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Living Healthy

Tips to Stay Healthy on a Tight Budget

May 19, 2021
Having a tight budget can make it seem like the options for staying healthy are limited. Yet with some creativity and planning, you and your loved ones can eat well, exercise, and reduce stress to stay healthy and stay within your budget.

The trick to pursuing a healthy lifestyle without spending a lot of money is to think outside the box and plan ahead.

Eating healthy on a budget is easier when you think ahead about your meals. Planning in advance helps with saving money, saving time, and making food last longer.

Make the most out of your trips to the grocery store by doing some research before you go. If possible, find out what is on sale. Also ask if the store has a loyalty program for members that includes lower prices on items.

Plan your meals based on what you can pick up for less, plus what is already in your pantry and refrigerator. Make vegetables and other plant-based foods the stars of your meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate, American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Plate Method, and Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate recommend filling at least half of your plate (or bowl) with fruits and vegetables.

As you plan meals, think about how to use leftovers. For example, uneaten vegetables and rice are great for soups and stir fry. You may also make large batches of a recipe and freeze portions for later. Buying in bulk can make healthy options cheaper when you break it down by serving.

When you go to the store:

  • Stick to your shopping list.
  • Buy staples and items that will not spoil in larger quantities when possible. These can include rice, pasta, dried beans and peas, frozen vegetables and fruit, and canned items.
  • Choose simple foods that have fewer ingredients as they are more likely to be healthier.
  • Avoid single-serving and pre-packaged meals. They are usually more expensive per serving. Many have added salt and other preservative ingredients.

If you are in need, take advantage of free food sources, too. You can find food pantries and other resources through Feeding America, the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479), and local community and religious organizations. Federal and state governments, and some local governments, offer food assistance programs too.

Move your body with creative and fun activities

Back in the days before TV had hundreds of channels, and the Internet offered endless entertainment, physical activities filled peoples' evenings and weekends. Many of the healthiest activities are free, so it can be easy to exercise on a budget. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

When the weather and daylight are good for being outside, here are a few suggestions to make exercise into a game:

  • Walk while having an "I spy" competition. Pick things to spy (for example, a color, a type of car, flowers) and award points each time they're spotted.
  • Have friendly competitions with games like a water balloon toss, skipping race, hopscotch, and jump rope.
  • Play soccer, kickball, or even good old-fashioned tag. You don't need a professional field - you can make one with rocks marking the boundaries and goal area.

If you need to stay inside:

  • Have a dance party.
  • Play hide and seek in the house.
  • Follow along with a free yoga or stretching video on YouTube.
  • Hold a housework competition with points awarded for cleaning tasks — bonus for scrubbing the toilets!

Try stress relief options

High stress levels can have a big impact on your health. Practicing mindfulness can help you keep stress in check without spending money.

For a quick boost, when you feel your stress level rising, try:

  • Taking 5 to 10 deep breaths with your hands on your chest.
  • Writing down a short list of things you are grateful for in your life.
  • Closing your eyes and imagining a place or person who makes you calm and happy.

Explore different ways to stay healthy on a budget to figure out what works for you and your family. Well-being means acknowledging and taking care of all the aspects of your life - including physical, social, and financial. If you think creatively and make it a priority, you can save money while becoming healthier.