shopping raven
shopping raven

Keep the Green in Your Jeans: How to Stay Healthy on a Budget

As the gas prices rise, the green in your pocket seems to elude you like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. At times like this, I’m often told that it’s too expensive to eat healthy. It was years ago when I used to say the same thing myself.

But, have you ever found yourself rushing home from work in a big panic because you don’t know what to make for dinner, your household is ravenous, and there aren’t any ingredients to make anything? So right back out the door you march to forage for food. Whether you end up at a restaurant or in the fast-food drive through, with your blood pressure now through the roof and your blood sugar plummeting, you’ll end up spending much more money eating poor quality food while spending the same amount of time it would have taken to prepare something nutritious at home with nothing more than just a little pre-planning.

Here are a few tried and true tips to help you stay healthy on a budget and reasons why choosing a healthier way of life will actually save you money.

Save Money by Preparing Meals at Home

Cost per serving, it’s actually much more expensive to dine out than it is to prepare meals at home. You can expect to pay on average $5-$10 more per serving on restaurant food before adding in tax and gratuity. Restaurant food is laden with trans fat and chemical preservatives so it’s not only more expensive monetarily, it’s also much more costly to your health.

Try these time-saving menu planning and grocery tips to help you plan healthy meals at home:

Schedule a little time each week to plan a 7-day menu along with a shopping list that has the needed ingredients for the menu items planned that week. By planning meals for each night of the week, you’ll know what ingredients you need on hand ahead of time. This will save you from last-minute trips to the store which can quickly add extra expense from less-healthy impulse buys.


Plan a portion of your menu around the weekly ads. Not only will you capitalize on the weekly specials, it will also help with fresh ideas for meals you may not have had in a while. Use easy recipes with simple ingredients from a healthy-eating cookbook or magazine to design your weekly menu. Remember to include a lean protein a green vegetable with every meal. Post the menu on the refrigerator so the whole family will know what to expect and it will remind you if you need to defrost meat. If you know you have to work late or you have an event scheduled on a particular night, select a 15-minute meal or something you can throw in the crock pot.

Shopping List

Create a personalized grocery list on the computer and keep copies of it in the kitchen so when you run out of items, you can circle or check it. Separate it by sections in your store (example: produce, staples, frozen, dairy, paper). List the items in each department that you will be buying on a regular basis (example: PRODUCE: spinach, bell peppers, onions, avocado, tomato, lemons, apples… etc). This will help to remind you of items you need to buy each week and also saves you time from having to write out a hand-written list each week. It’s as simple as checking the box!

Grocery Store

Be sure to eat a healthy snack before heading to the market. This will allow you to focus on the task at hand rather than the scent from the bakery filling your nose.

Stick to your list. If it’s not on the list, you don’t need it.

Perimeter shop. Stay away from the center isles except for frozen vegetables, personal care items, and paper products. Avoid ever buying frozen entrees, items in crinkly bags, and convenience foods. They’re budget busters and belly busters.

Don’t ever buy cookies, crackers, sweets, treats, chips, ice cream, or candy. They cost money but they don’t nourish your body. Instead, stock up on nutritious staples like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, eggs, chicken breasts, tuna, oats, brown rice, low-fat plain yogurt, and nuts. If you keep these items continually stocked, you’ll never find yourself in a position to grab the keys and head out to fast-food.

Other ways to save money and stay healthy:

  1. Save money by cutting out sodas, juice, and alcohol. They only add expense to your bills and do nothing nutritionally to aid in making a healthy body. Drink purified water with lemon instead. It helps to transport nutrients to the body’s cells, lubricates joints & muscles, aids in digestion, and balances your pH.
  2. Save money by watching your portion sizes. This is important whether you’re at home or dining out, but serving sizes in restaurants are usually 2-4 times the normal amount with average calories easily topping 1200 per entree and over 600 for a “light” version! YIKES! When eating out, cut those calories in half by sharing an entre with a friend.
  3. Save money on prescription drugs by adopting a lifestyle that supports your health: regular exercise, nutritious home-cooked meals, proper hydration, nutrient supplementation, stress reduction, and adequate rest. Medication dosages can usually be reduced or eliminated all together with these proper preventative measures. As always, be sure to check with your doctor first before making any changes in your medications.
  4. Save money by losing weight. Studies show that overweight people miss more days of work than healthy weight people and spend more money on medications & insurance for weight-related health disorders. Economists at George Washington University have tabulated the cost of obesity and say that not only do obese men rack up an extra $2,264 annually in expenses, but obese women pay nearly double that – $4,879.

The thought and preparation going into these choices is guaranteed to keep the green in your jeans, but more importantly, it may just save your life. You can do this! Your health is priceless!

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