Why Strive to Eat Healthy on a Budget?
My husband and I have experienced first-hand how hard it is to keep up with the cooking, cleaning, and everyday duties of apartment life. As a result, we got into the habit of eating out. We spent almost $700 in one month just on food. It was not even fancy food; it was McDonald's, Wendy’s, and Burger King food. We were not eating healthy (and it showed). We ended up having not only financial issues but health issues as well.
Our goal is to save as much money as we can in order to pay off all our student loans and the car. In order to achieve this goal, we had to make some drastic changes.
Our Two Strategies
We wanted to bring our monthly food budget down to under $100. We wanted to eat healthy, balanced food that could meet not only our financial goals but our health goals as well. Now, as discussed above, we didn’t have a ton of time for cooking. As a result, we choose two strategies to help us out:
- Costco’s microwavable burritos
- Big-batch meals
How We Saved on Breakfast and Lunch
We ate two Costco frozen burritos for at least one meal per day. The total cost of that one meal ends up being 66 cents each or $1.32 x 30(days) = $40. Not bad, right?
For breakfast and dinner, we used the big-batch strategy. Here is what we did:
I made one pan of either baked oatmeal or baked hash browns (both have a great amount of protein and are filling enough to get you to lunch). Recipes for baked hash browns and oatmeal can be found on any recipe search engine. One tray of either of these costs about $4 and consists of 8 meals. Let’s do the math: 8 meals divided by two people is 4 days’ worth of warm homemade breakfast. That’s a dollar a day on breakfast for two! That makes a whole month of breakfasts only $30.
How We Saved on Dinner and Snacks
Big-batch dinners are great. I like to make a big salad bowl and eat it for dinner over the course of three-four days. It is a healthy ending to a busy day and helps us burn calories throughout the night. If we feel like it, we sometimes have a slice of garlic bread with our salad. Basically, Olive Garden, except it is ten times cheaper. We buy the big bag of spinach that costs five dollars at Costco. We also get a one-dollar bag of baby carrots to grate into the salad. Add a smidge of olive oil, some pepper, and sea salt, and you’re good to go! The spinach and carrots last us about two weeks. $6 for every two weeks means that it only costs us $3 per week or 20 cents per serving. WOW!
If you were to add in a $12 box of 28 granola bars (also at Costco), you would still be well within your price range.
Let’s add it all up!
$30.00 for Breakfast
$40.00 for Lunch
$12.00 for Dinner
$94.00 If you add the granola bars
But wait, there's more...
What if Salad Isn't Enough?
Now you may be thinking, “This is CRAZY.” I assure you; it is possible. I have lost 20 pounds and am happy and healthy.
Now, you may also be thinking, “I don’t think a salad and piece of toast will fill me up”. That’s okay. The reason I leave some wiggle room is so that every individual has flexibility. For example, individuals that work out after dinner may want some more protein with their salad. Adding a boiled egg, beans, or chicken would bulk it up a little bit. It also leaves some room for an occasional dessert or nice dinner on the town.
Some Tips and Tricks
A note on chicken: My husband and I sometimes buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli department of our local grocery store. It costs less than $8.00, you don’t have to cook it, you don’t have to clean up the mess from cooking it, and it is already in a nicely sealed container. We purchase one rotisserie chicken every two weeks. We pick it apart and freeze half of it in zip-loc bags or plastic containers. This makes it so that we have fresh chicken for the following week.
A note on bread: We buy whole wheat bread and keep it in the freezer. Freezing it helps it stay fresh. If we have it with dinner, it toasts great from frozen. In addition, if you are having lunch away from home, you can pack a chicken sandwich. Just use the frozen sliced bread, some of the spinach from the salad, some of the rotisserie chicken, and a bit of mayo, voila! By the time you eat lunch, the bread will have thawed and your sandwich will not be a soggy mess.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Miranda Hoepfner