How to Save Money and Still Eat Healthy
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I would just like to take a moment and say that financial independence (also known as “FI”) doesn’t really matter if you are not in good health to enjoy it. All the money in the world doesn’t mean much if you don’t take care of your body.
That is why my health is the most valuable asset that I can invest in. Not the stock market. Not a rental property. But my health (and my family’s health) is what really matters.
So when it comes to spending money, my wife and I are okay with paying more (most of the time) for the foods we eat.
And when it comes to eating healthy … there is no doubt it can get expensive. Especially when you start paying more for organic produce, grass fed meats, and specialty products that you can’t find in your local grocery store.
The hardest part for our family is not the dieting. It is trying to balance living a healthy lifestyle while trying to save money at the same time.
How Our Family Eats (Most of the Time)
For the most part, our family follows the paleo lifestyle. Well, at least my wife, teenage son, and I follow this type of eating. Our youngest two children are harder to convince to eat this way.
If you want to research more on the paleo lifestyle, might I suggest the following resources –
- What Is The Paleo Diet? by Robb Wolf
- The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet by Nerd Fitness
- What’s Paleo? The Paleo Diet Explained by nom nom paleo
We even take paleo to the extreme several times a year, by following the Whole30 program. Basically, this healthy way of eating cuts out all sorts of bad foods like – alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, etc. It focuses on eating healthy, mostly unprocessed foods for 30 days.
No matter what … every time I finish a Whole30 round (as it is called) … I end up losing 8 to 10 lbs. It even helps my son clear up most of his asthma symptoms he has had since he was a baby.
Eating healthy unprocessed foods and following a protocol like the Whole30 can be powerful and a game changer in your life.
Recently, I wanted to take it even a step further past the paleo diet and started following the ketogenic diet. In a nutshell, the “keto diet” as it is called limits the carbohydrates you eat and replaces most of them with healthy sources of fat (like avocado’s).
Here are a couple great resources of the Ketogenic Diet –
Now, this isn’t a fitness blog … and I am not here to give you health advice. But no matter what type of diet, or healthy lifestyle you may follow … just know that it can cost you more money. Personally, I like to think of all that extra money as an investment … rather than a cost.
What do Most Healthy Diets (Lifestyles) Have in Common?
So what do all of these healthy diets (or lifestyles) have in common? Most of them come with higher foods costs.
For example, our family never spent a lot of money on meat. However, once switching over to a paleo diet … we started buying more meat. Meat is just more expensive to buy then let’s say … beans or rice.
We also find ourselves paying more for certain kinds of produce like avocado’s. Lately, a single avocado has cost us $1.00 to $1.50 depending on where we shop. Asparagus is another great vegetable that we enjoy, but the price can run several dollars a pound … especially when it is not in season.
Then, we find ourselves paying extra for specialty items like – coconut oil, avocado oil, coconut flour, almond flour, sugar free bacon, dairy and sugar free salad dressing, chia seeds, etc.
All of these items cost more than their unhealthy alternative like white flour, regular bacon, salad dressing, etc.
Finally, there are a ton of healthy snacks and packaged food items that have hit the market place that comply with certain diets. While some (not all) of these snacks are actually very healthy … they are usually a LOT more expensive than unhealthy alternatives.
Healthy Eating Life Hacks to Save Money
In an effort to continue eating healthy and trying to reduce our $14,000 annual food budget, we have put together a quick list of life hacks. While some of these “hacks” are small, the combination of them should help us get started with saving money.
Here are 5 quick life hacks that we hope will save us money on our food budget while we continue living a healthy lifestyle.
1. Make Our Own Salad Dressing
Eating leafy green vegetables is part of almost every diet imaginable. And while salad ingredients don’t cost too much money, salad dressing does. At least the sugar and dairy free kinds do. For example, a 12 oz. bottle of dairy free ranch recently cost us $5.99. Alternatively, you could buy a bottle of highly processed salad dressing for $.99.
Instead of buying the expensive brands of healthy salad dressing, we started making our own. We start with extra virgin olive oil and add ingredients from there.
2. Stop Paying for Healthy Snacks
There are several paleo and Whole30 snacks that you can purchase at Amazon and even in some grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. For example, one of my favorite snacks are Larabars. These bars typically run $1 to $1.50 a bar. While that doesn’t seem like a bunch, these costs can really add up.
So our family recently put a ban on buying healthy snacks like this. Instead, we either make our own snacks (homemade larabars for example) or just use vegetables and some fruits instead. Yeah I know … nobody wants to snack on celery. But overall that is a healthier and cheaper snack food.
3. Load Up on Low Cost Vegetables
Organic salad mix is a great low cost leafy green veggie that is perfect on any diet. So we recently started using organic salad mix as the basis for a lot of our meals.
Broccoli, cucumbers, celery, carrots are several other low cost vegetables that can help fill you up, save you money, and fuel your body with nutrients.
Another life hack that we recently started was to avoid buying out of season produce. First, this helps the environment as we are not spending money to transport our veggies from thousands of miles away.
Second, it will save us a bunch of money. For example, have you ever priced out asparagus in the winter in the mid-west? Or a Watermelon? We now opt to buy only seasonal fresh produce, unless there is a frozen (healthy) alternative.
4. Grow More Food
Earlier this spring, my daughter and I started a project together to grow a vegetable garden. We spent about $80 on materials, plants, seeds, etc. In the first year, we will not recoup our costs on this project.
However, in the future there will be the possibility to break even or save money on the project. The raised garden bed (and soil) should not need to be replaced for some time … so next spring we are only out the price of the plants. We are also going to try and use more seeds for planting which are much cheaper.
Looking back, we could have saved a lot more money by starting a DIY garden bed, without paying for the materials. So growing some of your own food is another life hack we are trying to implement.
I am happy to report that we are now at the end of October and we are still pulling tomatoes off our plants every week!
5. Drink Water and Coffee
First of all, most drinks like soda, juice, and alcohol are not allowed on most diets. So if you can avoid buying these types of beverages, then you are probably saving money already.
Our family has basically been drinking water and coffee (and a little tea) exclusively for years … with a few exceptions. In the fall, we will buy sugar free apple cider. At $2.99 for a 1/2 gallon, the prices can add up.
We also buy a lot of bottle water. Certainly not as expensive as a case of beer, but just like everything … the costs of bottle water can add up.
So in order to save more money on our food budget, we have recently put a ban on all beverages … except buying coffee … which we have a way to save $500 already on our favorite beverage.
Instead of bottle water, we are making use of thermos containers that we have had sitting around taking up space. We will save money, help the environment, and live a healthier lifestyle by making this one simple change.
What other life hacks (big or small) can you suggest for saving money while trying to live a healthy lifestyle?