There seems to be a general consensus that a healthy lifestyle is expensive. Sure, it can be since fresh produce seems to cost more than packaged foods and gym memberships can also be pricey. But what if I told you that it is less expensive than you think if you choose more selectively? Here are some tricks I use to afford being healthy and yes, I know that the opinion of childless person might not be applicable to everyone and every situation but some might be.
- Reform your expense perspective: Gas is expensive (well, by U.S. standards), cable is expensive, your Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts habit is expensive, dining out adds up in more ways than one, as does going out for drinks regularly or that 2 wine bottles per week to calm your nerves tendency. For me, at least half of those things can be done without or reduced to increase cash flow for other things. For example: I make my own coffee drink so that I can afford organic chicken and I don’t have cable so I can afford life ( cable is expensive!!)
- Be more active in your daily life so that the gym is just a bonus: Take more stairs, park farther away, bike, walk your kids to school, make after dinner walks and interactive video games a family time staple. Don’t just rely on getting to the gym to get moving. The local YMCA or recreation centers also have great rates if you want an indoor workout and there are often adult sporting leagues nearby. At the very least, find a couple of DVDs to get an at home workout.
- Avoid recipes provided by manufacturers: You’ve seen recipes on the side of containers like Pillsbury crescent rolls and even Velveeta cheese right? Understand that they simply want you to buy and use their products and could care less if they’re good for you. Avoid those products all together and opt for your grandma’s version ( minus the huge amounts of lard etc). Want dinner rolls? then try this recipe or this one; they’re probably healthier store version AND you can substitute the types of flours you like. I’m not advocating you overindulging in sweets and baked goods (easiest way to pile on the pounds, folks) but I’d rather have you making your own cookies the old fashioned way than from pre-made dough.
- Plan ahead for weekly meals and make large batches to eat and freeze: Casseroles, stews and soups, slow cookers and one pot meals are your friends. Think about the flavors you want to taste and build up your “go-to” recipe list. Structure your plate to include protein (beans, fish or meats) , complex carbs (grains and vegetables), and heathy fats (avocados, olive, coconut, grape-seed oils). *Skip cured deli meats like hams etc and buy a rotisserie chicken for quick meals on the go. Personally, I really like knowing where my food comes from so I make 98% of my own meals knowing that I will have leftovers for days.
- For most fresh veggies, buy enough for the week and choose frozen for the rest. How many times have you had to toss veggies that went bad before you got to use them? Buy just enough for the meals you plan to make that week and FYI: to get the best vitamin benefit, try not to chop them up until right before cooking. Canned veggies is the low man on the totem pole of vegetables because they (a) use tons of salt to preserve them and (b) all of the nutrients can fade over time. If you do hav eto buy them then stick to canned beans.
- Learn to fuel yourself proactively instead of eating reactively: Eating for fuel and not just because you’re hungry can make a huge difference on your energy levels, waistline and pocket book. When you’ve waited too long to eat, then the meal you eventually choose is one that is calorie heavy because your body is ravenous. Piling in so many calories at one time can cause weight gain because your body only processes so many at once and stores the rest for later. Don’t wait for that moment when you just can’t pass up that expensive take out and instead, have a decent sized breakfast and lunch with a couple snacks throughout the day. Fruit is a perfect snack because it comes pre-packaged so I toss some into my carry-all along with a boiled egg or 2 if I know it will be a long day. Oh and for those of who argue that takeout is cheap where you live: consider the one plate you buy probably costs 1/3 to make and has 2x the calories than if you made it yourself.