9 ways to eat healthy on a budget

Slim your waist and your spending.

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One of the biggest obstacles to living a healthier lifestyle? The premium cost of specialty foods, gym memberships and personal trainers. But taking care of yourself doesn’t have to take a toll on your wallet. Luckily, there are lots of ways that you can shed pounds and save money at the same time.

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1. Be a savvy produce shopper.

Skip the processed snacks and save by shopping for produce that’s in season in your area — it’s considerably cheaper than out-of-season items and often on sale. Apples and pears are typically cheaper in the fall, while strawberries and melons are in season in the summer. In the winter, stock up on healthy staples like root vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, oranges and tangerines.

If you live in an area where farmers markets are abundant, consider shopping locally instead of heading to the supermarket. Fresh, locally-grown produce is usually cheaper straight from the field than at the grocery store.

2. Break out your green thumb.

Try growing your own fruits and vegetables if you have some time to spare and don’t mind getting your hands dirty. The upfront costs of starting a small garden are relatively small, and the yield from your own crop could save you hundreds.

You could even try your hand at canning, dehydrating, freezing and pickling your produce in the summer and fall to stock up for winter. That way, you’ll be less tempted by leftover holiday treats and processed meals come January.

3. Consider going vegetarian.

Meats like chicken, turkey and fish can be pricey — especially if you prefer to buy free-range and organic. Trim your spending by swapping meats for more cost-effective proteins like lentils, beans and eggs. Even if you’re not ready to give up meat altogether, try going vegetarian for a few nights per week to save some dough.

4. Play the long game with subscription services.

Subscription services like Noom that are aimed at helping you lose weight and keep it off frequently offer a hefty discount when you sign up for several months or even a year at once.

For example, Noom’s monthly auto-renewal subscription is $59 per month, but it’s four-month auto-renewal plan is $129 — or $32.25 per month. And its annual subscription costs $199, or $16.58 per month, making the service even more affordable if you can pay the year’s subscription up front.

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5. Create healthy meal associations.

“To set ourselves up for success with weight loss while saving money, we have to beat the convenience factor of unhealthy and expensive foods,” says Silvia Milanova, cognitive psychologist and founder of the fitness app Jumpy Cat.

Her suggestion? “Don’t stress yourself with big changes — it just requires too much effort for most people.”

Instead, take baby steps like:

  • Replacing your morning/afternoon snacks only, or
  • Replacing only one meal per day with cheap, raw fruit and veggies.

“Your brain will build an association with having fruits and veggies for that meal,” Milanova says, “and you’re more likely to make it a long-term habit this way.”

The Noom app is another tool that helps you make positive behavioral changes that result in small “non-scale” victories, like gaining self-confidence or a boost of energy. Because weight loss is about so much more than just a number on the scale.

6. Eat more mindfully.

Diana Gariglio-Clelland, a registered dietitian at Balance One supplements, recommends putting your health at the forefront of your goals instead of focusing on numbers. “Health really is the most important thing we have,” she says.

“This includes mindful eating, which is important for people of all ages, from children to the elderly,” Gariglio-Clelland says. “Mindful eating means being aware of your hunger and fullness cues, and respecting them. For example, if it’s 10 a.m. and you’re hungry but it’s not lunch time yet, honor your hunger and have a filling snack!”

She adds, “It also means leaving food on your plate if you’re comfortably satisfied.”

As an added bonus, mindful eating can help you save on your weekly grocery bill, since the aim is to eat only when you’re hungry — not out of boredom.

7. Use credit card rewards toward healthy purchases.

Choose a credit card that gives you rewards you’ll actually use. Is there a health spa you’d love to indulge in? Use credit card rewards to save on travel and lodging. If you’d rather use your rewards toward specialty foods and produce, choose a card that offers competitive cash back on everyday purchases.

8. Exercise sans equipment.

You don’t need fancy equipment or even a gym membership to keep your body moving. Go for a walk or jog around the block, or look up resistance training workouts online that you can do from the comfort of home with nothing but a pair of sneakers and a tank.

9. Sign up for loyalty cards or fuel perks at your local grocery store.

Most major supermarket chains offer a loyalty card and/or fuel perks to help you save on your weekly grocery haul and the gas to get you there. Small weekly savings quickly add up, especially if you’re ditching dining out and routinely cooking at home.

Bottom line

Adopting healthy eating and exercise habits doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a few savvy shopping tricks up your sleeve, a long-term plan and some motivation, you’re on your way toward a healthier, happier you.

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