Cheap meals are the holy grail of cooking. But how do you make sure they’re healthy and pack a nutritional punch, too? That’s exactly what we were wondering.
It’s a pretty natural part of life that every now and then we find ourselves doing it a little tough on the financial front. This may be due to our employment, over-spending, or we may get hit with a whole pile of bills we weren’t expecting. Whatever the reason, it can sometimes have an impact on our motivation to look after ourselves. Maybe you don’t think you can afford to be healthy and so you just get into bad habits that stick, and so when your bank account starts to get a little healthier, your eating habits don’t.
If you’re reading this thinking “damn that’s me”, don’t worry. As much as we try, we can’t be perfect all the time! Therefore, we have put together a few nifty tips on how to live a healthy life while on a tight budget. We will give you great ideas from breaking bad habits to finding the best cheap meals! There’s no need to jump onto Google and type in “how to be good at being poor”, in the hopes that all the answers to life’s questions will flash before your eyes. We can tell you now, they won’t. But keep reading and we may be able to answer a few for you!
Cheap meals: Healthy vs Unhealthy
It is a common misconception, in Australia, that eating healthily is expensive. To a certain extent, it can be especially considering you can pick up a week’s worth of pasta and toasted sandwiches from the supermarket for under $20. However, when done right, eating healthily could be just as cheap and easy!
It is so easy to have a couple of low budget weeks and get stuck into cheap meals and $5 value pizzas and then suddenly, you’ve formed a habit. Therefore, we have comprised a few tips on how to make a healthy lifestyle as affordable as an unhealthy one!
- Plan your cheap meals – this can be a huge money saver as every time we go to the supermarket we end up with at least 1 item in our trolley that we don’t need. Planning your meals for the week should mean that you’ll make far less trips to the store which will minimise the amount of unnecessary purchases we make. Make sure you do a good scan of the pantry and fridge to avoid buying things you already have.
- Stick to your cheap meals list – It is so easy to get side-tracked at the grocery store. You see a packet of double choc-chip cookies for half price and you just can’t resist; it’s normal! Try and resist though! You don’t need the cookies, only buy what you’ve written on your list so you can make your cheap meals as healthy as possible.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry – even if you’ve taken the time to write a grocery list and you’re prepared to fully commit to only buying what’s on it, if your stomach is grumbling, the chances are your trolley will end up being much fuller than it needs to be. Your stomach will always beat your will power so make sure your visit to the supermarket is done after filling, healthy meals.
- Cook cheap meals at home – cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out or ordering in. As nice as it might be to have your dinner delivered directly to your couch, you will save so much money by taking 30 minutes out of your day to cook yourself cheap healthy meals. Some people will cook every day during the week and then treat themselves on the weekend which is fine but if your budget won’t allow for that then there’s always leftovers.
- Cook large portions of your cheap meals so you have leftovers – this is a huge money and time saver! If you want cheap easy meals, then leftovers are great! They can be used for lunches the next day, in other recipes or you can just freeze them in single portions to be enjoyed later on. If it’s not going to cost you much more to make a large amount then always make sure you do!
- Buy whole foods – some foods a much cheaper in a less processed form. For example, a block of cheese is cheaper than a bad of shredded cheese and canned beans are cheaper than refried ones. Whole grains like brown rice and oats are also cheaper per serving than most process cereals. Whole foods give you better value for your money and you can also buy them in larger quantities.
- Buy generic brands for your cheap easy meals – forget about what the TV ads say, you don’t need to buy expensive brands to be healthy. All food manufacturers must follow certain standards to provide safe food. The generic brands are likely to be the same quality as other brands, just much more affordable so your cheap meals will taste just as good!
- Stop buying junk food – as delicious as the cookies are, you don’t need them! Cut out some junk food from your diet, you would be surprised how much you are paying for soft drinks and sweets when they do nothing for your health. By skipping the processed and unhealthy foods, you’ll have more room in your budget for the higher quality foods.
- Keep an eye out for sales – If you have favourite products that you buy frequently then make sure you take advantage of sales when they’re on. If it’s something you’re going to use a lot and will last, buy bulk so you can save more money. Coupons are a great way to save money on your cheap easy meals as well so make sure you use them wisely!
- Buy produce that is in season – don’t go spending $6 on a punnet of strawberries just because you like them. Make sure you buy them when they’re in season and much cheaper! You may have to wait a few months but the savings will be worth it.
- Buy frozen fruits and vegetables – fresh fruits, berries and mixed vegetables are usually in season only a few months of the year and can get quite expensive. Buying frozen produce is just as nutritious and much cheaper! You can also buy a larger amount and they’ll last for ages in the freezer!
- Grow your own cheap meals produce – one great way to save time and money is to grow your own produce. Not everyone has the resources available to do this so if you don’t, just stick to the above tips and your cheap meals will be great. If you can grow your own then that’s fantastic! Seeds are extremely cheap to buy and with a little bit of time and effort, you’ll be able to grow your own fruit and vegetables. They’ll taste better too because you basically created them.
How to get into a habit of always having cheap healthy meals.
Like so many things in life, our diet and exercise regime comes down to habit. From our morning coffee, to our after-dinner treat, we all have our habits that get us through our daily routines. Some habits are great, some not so much. It takes about 3 weeks for us to fully settle into a new habit and then breaking it can take up to 2 months or longer.
In order to break a bad habit, you need to replace it with a good one. This can sometimes prove to be quite difficult for Australians, as multi-tasking is not our strong suit. This is why we get stuck doing habitual things that aren’t necessarily good for us, because it’s comfortable and no one likes change. However sometimes we need it. Sometimes we need to replace that daily chocolate bar with a piece of fruit or an afternoon walk. Replacing is key! You can’t just stop doing something because, no matter how unhealthy a habit is, it still provides you with some kind of benefit, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.
For example, if you’re a comfort eater and stuffing your face is how you deal with sadness or stress, then it’s a bad plan to just stop eating when that happens. Instead, you could either replace that packet of chips with a delicious garden salad, or you could come up with a different way to deal with your emotions and insert a new behaviour.
Cheap meals and health deals
Everyone needs to eat. It’s a very unavoidable aspect of life and yes, it’s nice to indulge in copious amounts of spaghetti bolognaise every now and then, but it’s also a good idea to experiment with healthier meals you’ll like just as much.
There are so many food guide websites and cookbooks throughout Australia that will give you endless options for your cheap meals. One great site is Healthy Food Guide as they offer pages of great recipes that will satisfy your body’s needs and won’t break the budget in the slightest.
Another large part of living healthy is keeping up with regular exercise. No one is judging you if you’re not the type of person that goes to the gym every day, but doing some sort of activity a couple of times a week is a great way to stay fit, healthy and happy.
Many Australians seem to believe that being poor means you can’t exercise. This is not true. If you are the kind of person to work out at the gym or go to exercise classes then you may find it quite expensive, but that may be another habit you’ll have to change to suit your budget. Here are some great ways on how to exercise for free;
- Floor exercises (sit ups, push ups, stretching, lunges)
- Dancing (at home or out and about)
- Fitness ball
- Running/ walking
- YouTube work out and yoga videos
- Have children (this one’s not free but it’s a great workout)
- Stair runs
- Work in hospitality
- Doga (dog yoga)
- Coga (cat yoga)
These are some great ways to stay in shape without having to fork out $20 a week on a gym membership. If the gym is something that you’re just not willing to give up, then maybe just try to get as many 5-day free trial passes as you can for all the different gyms around your area.
How living health with cheap meals and exercise can help you
Following these tips that we have comprised for you will not only help you live a healthy life without breaking the bank, but they will also improve your quality of life significantly. Eating unhealthy can very easily spiral out of control. It is so important to maintain some healthy habits and here are a few reason why:
- To control your weight – eating right and exercising regularly can help you avoid any excess weight gain, which is the last thing we want when our financial situation has already got us a little down in the dumps.
- Improve your mood – doing right by your body pays off for your mind as well. It’s well known that exercise releases endorphins which make us happy, and eating cheap healthy meals helps with our general everyday feeling and self-esteem.
- Combat diseases and other health issues – healthy habits help prevent certain health conditions including heart disease, stroke as well as depression.
- Boost energy – a balanced healthy lifestyle will give you much more energy to go about your day. When you’re giving your body the things it needs, it will repay you by being energetic and productive.
- Improve longevity of life – living a healthy life will naturally reward you in the long run. Practicing healthy habits is known to boost your chances of a longer life.
So, there you have, a long list of ways to stop living your life based on the health of your bank account. With cheap meals and free exercise, you can easily start to make yourself feel better while you wait for your finances to turn around. Then once they do, you’ll be in a good habit of eating cheap healthy meals, and living a cheap healthy life.
If you do find that you’re struggling to make ends meet and you can’t figure out how to budget for your health then get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to tell you how one of our Nifty personal loans can help you to get your bank account looking a healthy as your lifestyle will be!