The Frugal Career Girl: Eating Healthy On A Budget!
As Career Girls, we are busy people. It can already be a struggle to make time to be healthy when it seems like we are always on the go: there’s always another meeting to get to, another networking event to attend, another 12 hour day to put in. It can be even harder when we’re on a tight budget, especially when dollar menus and fast casual restaurants are so readily available to those of us that seem to have no time to cook the real meals and no money to buy the ingredients.
Have you ever heard yourself say, “I would eat healthier, but I just can’t afford it,”? It’s easy to fall into that trap and begin to believe that not having a lot of extra cash is the major impediment to eating well. When trips to the organic grocery stores feel more like making a mortgage payment, it’s not difficult to understand why busy and frugal Career Girls sometimes opt for $1 cheeseburgers over organic produce.
Eating healthy shouldn’t have to break your bank, though. Here are a few great tips on eating well while staying in the black:
- Make time for grocery shopping. This is probably the most important tip you can utilize. It’s easy to think that it’s cheaper to buy a burrito every day for lunch and save half for dinner, but it all adds up quickly and is finished in two meals. Carve out one hour a week to go to the grocery store and buy food for the rest of the week. Whatever you don’t eat during that week becomes one less thing on your grocery list for the next week.
- Buy in season. Fruits and veggies are always cheaper when they’re purchased in season. Not a gardening whiz? Here is a great chart to tell you which season hosts your favorite produce. Make sure with produce that you don’t buy anything more than you can eat in a week. There’s nothing worse than buying some great fruits and veggies and then watching them go bad because you didn’t have time to eat them!
- Or, buy frozen. Produce that is flash frozen as soon as it’s picked holds the same amount of nutrients as the fresh stuff, not to mention that it’s less pricey and it lasts longer! These can be used to bulk up any meal: smoothies, salads, pastas…they can even be a snack all their own. A wise friend told me once that, when counting calories, eat as many fruits and veggies as you want: they will keep you full and won’t add to your calorie count in any dramatic ways!
- Staples aren’t just an office supply. Make sure you buy staples that will stick around for a while, including things like spices, oils, sauces, and even beans, pasta, and other dried foods. They might be an investment at first, but will pay off in the long run–they will allow you to get creative and spice up old favorites in a different way.
- Cut coupons and get the membership cards. Ever watched that Extreme Couponing show? If you have, or if you’ve ever heard stories about it, you know that cutting coupons can go a long way financially. Find your favorite healthy foods at a bargain price by simply leafing through your coupon books that come in the mail. Also, sign up for any kind of free membership cards at your local grocery store to get better discounts store-wide!
- Make game plans when going out to eat. Eating at a restaurant doesn’t have to be a big cash drain. If you find yourself able to dine out, first check out daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find half price deals on your favorite restaurants. Also, look at happy hour specials and 2 for 1 deals on the company’s website.
- Don’t fear the leftovers. Any meals that you make too much of can be frozen and eaten later on. Something else you can do is pick out a day and finish off any leftovers you have in your fridge. Use those staples you just got and make your leftover dishes fun, fresh, and appealing.
- Don’t cook? No problem. If you’re a bigger fan of the microwave, or of already-prepared meals, you can find some great and inexpensive options in the frozen food aisles: Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choice, and Green Giant are a few brands with some great dishes on a dime.
Being healthy is a lifestyle choice, and sometimes a lifestyle change. If you’re not already practicing these habits, they can be difficult to get into right away, but don’t give up! Your budget may put a damper on other things, but it doesn’t have to make it hard to treat yourself right. Learn how to be good to yourself and your bank account all at the same time!