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How to Live Healthy on a Budget

Updated on April 9, 2013
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Many people across the world are faced with tough economic situations and are looking for ways to reduce spending. This may include going out less, cutting back on driving, and unfortunately, buying cheaper food and cancelling gym memberships. The good news is that saving money does not mean you cannot continue to live a healthy lifestyle.

Reducing Your Grocery Bill

I never fully realized how expensive groceries are until I started living on my own. As I became more interested in healthy living I feared that I would never be able to afford the food I felt like I should be eating. Over time I discovered foods that not only are inexpensive, but versatile. These foods have become the staples of my diet.

  • Eggs: Supposedly there are 100 ways to cook an egg so its hard to get bored of these guys. One egg has 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin D, all 9 essential amino acids, and, contrary to popular belief, they do not raise cholesterol levels. They are extremely cheap at $2-3 a dozen.
  • Brown Rice: Switching out brown rice for white rice is one of the best, easiest health choices you can make. Brown rice is high in fiber, lowers cholesterol, is good for your bones, and can aid in weight loss. A one pound bag costs $1-2 and lasts me a few weeks.
  • Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is a good source of calcium and protein and is typically much lower in fat than regular yogurts. A quick meal I love is a container of yogurt with a chopped up apple and 1/4 cup granola mixed in. Most yogurts are around $1 for a 6 ounce container.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Without a doubt one of my favorite foods. They are nutrient powerhouses. These potatoes have iron, magnesium, Vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E, and potassium, making them very heart healthy. They are a little more expensive than Russet or Yukon potatoes but the added benefits make it worth the few extra cents. Sweet potatoes typically run around $1.80 per pound.
  • Spinach: Good for just about every part of your body; brain, skin, bones, immune system, digestion, blood sugar, and so on. You can buy a bundle of spinach for less than $2 or a packaged bag for around the same price. Be aware that if you are planning on cooking the spinach it will cook down to a much smaller volume than when raw.
  • Canned Tuna: Tuna is high in protein, good for your eyes and heart, and has energy boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a versatile food that can be used in salads, casseroles, sandwiches, on crackers, or in wraps. A single can of tuna is between $0.80 and $1.50, but if you buy a pack of 4 or more it is more cost efficient.
  • Frozen Vegetables: It varies based on what you buy, but you will most likely get low calorie, vitamin packed food. They are quick and easy to make which adds to their appeal. Smaller bags are often only $1 while the larger ones may be $2-4.

More advice on healthy grocery shopping can be found in this guide.

'Good Morning America' found that an average $1,200 could be saved each year by using store brands (and that was just substituting at dinner!).
'Good Morning America' found that an average $1,200 could be saved each year by using store brands (and that was just substituting at dinner!). | Source

Generic Brand vs Name Brand

Do you typically buy generic or name brand food?

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In addition to buying healthy, inexpensive foods here are some tips to cut a few more dollars off from your bill.

  • Switch to water: Confession: I used to be a huge soda addict. I am proud to say that I have been soda free for nearly seven months now. Substituting water for soda has made me slimmer and my wallet fatter. Water is primarily the only thing I drink, but if you drink juice try getting a cheap juicer and making it at home. It will save you money, taste better, and prevent you from taking in all those added sugars and chemicals.
  • Don't buy what you can make: Are you a coffee drinker? Do you stop at the coffee shop on your way to work each day? If you do, then stop! A dollar or two for a coffee may seem cheap, but it adds up fast. Make your own coffee at home to save money and the hassle of making a stop. Most coffee makers come with timers so you don't even have to worry about starting it up in the morning.
  • Buy generic brands: This is one you need to be careful with. If I am buying a food that I don't get often I always make sure to compare the nutritional labels between the brand name and store name. With many foods you will find them to be identical, in which case you can save easy money. However, some generic brands skimp on quality ingredients and start adding things like high fructose corn syrup. When this starts happening it's worth the extra cash to get the brand name.
  • Check to see if your store has a rewards card: Most grocery stores do some sort of rewards/savings card. It is free to sign up and will get you discounts on a lot of items. Some of them also give you money off gas or extra coupons.
  • Use coupons: Check flyers or online for weekly coupons/specials. Even if you don't need something this moment it might be worthwhile to buy it anyway. For example, I eat peanut butter like a mad woman, so say I see that it is half price for that day only. Even if I have a just opened jar at home I will probably buy it because I know that I will be out within a week. Be careful though, don't get enticed into buying something you don't really want and won't use just because it is on sale.
  • When buying fresh, buy little and often: This will prevent your food from spoiling before you have the chance to eat it and through money down the drain.
  • Calculate your total as you shop: My mom always did this when I was young and I never understood. If you keep a tab as you go I find that it prevents you from making impulse buys. Before you shop have a budget and stick to it.

Make do with what you have. Playgrounds can be great for workouts!
Make do with what you have. Playgrounds can be great for workouts! | Source

Fitness for Free (or pretty close to it)

One of the most common reasons people don't exercise is because gym memberships are too expensive. Even the $10 or $20 monthly fee for a place like Planet Fitness can be a hit to your budget. There are still plenty of free or inexpensive ways to get your workout in.

  • Get Outside: Bike, run, walk, hike, swim, play volleyball, anything! There are so many possibilities. When I first started my health journey I lost the first 15 pounds just by running outside on my dirt road, doing crunches and pushups on my lawn, dips on the bumper of my car, and hula hooping.
  • Spend a few dollars on an instructional video: There are programs like P90X, Insanity, TapouT XT, and so on, but these usually run rather expensive. Some cheaper options are Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred, Pilates, and yoga. Blogilates is also a great site with tons free Pilates videos and an awesome instructor.
  • Calisthenics: These exercises use just your body weight and therefore can be done anywhere, anytime, for free. Ones to try: lunges, pushups, crunches, dips, planks, and leg raises.
  • Little changes make a difference: If you are really strapped for cash use every opportunity possible to get in some exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car farther from the office. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up!

Start Saving

By following these tips you can save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year. So start making some frugal decisions and you can begin planning your next vacation! If you have any more money saving tricks, please feel free to share!

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      We actually already incorporate many of these suggestions in our household. Great job of detailing some very practical suggestions.

    • Living Well Now profile image

      Living Well Now 4 years ago from Near Indianapolis

      Great hub! Can't beat burpees, jump squats, pullups and running for basic exercises. I'm still working on that diet soda addiction.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      We sometimes think that living healthy is expensive. But your list proves otherwise. This is a helpful list and helps change one's perspective.

      Congrats! Your hub has been nominated on the Hubnuggets! Check it out https://hubpages.com/community/A-HubNuggets-Hike...

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 4 years ago from Cardiff

      Great tips! We are trying to change our eating/cooking habits at the moment. I save any money I earn online or outside my general income as it is 'extra' adn cant really miss it if I never had it! I find that the little amounts add up fast. We are saving for our first home but it is a hard on a tight budget! Get a coin counter! That is one tip I would say, you never notice all the little change until you put it in a change counter then it seems to add up fast, this is especially good for kids!

    • Victoria Anne profile image
      Author

      Victoria Anne 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      daisydayz, it's funny that you say that because just the other day I returned my coins and had over $200! I rarely use cash/coins and I still had that much, so it definitely does add up!

    • toomuchmint profile image

      toomuchmint 4 years ago

      Fitness for free is such a great tip! Sometimes we get discouraged when there's not enough time (or money) to go to the gym, but the world's our playground and our weight room. Thanks for sharing!

      And congrats on your HubNuggets nomination!

    • Victoria Anne profile image
      Author

      Victoria Anne 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you toomuchmint! I love exercising outdoors; fresh air, sunshine, and it's more fun than the gym!

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Wonderful. You are quickly becoming a hit. I do believe I have read at least 3 of your hubs already and you are new to us! I had no idea. Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Very worthy. I thought this hub provided great information and loved that you also added how to get free / inexpensive workouts. Great job!

    • Life as a Blog profile image

      Monty Hamilton 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Awesome hub! A lot of useful information! Thanks!

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      I would add hatha yoga at home for flexibility, strength, stress reduction, and tuning into the needs of your body. I also buy fresh and bulk as often as possible, and hardly ever canned. The only canned stuff I buy is smoked fish, beans, and coconut milk. I just don't see the health in most canned stuff. Also, deal with attitudes. Negativity creates ill health, believe it or not. Good hub, Victoria Ann.

    • profile image

      Thiet ke logo 4 years ago

      Great tips, i usually use rice daily and fresh foods

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 4 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Good advice! Also good luck on the Hub Nugget contest!

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      We just need to plan and know our options. I think living healthy is not as costly as others say it is.

      Great hub! Voted up and shared.

    • Sethughes profile image

      Sethughes 4 years ago

      This is really great. Thanks for posting. I love eating healthy and saving money, so this was a great hub to read.

      Very nice!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I agree, people tend to associate healthy with high cost, probably because of the high price tags attached to many boutique foods. I eat lots of canned tunaand eggs, but I just can't get excited about sweat potatoes. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • MobyWho profile image

      MobyWho 4 years ago from Burlington VT

      I'm going back to my old trick: first of each month, buy a debit card from your favorite market equal to your monthly food budget. You'll get a balance every time you use it and can see how much you have left. Balance zero? eat leftovers or that stuff at the back of the shelves until the next month. Thanks for budget tips for healthy food! and Congratulations!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Living healthy on a budget is key and your ideas are so helpful.

    • Raine Law Yuen profile image

      Raine Law Yuen 2 years ago from Cape Town

      Hi, saw your comment on a forum about writing so I was curious to know what is required to write a stella hub with an ECA (editors choice award?) I'm quite new to hub pages. started this month and have 8 hubs featured - Your writing style is nice and clear - easy to read.

    • Victoria Anne profile image
      Author

      Victoria Anne 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi everyone, I want to apologize for not responding to all your wonderful comments, I had taken a pretty long break from the site but I am back now! Thank you all so much for reading and your kind words :)

      Raine - According to the help section (http://hubpages.com/faq/#Editors-Choice) the editors are looking for uniqueness, quality, engagement, and so on. Several of my lower performing hubs have received ECA so I don't think traffic has much to do with it.

    • Raine Law Yuen profile image

      Raine Law Yuen 2 years ago from Cape Town

      thanks for your advise. Love your post also on keeping fit.

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