One of the most common deterrents people admit when it comes to eating healthy is the fact that is cost more than they are willing to pay. Let's be honest, the organic section in any grocery store is likely to have a higher price tag than most generic products, and many of the gourmet food products that are associated with healthy eating have a bad rap for putting a drain on the wallet. This idea isn't all just theory. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity are seen among people in lower-income groups. The scientists took an unusual approach, essentially comparing the price of a calorie in a junk food to one consumed in a healthier meal. Although fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, they also contain relatively few calories. Foods with high energy density, meaning they pack the most calories per gram, included candy, pastries, baked goods and snacks.
The survey found that higher-calorie, energy-dense foods are the better bargain for cash-strapped shoppers. Energy-dense munchies cost on average $1.76 per 1,000 calories, compared with $18.16 per 1,000 calories for low-energy but nutritious foods. The survey also showed that low-calorie foods were more likely to increase in price, surging 19.5 percent over the two-year study period. High-calorie foods remained a relative bargain, dropping in price by 1.8 percent.
So with that said, how can anyone afford to eat healthy on a budget? Well the secret, as with any financial state of wellness, is in fact budgeting. Planning to eat well is just as important as planning to save for our financial futures. Here are a few of my favorite financial tips on ways to eat clean while keeping your budget in check:
Be a savvy shopper
Throughout the week, I think of recipes I want to make and try to bookmark them. On Friday, I write a weekly menu, trying to utilize a few core ingredients that can be used in more than one meal. For example, if I buy broccoli, I will make stir fry one night and a soup the next. On Saturday, I write out my list of what I will need for the week. On Sunday morning, I browse the circulars, compare sale prices and cut coupons. I only buy something from the coupons or sales if I actually need it. If I already have 2 bottles of ketchup, I don't get 3 more, and it's likely it will go on sale again when I run out.
Make dining out a special occasion
I like to eat good food. I only pay good money for good food. So when I go out to eat, I expect to shell out a little more than your average trip to Denny's. I also love to cook, so my rule of thumb when it comes to dining out is that I wouldn't choose to go somewhere that I felt I could make better at home. That is usually why when I do go out, it's on a special occasion. I celebrate not only the aspect of eating well but the entire experience. Try to pick a goal when it comes to dining out, such as only once a week, 3 times a month, and so on. That goes for ALL meals!
Workout for free
Utilize free passes or trial offers at gyms. Many will allow you to check out their clubs for a day or even a week. Once you decide if this is something you will commit to, make sure you talk to them about special rates or discounts.The gym is one place where you can negotiate. Invest in a workout program DVD such as Insanity, P90X, or Jillian Michaels Shred (all some of my favorite). It's a one time rate but you'll have them forever.
Develop an action plan
Have a goal amount in mind when purchasing your weekly groceries, but make sure it's realistic. If you plan to prepare and cook all of your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for that week, realize that your grocery bill may be higher. If you know you will be eating out a few times in the week, compensate by cutting back on food purchases. Don't assume less cooking means more room to spend money at the store. You're probably spending more that week in your food allowance in your budget.
They are there for a reason! I'm not saying you need to become the next coupon king, but do take notice to some of the weekly store coupons that are available free in most groceries stores. There are usually some great deals for reduced cost or even free products.
Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of local produce at a bargain! Most fruits and vegetables are now in full swing, so if you have ever wanted to try a certain fruit but were swayed because of the price tag, now is the time to add some new foods to your list.
Eating and living well shouldn't cause financial stress, but so many people use this as an excuse to bypass the produce section and head right for the $0.99 bag of Doritos. If you make your health a fixed expense, it will become a priority in your budget, which will make it easier to cut costs on other variable expenses that you may not need. Let's face it, trading the daily 2 p.m. Starbucks trip for a wholesome dinner menu sounds much more appealing and will end up saving you more than just a few bucks in the long run.
Lauren is the voice behind Say What You Need to Say where she chronicles her daily life of health, fitness, and food.