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How many times have you heard someone claim they would eat healthy if they could afford it. "Fast food is so much cheaper," they say. But is the Dollar Menu really the value you put on your health? Surely the extra money spent is worth it in how you look and feel, inside and out?
But even if you answered "no" to that question, eating healthy on a budget can be achieved through vigilant shopping. You might even save a few dollars in the long run.
Do you have a Sam's Club, Trader Joe's or Costco in your general area? If so, these are places to start. Bulk buys can lead to big savings. (Easy foods to throw in your grocery cart.) Just avoid the Sam's Club and Costco dining areas.
Here are some food options that will be good for you and your wallet:
- Canned chicken. It's basically just chopped white chicken meat, making it a lean protein source with little or no fat. The sodium content can be high, so look for varieties packaged in water.
- Canned tuna. This is dirt cheap. Costco and Sam's sell massive cans of tuna, making the cost-per-serving a lot less than that Big Mac meal.
- Canned salmon. Again, this is much less expensive than fresh cuts while still offering a leading source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some suggest canned fish can actually be fresher, considering it's vacuum-sealed. If you live away from an ocean, do the math. That fresh fillet may not be as fresh as the label suggests.
- Oatmeal. A no-brainer for sure. The cost-per-serving on a large bag of this is not going to break the bank and it's a staple in most athletes' diets.
- White or Jasmine Rice. Again, this can be bought in bulk, and it provides a good carb source to pair with the above-mentioned protein. I'm not a member of the "brown rice is better" crowd. Save a few bucks and get the same results.
- Broccoli. Many of the big retailers sell bulk bags of broccoli for less than five dollars. A bag can easily last you a week. The same goes for spinach. Don't forget your greens!
- Nuts. A good diet includes a variety of healthy fats, and large bulk buys of mixed nuts are relatively inexpensive. Shop around.
- Natural Peanut Butter. Another good fat source that won't cost you an arm and leg. Other options include cashew and almond butter, but they cost a bit more.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It may look pricey up front, but it lasts a long time. Add in a tablespoon here and there, or pair it with balsamic vinaigrette as a salad dressing.
There you have it. Eating healthy on a budget is not an insurmountable task. Put together a meal with one item from each of the above categories, and you can bet it will compare favorably with the junk food lunch you're used to. It might even be cheaper.