Healthy eating on a budget doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, once you develop a habit of shopping for and cooking fresh foods creativity you might never go back to packaged, processed or fast food again. For the athlete on a budget the following tips may help you make better, cheaper meals that taste fabulous and trim your waistline along with your food budget.
1. Drink More Water and Less of Everything Else
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Let go of sodas, juices, soy lattes, alcohol and fancy energy drinks in favor of tap water and you will make an enormous dent in your grocery budget and probably improve your health in the process. Depending on where we live, most of us don't need to pay for healthy hydration.
2. Buy More Frozen VegetablesFrozen vegetables are just as nutritious as many fresh vegetables because they are frozen shortly after picked. In some cases and particularly during the winter months, frozen may be even fresher than what you'll find at your local grocery store. The best frozen vegetable choices include broccoli, peas, carrots, spinach, and mixed vegetables ready to add to your next stir fry.
3. Cook Enough to Have LeftoversOne-pot dishes like stir-fry, soups and stews made at home with fresh or frozen vegetable, lean meats, tofu, olive oil and fresh spices are satisfying and inexpensive meals that go a long way. Package up leftovers for the next day's lunch or freeze leftovers for later in the week.
4. Invest in Reusable Food Storage Containers
If there is one area to invest in that can help you save money and eat healthy it may be by purchasing quality, reusable food storage containers. Different size and shapes that are microwave-safe, and easy to pack and carry with increase the likelihood that you will bring food with you. Packing leftovers the night before or making several lunches at a time will ultimately help you control your portion size and eat fresh for less.
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5. Support Your Local Farmer's MarketNot only will you support your local economy, but you will find high quality, fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables that are often organic. Local farmers can often provide a better price because they have less overhead and transportation costs. Talk with the growers and learn about their produce and favorite ways to prepare it and you may find some new favorite recipes and healthy meals.
6. Give Up Breakfast CerealsBreakfast cereals are not only expensive, but most offer little nutritional bang for the buck. And although the label may say it has 12 servings, do you know anyone who manages to eat just "one serving" of cereal at a time? You're far better off with homemade oatmeal or a simple hard-boiled egg with fruit and whole grain toast.
7. Limit Processed, Packaged and Single Serving FoodsIt may be a bit more work initially to make your own sandwiches, soups or salads, but the effort will save you big bucks. The price you pay for one or two packaged sandwiches at the deli could buy the fixings for a week's worth of homemade lunches. Additionally, you control what you put in it -- and have a sandwich you love as a result.
8. Cut Out the Energy Bars and Drinks
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Energy bars and beverages may be convenient and nutrient-dense, but they are expensive and can easily be replaced by less costly "real food." Consider as replacements: an apple, a banana, a handful of dried fruit & nuts, about 3 fig newtons, or a cheese and tomato or tuna sandwich. Wash it down with tap water and you've replenished your energy stores and saved yourself some cash.
9. Eat Out Less OftenEating out is not only expensive, but frequently unhealthy. Restaurant food is often full of fat and calories hidden in sauces, oils and butter. And while fast food lunches may appear to be fast, convenient and cheap, the lack of nutritional value is the real price you'll pay.
10. Share EntreesIf you like to eat out, or have a lifestyle that includes going to restaurants, you don't have to give it up to save money. But think about what you order and how much you consume at one meal? Most restaurant portions are massive and far more than we need to consume. But face it, we tend to eat what's in front of us and when dining out that means usually we overeat. Why not consider sharing an entree? Chinese, Thai and Italian cuisine is perfect for sharing. Another way to eat out and save money is by taking advantage of happy hour menus when the same meal is about half-price.