Health and Wellness

8 Ways to Stretch Your Wallet Instead of Your Waistline

By Mikey Rox

Eating healthy isn’t easy on a budget.  And combined with a still-bleak economy and rising food prices, it’s near impossible to make a decent meal on a meager living.  But near impossible isn’t impossible.

The recipe for stretching your wallet instead of your waistline consists of two ingredients: a heaping helping of resourcefulness and a dash of effort.  When combined, not only will you get the goods your mind and body need to weather the financial crisis, you’ll have the means to save more money in boom times and bad.

To get you started on the road to financial and physical recovery, here are a few tips that every cash-conscious consumer should live by:

1.    Scour your local supermarket circulars for the best deals on produce, lean meats and seafood. Not every supermarket is created equal, and you’ll be surprised at how drastically prices vary from place to place. If your money is worth the paper it’s printed on, you’ll take the time to compare prices to ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

2.    Sign up for grocery store club cards. They’re designed for loyal customers to receive exclusive discounts on selected grocery items – and best of all, they’re free. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save with one simple swipe.

3.    Avoid frozen and processed foods. You know they’re not good for you, and while they seem inexpensive, the price-per-ounce ratio far exceeds that of healthier, more satisfying foods.

4.    Buy in bulk when you spot a good deal, but don’t go overboard. Many fruits and vegetables can be frozen, so, for example, if you love fresh strawberries and they’re half price, buy two packages. You can enjoy one package now and freeze the other to enjoy later.

5.    Clip coupons! Coupons save you loads of dough on tons of things you already buy. But beware. Just because you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Be democratic when making decisions in the supermarket. Do you really need that item? Will you eat it? Is it good for you? These are all things to consider.

6.    Eat in. The biggest contributing factor to our expanding midsections and dwindling slush funds is eating out. The food you buy on the go is far inferior to whatever you’d make at home – and it’s a lot more expensive. Think of it this way – for the price of one dinner at a moderately priced restaurant, you could have filled your cabinets with a week’s worth of healthy food. Still hungry for that $14 hamburger? Didn’t think so.

7.    There’s no reason mealtime should be boring, so get creative in the kitchen. Download new recipes from the Internet, cook along with your favorite food-show host, or throw a themed dinner party with a good-for-you menu. You’ll have more fun than you expected, and you’ll feel good about it too. To preserve you own stash, host a potluck and invite friends to bring body-boosting side dishes and desserts.

8.    Don’t discard leftovers or seemingly spoiled produce. Think of ways to make uneaten food go the extra mile. Baked chicken with a side salad on Monday can turn into chicken and avocado lettuce wraps on Tuesday. Pack last night’s dinner for lunch. Turn overripe fruits into smoothies or heart-healthy muffins. Throwing out perfectly good food is sort of like throwing your paycheck into a fire pit. Translation: It’s just plain stupid.

These eight ideas are just the beginning of a long laundry list of ways to save money and stay fit. Eating right doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, in many ways, buying healthy foods and preparing your own meals is more cost-effective than taking the easy way out. Yes, you’ll have to spend more time in the kitchen and at the supermarket, but the pros far outweigh the cons here. As they say time is money – which would you rather spend more of?