I’ve written these tips for eating healthy on a tight budget because my heart goes out to people who are living on one income or on a fixed income. I’ve been there myself as a single mother and with young children to feed. During those years, it was difficult to find new ways to stretch a dollar especially when ten cents was all I had to my name. As difficult as those times were, I don’t regret it. It taught me a lot about making the most with what I had — and what I had, it turns out, was usually enough.
Though I have just gone through a year-long weight loss program, I was not on a budget while I did it. Even so, I can immediately see what changes I would have made if money had been tight. With that in mind, I believe that I can offer some tips that might actually help.
WHAT FOODS TO EAT
The first place to start is to understand what a typical low carbohydrate weight loss plan looks like. The foods that most low-carb and diabetic-friendly weight loss programs recommend boil down to two major food groups: lean meats (including poultry, fish, eggs, and pork) and vegetables. With just these foods and a few good recipes for diet-friendly sauces and spices to add flavor, you will lose weight and improve your health. If you study most recipes for diabetics, you will see meat and veggies taking center stage.
MAKE A TRADE
If you believe that you cannot afford lean meats, poultry, eggs, fish, pork and vegetables take a hard a hard look at what you are already eating — and spending — for the foods already in the pantry. Adjusting your food budget to begin eating more healthfully starts by making a trade.
Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say that you usually buy a bottle of ketchup every month. Instead of ketchup, why not spend that money on zero sugar salad dressing or zero sugar barbecue sauce? Better yet, buy the ingredients to make your own. In other words, take the money you would have spent for ketchup and exchange it for something more healthy. Make a healthy trade.
Example: I used to buy a box of sugary cereal and a gallon of whole milk every week. The money that I would have spent for the cereal and milk now goes to buy a package of hamburger that I can divide to make three or four 8 oz. portions for individual meals. Even more if I buy it on sale.
When you are eating for weight loss, it’s ideal to have two or three meals per day. Some diet programs will allow you to include more types of foods — such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, fruit, etc. But almost all weight loss plans — including those for diabetics — emphasize proteins and vegetables. So, if you are able to afford these things, you have what you need to begin eating for weight loss.
Everything else you have been eating has probably not been very good for you. So, the money you save by NOT buying those things is going to be money that becomes available for your new way of eating. In all likelihood, your grocery budget might actually improve along with your health.
Even though it is sometimes very expensive to purchase fresh produce, a daily basic salad of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes is all you need as far as fresh vegetables go. You can add to the ingredients as you are able to do so — a package of radishes will last a couple of weeks and a few slices are all you need to jazz up a salad. One cucumber can be sliced into thirds to go into salad on three separate days. The same with tomatoes.
If you are absolutely unable to get fresh produce, frozen vegetables are an affordable option. You may not be able to eat them raw, but they are still nutritious and good for weight loss even after they are cooked. If you must eat canned vegetables, make sure they are low in salt and contain no added sugar.
TYPICAL DAY’S MEAL PLAN
One meal should include a fresh salad made of leafy greens with two or three kinds of uncooked vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes and green onions. You will also want to have 8 oz. of lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish or pork once or twice a day — depending on what type of diet plan you are doing. You also want at least 2 cups of cooked vegetables per day.
Here is what a typical day’s menu looks like for most low carb weight loss plans:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, one strip of bacon, coffee or unsweetened tea
Lunch: Salad with 1-2 cups of leafy greens and 1-2 cups chopped vegetables, 1 tablespoon sugar-free salad dressing, 8 oz cooked poultry or meat
Dinner: 2 cups of cooked vegetables, 8 oz of lean meat, poultry or fish
Water: 32 oz to 64 oz of water per day
- Plant a garden or a container garden to grow some of your own vegetables
Seek out farmers’ markets or u-pick farms during season (learn to can and freeze produce, if necessary)
- Talk to local church groups and food banks to locate donated sources for food; many food banks have meat, poultry and canned goods available that would work with a weight loss program
- Get together with neighbors, friends or family to buy food in bulk from co-ops, butchers or other sources. Example: At one time, we split the cost of a whole pig with another family and saved dollars per pound by having it butchered ourselves.
- Some communities offer community vegetable gardens — everyone pitches in to do the work and share the produce after the harvest.
- Do not buy packaged or processed foods; cook and prepare all of your own meals.
- Most meats can be purchased in bulk for greater savings. Purchase meat/poultry that is on sale and immediately portion it and put it into the freezer until ready to use — or cook it all at once and then freeze the portions for later use.
Please keep in mind that I am not a medical expert or a licensed nutritionist. I am sharing what I’ve learned during my own weight loss journey. Always consult a medical professional before starting any diet or exercise program.
I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions. Use the comment box below! ~ Susan