In our increasingly on-the-go world and with the temptation of cheap fast food lurking around what seems like every street corner, eating healthy can be a major challenge, even if doing so comes with multiple benefits. Eight out of 10 Americans say they eat fast food monthly, and about half said they eat it at least weekly, according to a Gallup poll last year. While eating fast food might seem more affordable in the short term, eating nutritious food certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips to help keep your wallet fat while keeping your waistline thin.
Budget and plan out your week
We’ve all been there: Walking through the grocery store on an empty stomach, shoving everything in sight into the cart. But shopping with a full belly, plus a plan in mind, can help prevent you from overspending and buying unhealthy items. An hour or two before heading to the grocery store, sit down, create a grocery budget and make a list of groceries you’ll need for the week. When planning, search for recipes online while cross-checking them with your store’s weekly fliers to see what’s on sale. When you go the store, avoid temptation by staying out of the aisles that don’t include items on your list.
Buy in season — and in bulk
When making your grocery list, consider the fruits and vegetables that are currently in season. Seasonal produce is usually plentiful and less expensive than produce that isn’t in season. Try to stay away from already sliced and prepared fruits and vegetables, which may be more convenient, but also are often more expensive. When shopping, consider what you buy often and buy in bulk. If an item you eat frequently is on sale, like boneless chicken or ground turkey, consider buying more than you need for the week, and freeze what you don’t use. Similarly, for produce you use often, a larger amount could be a better buy.
Prepare meals ahead of time
Prepping ahead of time can help stop you from making unhealthy food choices in a rush. Set aside one day a week to prepare your meals in advance. This will ensure you’ll have healthy meals waiting in the fridge and help save time during the week. When searching for meals to prepare, look for recipes such as stews or casseroles to make the fresh, healthy ingredients you’ve purchased stretch further. When cooking over the weekend, try doubling the recipe and freezing individual-portion sizes for weekday lunches or dinners.
Limit eating out
It can be hard to resist the temptation of dining out, especially at the office when co-workers are heading out for lunch. The average American eats lunch out twice a week, and spends about $10 each time, which adds up to an average of about $936 a year, according to a survey by Visa. If possible, it’s better to avoid dining out altogether. If you just need to get away from your desk for a while, consider having your packed lunch alfresco or taking a quick stroll around the block — your mind and body will thank you.
If you can’t always cut back on dining out, seek out restaurants with healthy options and regular lunch specials. Stick to water instead of sugary drinks, which can add to the bill and your waistline.
Grow your own
If you have the space, starting a garden of your own can be a great way to save money on produce. Seeds or small plants cost just a few dollars and produce fruits and vegetables all season long. Depending on your region, plants like tomatoes, lettuce or cucumbers can be grown in containers on your porch or balcony. When choosing what to plant, look at what you purchase most often, as well as what grows in your region. By having nutritious options in your own backyard, this will help ensure healthy eating. Plus, is there anything more rewarding than preparing food you’ve grown on your own?
Healthy meal preparation image via Shutterstock.