So we're a few months into 2017, and some of our "healthy eating" resolutions might not be panning out the way we thought they would. At first, it seems easy. Cut some bread out of the diet, eat more veggies and fruit and try not to drink any soda. But then when the bill for a week's worth of groceries is twice as much as it usually is, panic sets in. Eating healthy might be more difficult than hitting up the McDonald's drive-thru, but it's so worth it and *definitely* can be done on a budget.
1. Opt for whole grains in bulk.
Grains aren't at the bottom of the food pyramid for no reason. Sure, too many carbs can venture into unhealthy territory, but there are plenty of grains that give you important nutrients and fill you up. Think quinoa, brown rice, oats and whole wheat pasta instead of ravioli or tortellini. Many grocery stores offer grains in bulk. You just bring a jar or bag, walk over to those giant containers (you know, like the ones coffee beans come spilling out of), and get as much as you want. You end up saving on packaging (which means no boxes that go straight to the landfill), and you can get dozens of servings for just a few dollars.
2. Fruit and veggies don't have to be a total budget killer.
Produce can get expensive, but it's all about where you shop. Stores that don't offer much local produce and have high traffic (Walmart, your local grocery chain) often have steep prices. This might sound contrary to popular opinion, but many organic and "fancy" grocery stores, even Asian and Indian markets, often have excellent produce with really good deals. Your local farmer's market and budget stores like Aldi are also worth checking out, even though it feels kind of sketch after shopping at more "luxurious" grocery retail giants. You might need to start shopping at a couple of different places, but it's worth it when you save all that $$$.
3. Steal your mom's crock pot.
You might be shopping and cooking for only yourself, but crock pot meals are a great answer to food you can store and save for lunches and dinners throughout the week. Plus, crock pot food is always better once it has some time to marinate. There are tons of delicious, easy and nutritious meals that utilize yummy veggies to keep you full and satisfied.
4. Actually cook your own food.
This one is HARD! Trust me, I know. After a long day of classes and studying or plowing away at work, the last thing you want to do is figure out what to cook, how to cook it and then clean up after yourself. However, all it takes is one week of getting used to cooking for yourself, and it'll become a normal part of your routine. Going through any drive-thru is easy, but the guilt and weird stomach aches that come with eating too much fast food is not. Crank some tunes, put on some comfy clothes and cooking might even become cathartic for you. (It did for me, and I am definitely not a chef by any stretch of the imagination.)
5. Meal prep!
So these last three go hand-in-hand, and it makes sense. It takes a small dose of for real adulting, but it's worth it in the long run. If you can prep your meals for the week, you're much less likely to overeat, buy expensive and unhealthy snacks and it saves on your chances of eating out when you really didn't need to. Note: Everyone loves a good brunch. Saving your money and calories for a weekend splurge is more cost-effective, and you get to hang with your pals.
6. Eat with the seasons.
This is generally a good idea no matter what your budget is. You're more likely to get local and fresh produce if the item is actually in season, and pay less since it didn't have to be shipped halfway around the world fast af. Opting for a pineapple in December probably isn't worth the upcharge, but there are a few fruits that are always pretty cheap—including grapes, apples and bananas. And no matter how much that pre-cut watermelon calls your name, don't do it! Cutting a watermelon takes no time at all, you aren't wasting on that plastic container and you don't have to pay yourself to cut your own food.
7. Avoid junk and prepackaged food.
Prepackaged food is the best invention, yet it is the absolute worst invention. No one can say they don't love a good Cosmic Brownie, but high fructose corn syrup is probably the worst thing you put into your body on a regular basis. Processed foods don't give you the vital nutrients you need, they're addicting and they'll leave you feeling hungry. Instead of buying a bag of jalapeño chips or Oreo's, opt for healthier options. Organic and "healthy" snacks tend to be more expensive than regular snacks, but if you're saving in your budget elsewhere, it is worth it (for your health and wealth!) to buy healthy snacks such as dried fruit, mixed nuts or rice cakes.