There’s a common misconception that going on a diet means spending more money on food. While I’ll agree that a bag of apples costs more than a bag of potato chips or a .99 hamburger at McDonald’s, if you’re a smart eater AND a smart shopper, eating healthy will save you money in the end.
In just a few weeks of dieting, I’m learning that as I grow thinner, my wallet is growing fatter. Before starting to diet and focusing on getting healthy, going out to eat meant spending at least $7 unless I was cheating and bought the crap they put on the dollar menu at a fast food chain. Now, the average meal out to eat costs me less than $5.
Before I was paying attention to what I was eating, I placed convenience above almost anything else when choosing foods. So, of course, that meant that I ate fast food more often than I’d like to admit. Pre-diet I would usually order a value meal at a place like Taco Bell or Wendy’s (usually meaning I was consuming almost 1,000 calories in one sitting). Now, going to Wendy’s means ordering a small chili for under $2, and at Taco Bell, dinner means 3 fresco soft tacos for less than $3. At my favorite local restaurant, El Campesino’s, I used to order a variety of items off the menu: a quesadilla and rice, a grilled chicken taco salad, etc, each totally about $6-$10 for the meal. Now, I almost always order two soft chicken tacos, totalling just over $3. And, of course, don’t forget the trick to saving on every single meal out: drink water…it’s free! Ask for a lemon slice (also free) to add a little flavor.
Eating cheaper doesn’t end with eating out. Eating at home is also cheaper if you’re a smart shopper. The key to saving money when shopping for anything is to shop around for a bit until you get an idea of which stores has the cheapest prices overall. Of course, when it comes to healthier foods like produce, high quality is very important. After all, buying produce that is barely ripe or has gone bad will do nothing for your efforts to incorporate them into your daily routine and diet.
So, my tips for eating cheaper at home are:
- During the summer, find a local farmer’s market and go as often as possible. You can get amazing deals at a farmer’s market (like a flat of strawberries for $7. That’s NINE cases of strawberries for $7, compared to 1.69 a piece on sale at Giant Eagle. That’s a savings of $8.21, and that’s only comparing to Giant Eagle when the strawberries are on sale!). And as an added bonus, you’re helping local farmers!
- Plan ahead for meals, make a list, and stick to that list at the store. Dieting or not, this is a trick that will always save you money. It’s one thing to add to your list because you realize you forgot an item from a recipe, but don’t let yourself by this snack or that. In the long run, the savings from cutting sugary and fatty snacks like potato chips from your grocery list will save you money and not having them in the house will make it easier to avoid them.
- Pre-portion as much as possible. I come home from the store and the first chance I get, I’m cleaning, cutting and portioning my fruits and vegetables. I use my food scale to note how many calories are in each pre-portioned pack to make it easier to plan, and for the rest of the week I have convenient, highly accessible, healthy snacks. My diet includes counting calories, so having portions with exact calorie counts makes my life a lot easier. Plus, since I’m more likely to eat all of the fruits and vegetables I buy when they’re easy to grab, I’m wasting less food and once again saving money.
So there you have it. Eating healthier is cheaper when you do it right. And I’m sure that I’ve only touched on a couple of the ways that that is true. Try incorporating just one of these tips into your routine and I’m sure you’ll find that you’re saving some money and saving on calories too.
How do you save money while staying eating healthier? Do you have any tips to add?