Instead of making a big deal about resolutions, think about a few ways you can nudge your way towards healthier without it being overwhelming.
We’ve all been there – the new year comes & we’re headed out to the store to spend big bucks on everything healthy we can lay our hands on. We drop a bundle and then we lose our “oomph.”
Sometimes the most powerful changes are small ones we can implement bit by bit without too much pain! Here are a few suggestions to help you (and me!) on your way to healthier that will actually improve your bottom line.
1.) nix the junk food:
Did you know a 9-ounce package of Lay’s Potato chips for $3.83 is actually $6.80 a pound? Snack on popcorn (freshly popped, not the microwave bag) instead. Buy a Whirley Pop to make it fun, shake it in a pan on the stove or do your own microwave bags – like this recipe from Serious Eats! I think I might have the definitive post for popcorn on my site, see my Freshly Popped Popcorn post.
2.) drink water:
It’s by far the healthiest (and the cheapest) drink around. Get yourself a bottle, if you don’t have any sitting around. If you need to (this is me!) start with a glass a day, increase as you go, replacing unhealthy (and expensive) alternatives.
3.) shop the weekly sales:
Sit with the flyer, plan your meals around the sales. Yes, it’s planning, it’s going to take some time, but less time than you’d spend going out to eat or making multiple trips to the store. You’ll save money in the long run and eat healthier.
4.) make a list:
Make a list when you go to the store and stick to it! Avoid impulse buys and don’t shop when you’re hungry.
5.) plan meatless or vegetarian meals:
Vegetarian meals are generally less expensive and better for you than a standard American meal. Start once a week, see how it goes. Focus on healthier meals with a lot of varied vegetables like this Vibrant Vegetarian Casserole.
6.) buy in season, consider frozen & canned:
Buy in-season vegetables and fruits – if you don’t know what they are, let price be your guide. Check out frozen or canned options, which may or may not be cheaper, depending on the prices and whether or not you use coupons. If there’s a great price for a particular product, consider blanching and freezing.
7. shop the outer aisles:
The outer aisles are generally where you’ll find the vegetable aisle, bakery (which may be less expensive than the packaged bread aisle), dairy and proteins. Avoid center aisles unless you know what you want, and you’ll be less tempted by packaged items. Read the Secret to Grocery Store Layout from Real Simple.
8.) consider alternative proteins instead of beef, pork & chicken:
Items that may cost less are eggs, nuts, nut butters, grains, beans & legumes, cottage cheese, canned salmon or tuna (look for Alaskan Wild canned Salmon for a clean option), frozen fish.
9.) use meat as a condiment:
Think meals full of vegetables and lighter on the meats. Stir-fries, ramen bowls, simple curries, like this Thai Chicken Curry with Vegetables. If you are into a higher protein meat-based diet, consider larger less expensive (and often tougher cuts) and braise, slow cook or pressure cook them into succulent meals.
10.) check alternative stores:
Aldi, if you have one, is a great place to pick up items at a discount and the local dollar store may have bargains galore. Keep an open mind as you check them out. I stocked up on canned greens from a Dollar General just so I’d have a grab and go option when fresh are out of season. Not my first choice, but a healthy one.
11.) embrace and plan for leftovers:
Using leftovers is an ideal way to get a jump up on a lunch for the next day, a meal or portion of it later in the week, or to stock your fridge or freezer with easy to grab meals. Cook more than you need just for that purpose.
12.) drop the booze:
So a little partying can be fun, but booze is expensive & high calorie with little to no redeemable food value. Consider setting it aside and sinking those dollars into more nutrient-dense foods.
It’s easy to go awry if you’re feeling deprived. Indulge yourself with a high-quality treat or special dinner at home or out. One planned treat a week feels more indulgent with a lot less guilt than going off your “plan” is going to generate. Maybe your treat will even be a beer or a glass of wine.
And here’s wishing you a happy & healthy New Year!!