From making the conscious decision to eat healthy to the point of putting the food on the table, the thought of the expenses it would require can put you off..
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can follow this simple process to understand how good dieting doesn’t have to always weigh heavily on your pocket.
According to a study from sports and nutrition company My Protein, the cost of living a healthy lifestyle can cost more than college tuition, but the good news is, there are many strategies for making nutrition more affordable. Many of these strategies boil down to having a plan, doing your research, and making small eating lifestyle changes that can have a big impact down the line. We believe eating healthy doesn’t have to be at odds with eating within your means. Keeping a long-term view is the key to making smart financial decisions — and healthy decisions, too!
Why eating healthy and prioritizing your health makes financial sense
There are plenty of situations in which the healthier choice and the frugal choice are one and the same. It’s true that junk foods tend to be slightly cheaper than healthier options, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health). But what if you made up that negligible cost by eating out less often? That’s a relevant question for the average Nigerian, because as from 2015, spending at restaurants has exceeded grocery spending and there is no slowing down anytime soon.
How much might you save by skipping the drive-through once a week — and what healthy foods could you buy instead?
Eating at home is a lot less expensive than eating at a restaurant, especially if you prep meals in bulk. Plus, when you cook at home, you can control what goes into your meal. You can make healthy substitutions or reduce the salt and avoid oil. You can control portion size. In this case, cooking for yourself is both the healthiest and the thriftier option.
Additionally, there are many direct and indirect costs associated with poor health. Being significantly overweight can increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, among many other conditions. Poor nutrition can cause anemia, and lack of exercise is associated with higher risk for certain cancers. Long-term staying healthy will keep healthcare costs low — and quality of life high.
We believe it is possible to eat healthy on any budget
In this guide, we’ll cover tips, tricks, and resources that can make healthy living more affordable. Between budgeting and utilizing some tools, even those who currently don’t consider themselves financially independent can afford to create a healthy lifestyle.
Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make a personalized action plan that covers smart nutrition strategies.
Eating healthy and eating better on the cheap with these 7 simple strategies.
Plan your meals in advance.
Never go to the market without a list! There are many health and financial benefits to creating your meal plan — and corresponding list — before you hit the supermarket.
Having a meal plan:
Reduces likelihood of impulse buys. If you limit yourself to buying the ingredients for your planned meals, your wallet and your waistline will thank you. (Resolving to buy only the ingredients your menu calls for — including pre-planned, healthy snacks — can help you resist tempting junk food.)
Ensures you’ll have a healthy option ready on busy days. Decision fatigue is a real thing — especially when it comes to choosing what’s for dinner. If you have healthy groceries waiting to be cooked at home, you’ll be less tempted to swing through the drive through or head to a restaurant when life gets busy.
Prevents waste. If you know the quantity of perishable items like eggs, produce, or dairy you’ll need for this week’s meals, you won’t buy too much. This will help you avoid excess groceries spoiling before you have the chance to use them.
Gives you control over what you’re eating. Prepackaged meals aren’t just more expensive than the raw ingredients for a similar meal would be. They also tend to be loaded with bad stuff like sodium and preservatives. Similarly, when you order a meal at a restaurant, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. Preparing meals yourself gives you the freedom to make healthy substitutions that can help you meet your fitness goals.
Helps you accurately budget grocery expenses. Meal planning can help you accurately budget out what you’ll be spending on food. If you know ahead of time how much you’ll be spending on your meals throughout the month, you can more easily see opportunities to put money into savings or pay off debt. If you use a credit card for your grocery purchases (which can help you earn rewards and build credit when used responsibly), knowing your monthly budget based on your meal plan can help you pay off expenses without interest each month.
You’ll be more likely to stick to your plan if it’s convenient. So take steps today to make things easy for future you! Start by creating several weekly meal plans to keep in your rotation (including breakfasts, lunches, dinner, and snacks). That way, you can pull a ready-made menu when it’s time to make your grocery list.
Bulk meal prep is one of the simplest ways to balance your budget with nutritional goals. Overall, groceries purchased in bulk usually cost less per unit — up to 89% less than smaller-portion packages.
Shopping and cooking in bulk is a little different from preparing smaller portions, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. With a few adjustments to your routine, you can make the jump this week.
The freezer meal phenomenon deserves all the positive press it gets! The idea is simple: designate one day per week or per month to prep multiple meals, then freeze them to enjoy later. By opting to prepare homemade freezer meals, you can save moneyand time.
When you’re preparing multiple meals at once, you can buy groceries in bulk to save per serving. Plus, having meals on standby will help you avoid the temptation of fast food on hectic days. Once prepped, freezer meals are the ultimate convenience food. Consolidating meal prep for the week or even for the month means minimal time in the kitchen outside your prep day — and who doesn’t want that? It’s efficient, too; you’ll only have to clean the kitchen once.
Strategies that go hand-in-hand with freezer meal prep
Slow cooking If you don’t have a slow cooker, you should! Slow cooker freezer meals are incredibly low maintenance, and they require very little cooking know-how to get right. Simply pull the prepared meal from your freezer, drop it in/turn the cooker on, and go about your day. A hot, home cooked meal will be waiting for you when you get home — no babysitting a skillet or preheating an oven required.
Meal swapping Making extra-large batches of meals is efficient and cost-effective. But eating the same meals on a regular basis can get old. Solution: organize a meal swap to vary your freezer meal selection and share your favorite frugal recipes with friends and family.
Disposable pans Try freezing casseroles and other baked items directly in disposable foil pans (if you have the space in your freezer, that is). When you’re finished, simply rinse and recycle the pan. That way, you can enjoy a home cooked meal without prepping or scrubbing a pan the night of!
Highly processed foods are convenient, but often, they’re neither the most frugal nor the healthiest option. Impulse buying snack foods and pre-prepared meals can run up your grocery bill and set you up to consume lots of empty calories. But impulse buys aren’t inevitable. To minimize temptation:
Stick to the perimeter. Think about the layout of your favorite grocery store. Most nutrient-dense foods, from produce to dairy and fresh meats, are arranged in refrigerated cases along the outer edge of the store. By primarily “shopping the perimeter,” you can avoid the processed foods in the center of the store.
The ability to tweak recipes for healthfulness is a major advantage of home cooked meals, so take advantage! Here’s a list of common substitutions to get you started. Note: results may vary, depending on the recipe — but don’t be afraid to experiment!
Good to know
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour can affect taste, texture, and baking time, especially for more delicate items like pastries. Try substituting 25% of your all-purpose flour with wheat flour to start. If you like the results, you can up the percentage of wheat flour next time you make it! (Whole wheat flour absorbs liquid more readily than all-purpose, so you may need to add a little more liquid to compensate in some recipes.)
Maple syrup, agave, honey, or cane syrup
Different substitutions work best for different purposes. Agave may be a good place to start, since it has the mildest flavor of the substitutes we’ve listed. Note: you’ll want to stick with corn syrup when making candy or caramel to prevent granites.
Plain yogurt, sour cream, or mashed avocado
Different substitutions work best for different purposes. Avocado works well as a sandwich spread or in tuna/chicken salad. Plain yogurt is a fine replacement in most recipes, especially dressings and rich dips. Sour cream will work in a pinch, but it has the most noticeable flavor; it may add a Tangier taste to your recipe.
Use plain, unsweetened almond milk to minimize differences in taste.
Baked spaghetti squash has a pasta-like texture.
While white potatoes and sweet potatoes both have a place in a healthy diet, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index. They’re a great substitution in mashed potatoes or as accompaniment baked/roasted dishes.
Stevia is plant-based and has zero calories. It’s available in liquid concentrate, powdered extract, and dried leaf form. Because Stevia tastes sweeter than refined sugar, substitution ratios are drastically less than 1:1 and may vary by type.
Keep a food journal.
Keeping a food journal can help you lose weight and keep your food spending in check. A 2008 study found that adults who kept a food journal 6 days per week lost 2X as much weight as those who kept a journal 0-1 days per week.
It doesn’t matter whether you journal on paper or in an app. whichever method you use, focus on recording the basics like food type, portion, and context of the meal to identify where your challenges lie — and how best to tackle them.
Get professional help.
Struggling to meet your health goals? Seeing an expert may be more affordable than you think. Compile a list of questions to ask.
Dietician vs. nutritionist: what’s the difference?
Both dietician and nutritionists can offer nutritional help, but qualifications differ between the two professions. Learn more about the differences between the two roles, then ask your doctor which type of nutritional counseling is right for you.
How dieticians & Nutritionists Differ
Scope of work
Registered dietitian nutritionist (R.D.N.)
Bachelor’s degree in dietetics, public health nutrition, or a related field
Completion of Dietetic Internship (D.I.), which equals 1,200 hours of experience
National licensure exam
75 continuing education credits every 5 years to maintain RDN credential