Last Updated on March 23, 2018 by Michael Brockbank
Looking to lose a few pounds but don’t have the money to eat better? A lot of people assume that you need to buy more expensive foods if you want to lose weight or live a better lifestyle. In reality, the cost to eat healthy is much lower than you realize.
While It’s true that many “health” products and organic foods have a much higher price tag, you don’t necessarily need them. Don’t get me wrong, some organic products are worth the expense. But in the end, it’s the way you eat that will influence your diet and grocery budget.
Of course, this also depends on your idea of “health.” Is it cutting out manufactured and pre-packaged foods with preservatives? Is it only surviving off of natural beef without hormone injections? Perhaps you simply eat far more than you need to.
The cost to eat healthy is relevant to your beliefs and how you shop.
Portion Control and How It Helps
One of the biggest problems many people have, especially here in the United States, is portion control. In many parts of the world, we are very overfed. Many of us will look at a 10-ounce steak and think of it as one good meal. The truth is, it’s more than three times what you should eat.
It doesn’t help when places like Taco Bell introduce some new meal deal where you can get even more food for less money. In the end, you consume nearly an entire day’s worth of calories in a single lunch.
Restaurants are not helpful when it comes to keeping down the cost to eat healthy…not that Taco Bell is healthy, but you get the idea.
Smaller Portions are Less Expensive
Let’s take Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Chicken, for example. A single bag of this is about $4.99 at my local store. This usually produces about two and a half cups worth of food measured out – I know because I measure it out every single time. If you make this dish for two people, would you add anything to it such as rice?
That’s where it starts adding up. When you keep adding more things to the plate, the cost and calories quickly increase.
When I whip up the kung pao chicken and fried rice, I use 1/2 cup of the kung pao and 2/3 cup of the rice. This is half-portions of each product according to the packaging. Not only is this a tasty meal sitting at 235 calories, I can also make five meals out of the packages making each one cost less than $1.50.
And it’s enough food to keep me satisfied.
The point is you don’t need to gorge yourself every time you sit at the kitchen table. You don’t have to starve yourself, but realize just how much you’re putting into your body.
Make Only What You’ll Eat
I never throw away food…which is part of how I gained so much weight to begin with. Today, I only cook exactly what I intend to eat whether it’s today or next week. I’ve lost more than 60 pounds and have yet to toss out food of any kind in over two years.
Think about how much food you waste and try to put a price tag to it. Sometimes you’ll lose out on a few cents when you toss out moldy bread. Other times, it’s close to a couple of dollars because the pizza in the fridge started moving.
Unfortunately, many people simply forget they have left overs in the fridge. You need to be vigilant if you really want to save money and lose weight. A lot of people wind up throwing out incredible dishes because its lifespan was up last month.
Saving the Rest for Later
Leftovers are a staple for a lot of people. Personally, I purposely make dishes so I can freeze them for later. It’s like having my own frozen dinners available made from some of the best dishes I cook.
Right now, my freezer is full of prepared Chinese food just waiting until they are popped into the microwave.
You don’t need to lick your overfilled plate clean if you’re capable of having some of the food for lunch tomorrow. Too many people will stuff themselves because they don’t want to eat leftovers or they don’t want to take the time to prepare it.
Less Garbage to Throw Out
When you stick to proper portion sizes, you have less garbage overall. There’s less snack wrappers, food packages, cans and more if you eat properly. It also means you spend less money in sacks for your garbage can.
When I started focusing on proper portion sizes, the amount of trash I produced was cut by more than half. Eating less means buying less, and buying less means throwing less stuff out.
Of course the amount of trash you produce is also connected to the products you buy. If you pick up a case of water to be healthy, you also have a case worth of plastic to contend with.
In the end, serving yourself and the family proper portions greatly reduces the cost to eat healthy.
The Expense of Convenience
Many products I see at the grocery store are incredibly inflated in terms of cost. These high prices are usually the result of convenience. For instance, I spend nearly $6 on an espresso from the local coffee house. I also spend less than a dollar to make nearly the same quality of coffee from my kitchen.
Learn to Make it Yourself
Making dishes yourself is a much cheaper way to eat in almost every instance. For example, we were able to make almost 20 Mexican Pizzas for the same cost as three from Taco Bell. Personally, I think ours came out better.
Even pre-packaged food from Trader Joe’s may be cheaper if you spend the time to prepare the meals yourself. Unfortunately, we live in a world where convenience reigns supreme…which is sad, really. It’s also a big reason why the cost to eat healthy is much higher in some areas.
Learn to Grow it Yourself
My favorite snacks throughout my entire life are the ones my Grandma made from her garden using a food dehydrator. Nothing is better than freshly made raisins or strawberry chips. They are also incredibly healthy.
I haven’t had a chance to build a garden yet, but it’s definitely one of the things I want to do this year. And if I make an indoor garden that is sustainable year-round, I can have a never-ending supply of tasty treats and veggies for my own dishes.
The point is you can grow a variety of foods without spending extra money at the grocery store. After the first packet of seeds, you can learn how to grow and maintain a fruit and vegetable garden which could greatly reduce the cost to eat healthy.
I know that not everyone is capable of growing their own foods. Some are just not handy around plants or simply don’t have the space. However, you can still grow some herbs to at least cut the cost of seasoning your food. Besides, nothing is better than fresh herbs while you’re cooking.
How Much Does it Cost to Eat Healthy?
I’ve lost more than 10 pounds so far this year while spending less than $5 per day to eat. Even after snacking, which I tend to do too often, I spend less in a single day than many people will spend on a single meal.
Remember, this greatly depends on your idea of “healthy.” For some, it’s about eating nothing but organic foods or only shopping at new-age grocery stores. But in any regard, keeping a handle of portion sizes will impact how much each meal actually costs.
Eating Healthy Doesn’t Mean Keeping it Organic
A lot of foods on the market have organic counterparts that are indeed healthier alternatives. However, eating healthy doesn’t simply mean you spend your budget at Whole Foods. Keeping the portion sizes down is also a healthy way to eat while keeping more money in your pocket. Keep an eye on your intake…it’s easy to lose weight if you burn more than you consume.