Being strapped for cash doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthy and workout on a regular basis.
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“The key to eating healthier and not breaking the bank is changing our perspective when we look at food,” says Michael Fenster, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and author of Eating Well, Living Better. “We tend to focus on the quantity as a bargain instead of purchasing quality items.”
Eating an all-organic diet and joining a pricey gym aren’t the only ways to get fit.
The first step to eating better on a budget is changing your shopping habits. Grabbing a package of skinless chicken breasts from the supermarket might be convenient, but Fenster says buying the whole chicken, even an organic one, and using all the parts is healthier and cheaper.
“Breaking the bird down yourself takes about five minutes and will cost less than buying a pack of breasts or thighs,” he says. Not only can you eat the different parts but the leftovers can be used for stock to add flavor to future meals.
If you aren’t interested in cooking, try joining a community-supported agriculture group (CSA), recommends Napala Pratini, a health analyst at personal finance website NerdWallet www.nerdwallet.com.
With a CSA, local farmers sell their fresh fruits and vegetables to members at price that can be cheaper than the grocery store, and consumers can set when they get orders, explains Pratini. “It’s a great way to get really fresh and locally- grown potentially at a discounted rate because it’s coming straight from the farmer and not the supermarket.
Timing your healthy food purchases can also save you a few bucks. Farmer’s markets can be pricey, but Kit Yarrow, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, recommends going later in the day to snag discounts since vendors often “greatly reduce prices on their perishables.”
Buying non-perishable items in bulk can also save you money. It’s also important to be vigilante when it comes to the prices of healthy food items. Yarrow warns there is likely to be big fluctuations in the prices of certain food items because of the harsh winter weather that plagued most of the country, making it more important than ever before to know how much items normally cost.
“We become blind to price shifts in regularly-purchased items, especially produce,” says Yarrow. “It’s really important to check prices and look for alternatives.”
Another great way to eat healthy on the cheap is to avoid “convenience foods” and stick to the perimeter of a grocery store, says About.com’s weight loss expert Malia Frey. She also says to skip the “so-called healthy flavored water and drinks” that tend to be expensive. Water is the healthiest choice and you can make it less bland by adding cucumber or basil and orange slices to it, she suggests.
When it comes to exercise, consumers have a variety of options to get in shape without spending a fortune. Pratini suggests checking your corporate benefits and your insurance policies for any discounts to gyms.
The internet is filled with free workout videos and apps offering exercise routines and schedules.
“Some of the best workouts require no equipment and no expensive gym membership,” says Frey. “You just need to get creative.”