We have five people on staff at Vital Fitness. There are two teachers, one youth pastor, one single income father of three and one college student. Needless to say, we are not doing most of our shopping at Whole Foods. Despite our tight budgets, all five of us have made it a priority to practice what we preach to our members. We all eat healthy and we do it on a budget. The following are a few tips on how we pull it off:
1. Shop with a plan
Walking into a grocery store without a plan is like taking your wife to Target without a budget. If you want to avoid spending money on discounted candles or the Lloyd’s Barbeque just because it is buy one get one free, never go shopping without a list.
The most efficient way of creating a list is by working backwards. It will take forever to search your pantry or fridge for things you need. Instead, take some time to sit down and map out what your actual meals are going to be for the next couple of weeks. Then, create your grocery list based on those meals. Limit yourself to only going to the grocery store once every two weeks to a month with your list always in hand. This will prevent you from the daily or weekly trips to the store where you are constantly tempted by marketing ploys to get you to purchase foods that you do not need, but you buy anyway because you “can’t pass up the sale.”
2. Meal Prep
First, let’s assume you choose to avoid meal prepping altogether. You will be left with about three options for your lunches at aregular 9-5 job: fast food, a sit down restaurant or the cafeteria at your workplace. The average cost of a fast food meal is $5-$7,a sit down restaurant is around $12, and your cafeteria may be somewhere in the middle (plus the sugar free Monster or Red Bull you add in on top). All three options are more expensive than preparing food at home. Below is an example of an estimate of the cost of a healthy, home cooked meal:
• 4oz ground turkey: $2.50
• ½ cup of cooked brown rice: $0.10
• 6oz of steamed broccoli: $0.50
o Total = $3.10
As you have already noticed, there is a common theme to eating healthy on a budget. You have to plan and prepare. I understand that “meal prep” is a healthy buzzword that really turns some people off. Most of us picture standing in the kitchen for hours on a Sunday making tupperware meals while weighing and measuring everything we touch. While meal prep does not have to be that complicated (that is for another post), like most things in life, your hard work will literally pay off your debt and weight.
3. Purchase local and in bulk
Everyone has his or her favorite grocery store. For most of us in Lakeland, Florida, it’s Publix. Unfortunately, many times, yourgrocery store’s cost of produce is significantly higher than a local produce stand or farmer’s market. This does not mean you have to avoid the pleasantries of your local Publix altogether. Rather, it goes back to having a plan for your grocery shopping. Next time you shop, take the extra trip to a nearby produce stand and buy your fresh fruits and vegetables at a discounted rate. You will also be supporting your hometown, small business, which of course, is another plus in our book.
To contradict myself a bit here, you should not always purchase local. Most of the time, you are better off purchasing some of your foods at a wholesale, chain grocery store like a Sam’s Club or Costco. While buying wholesale products does not always equate to savings, it usually does with meats. For example, the current price of boneless, skinless chicken breast at Publix is $4.59 per pound. Right now, Costco’s price is at $1.98.
The common counterargument to purchasing perishable foods in bulk is that you will end of losing your savings in wasted food. The response is simple: use your freezer. The next time Publix has their chicken breast on sale, buy it in bulk, use what you need to prep your food for the week and freeze the rest. I know this might not be the freshest or finest way to eat your poultry, but we are discussing eating healthy on a budget, not how to prepare a Gordon Ramsay approved meal.
How Vital Fitness can help
We hope this post leaves you feeling encouraged about eating healthier on a budget. However, if you are left wondering what kinds of foods you should be eating, how much, what times, etc., reach out to a local fitness coach to start getting some answers. I would advise against getting lost in the millions of opinions on Google. It will leave you feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and exhausted. If you live in the Lakeland area, we would love to be your one stop shop for all of your fitness needs, including nutritional advice, lifestyle coaching and exercise regimens.