop smarter.
Staying healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, cooking your own meals is one of the most budget-friendly choices you can make. However, with all of the health claims on food packaging these days, it’s easy to overspend at the grocery store (and then end up wasting a lot because you don’t know how to cook anything you bought).
Affordable shopping is the key to making cooking a daily habit. Make a list and budget before heading to the store, which will prevent you from buying on impulse. Stick to whole foods rather than processed—you’ll save by avoiding overpriced packaging and ready-to-eat items. A foolproof way to avoid extra food costs and waste is by cooking all your meals from scratch and only purchasing what you need from the produce section, butcher counter, and bulk bins.
One way to save money and eat healthier is by cooking your meals at home. Rather than going out to eat, try setting aside some time on the weekend to prepare food for the week ahead. Sunday is a great day to cook a few hearty dishes that will last several days. This could include two main courses (soups and stews are perfect for this time of year), a healthy grain, and roasted vegetables. By prepping these ingredients in advance, you’ll have everything you need for quick and easy weekday lunches or dinners – without having to spend extra money on eating out!
2. Your freezer can be your best friend.
A great way to save some money is by using up everything you bought at the market, rather than wasting food. I often hear people say that they’ll buy a bunch of produce, use some of it, and then let whatever is left (usually half a head of broccoli) go bad in their fridge. This makes them less likely to want to buy fresh vegetables next time they’re at the store because canned soups and bags of white rice will last longer.
The freezer is a great way to make use of leftover vegetables. You can freeze anything from broccoli florets to chicken stew to extra brown rice. I have a bowl on my countertop that collects vegetable scraps as I cook so that at the end of each session, I can add them to a plastic bag in the freezer – this includes carrot peelings, onion skin, and herb stems. Once a month, I make a big batch of vegetable stock, freeze it in portioned containers, and use it as needed.
You can also take advantage of sale items by freezing them for future use. This is a great way to save money on your groceries each week.
3. Brown bag your lunch.
Oftentimes, when we’re bogged down at work, our eating habits become whatever is convenient or circumstantial. However, if we pack our lunch ahead of time, we can avoid unhealthy meals and be prepared for hunger the moment it hits us mid-email.
It can feel extremely left out when all your other coworkers go out to lunch and you’re stuck eating a brown bag by yourself. So make it into a group event! You could even take turns, with one person bringing enough food for the entire office on a given day. More often than not, you can find an empty conference room where everyone can sit together and enjoy their meal—that way, your delicious healthy meal doesn’t look like a depressing desk lunch.
4. Ignore the beverage isle.
The drink industry has been growing rapidly with the introduction of healthier options in recent years, such as coconut water, chia super seed lemonade, and probiotic kombucha. However, these alternatives are not always worth the price tag when their health benefits are taken into account.
To maintain a healthy diet, it’s best to get your nutrients from whole foods instead of sugary fruit juices. These drinks can be helpful as an occasional supplement, but if you drink them without food (i.e. fiber for absorption), the fructose (even if natural) can cause blood sugar problems.
Did you know that water is the healthiest drink for your body—and best of all, it’s free! Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they’re chronically dehydrated. As a rule of thumb, try to consume at least your body weight in ounces every day. Keep a refillable water bottle by your desk and make sure you drink enough water throughout the day.
5. BYO tea.
Those who are not morning people often have a hard time making coffee at home before work. But tea is inexpensive and easy to make, so you can grab a free cup of hot water on your way to the office or brew it immediately when you arrive.
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