Are you short on time, living on a tight budget or struggling to stay motivated but still want to make healthy eating a priority?
The struggle is real! Whether it’s a hectic lifestyle that leaves little time for healthy meal preparation, a tight budget which seems to limit even the best healthy living intentions or just our own internal motivation struggles – eating a consistently healthy diet can be a challenge.
Well have no fear, I’ve got you covered! You CAN still win the healthy eating battle and reach your health goals, you just need the right mindset, a little determination, and some creative workarounds.
When I began transforming my eating habits from the Standard American Diet to plant-based, gluten-free eating, I definitely did not have a huge budget for it or a ton of time (I’m a busy mom of two and was working outside the home). But with some grit and perseverance, I’ve maintained this diet for almost 7 years. You can too!
Read on for 28 tips to master a healthy eating lifestyle even if you have little time, money or motivation.
HOW TO EAT HEALTHY WHEN YOU HAVE NO TIME
If your weeknights are a crazy rush to get all your household responsibilities done after a long day, cooking can feel like one more thing you don’t have time for.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to settle for subpar convenience foods or constantly ordering out! With some planning and preparation, you can still eat healthy.
MAKE time for meal planning
First, make this easier on yourself by doing most of the legwork ahead of time.
Block out half an hour on the weekend to plan out a week’s worth of meals. Write down every meal you’re going to cook along with a grocery list.
In this way, you don’t waste time each night trying to figure out what to cook only to realize you don’t have every ingredient you need (and then end up ordering pizza – I speak from experience!)
Shop less often
Another win for meal planning! If you know what meals you’re going to make ahead of time, you can easily shop for everything you need all at once instead of making daily trips to the grocery store. OR you can . . .
Have your groceries delivered
Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite activities, and since I live in a small town 30 minutes away from a decent grocery store, food shopping can easily take me 3-4 hours a week or more.
Instead, I like to have my groceries delivered or at least do a pickup service (they shop, you pick up – easy peasy!) whenever possible. Many stores such as Kroger, Wal-Mart, and even Sprouts are now offering these services.
Amazon also offers a couple of great options for this:
- Amazon Fresh – grocery delivery in select areas for a small fee.
- Amazon + Whole Foods – a new service for Prime members in which they’ve partnered with Whole Foods to deliver high-quality organic foods at 10% off and in some areas even offer free 2-hour delivery. Give it a
Prep your ingredients
Once you know what you’re going to cook, shave off even more time by pre-chopping, shredding or batch cooking staple ingredients such as onions, cabbage, green beans, carrots, kale, broccoli, cheese, cuts of meat, beans or rice. You can then quickly throw these ingredients into a stir-fry, soup, chili or casserole.
Another helpful habit is to pre-make smoothie freezer packets (Ziploc bags filled with all the ingredients so you can easily dump it into the blender for a quick meal) or salad jars. These make excellent quick lunches!
Or, if you just don’t have time for any of that . . .
Invest in a meal delivery service
Meal delivery services like HelloFresh, SunBasket or GreenBlender (a pre-prepped smoothie and juicing subscription box) can save you so much time and many offer healthy options for special diets such as gluten-free and vegan.
No planning ahead, no shopping, no food prep – just open the box and create!
Of course, this choice probably isn’t going to work for those of you who are also on a tight budget, but if you can afford it it’s certainly the way to go if you’re time restricted.
Buy healthy convenience foods
Save time chopping vegetables (and keep waste at a minimum) by buying bags of frozen pre-cut or mixed vegetables, pre-cut meats (like chicken) and prepackaged organic salads. (Frozen vegetables are healthier than canned or packaged in plastic and will keep longer.)
Invest in an instapot
I have FINALLY bought an instapot, and let me just say GAME CHANGER. You really can shave a ton of time off your cooking.
Another convenience is that I can be preparing other parts of a meal (or batch cooking something!) while meat is cooking – no babysitting it required.
It’s a super efficient way to cook dinner and have it ready in 30 minutes or less.
Batch cooking and freezer meals
When you cook a pot of soup, a casserole, stew, lasagna, rice, legumes, ground beef (the list goes on), make more than you need for that evening’s meal and freeze the rest. Use this as a future meal in itself or ingredient in tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.
For example, leftover meat from a whole roasted chicken becomes a chicken salad sandwich the next day. Or, if you have the time over the weekend, take an afternoon to pre-make that week’s dinners and freeze them.
For me, batching has worked best. I’ve tried preparing and freezing a week’s worth of dinners before. It took me a solid 4-5 hours and just wasn’t for me, but I know plenty of people who swear by it!
Learn to love leftovers
Love it or hate it, the truth is leftovers are a pre-made meal just waiting to go in your fridge. Open, heat and viola! A done for you meal in seconds. Does it get any more time-saving than that?
HOW TO EAT HEALTHY ON A BUDGET
Living with a strict budget can make you feel like healthy eating is out of reach or that your only choice is to buy canned or packaged fruits or veggies (because they’re cheaper, right?).
As someone who dealt with this dilemma for many years, let me tell you this isn’t entirely true. You CAN still eat healthy despite a tight budget.
Plan ahead to avoid food waste
Ok, be honest, how much food has gone to waste in your refrigerator? I know in my house before we buckled down and learned to make good use of leftovers, it was shameful how much food we wasted.
Not only that but when you buy something just because it’s on sale without having a plan for how to use it, that precious food can easily get forgotten in a crisper drawer and go bad (here’s a nifty tool to help avoid that, by the way).
It’s like throwing your hard earned money right in the trash!
Instead, make every dollar count with a meal plan. Check online to see what healthy foods will be on sale at your favorite grocery store and plan your meals around these items.
Use some of the strategies above to make that food stretch across the week so none of it’s wasted.
Analyze how your money is really spent
Take a good look at your budget. Not just what you wrote down in a spreadsheet 6 months ago but what you actually spend each week.
Are you eating out a lot? Do you often get Starbucks? Is your grocery cart filled with lots of processed and packaged junk foods?
When I sat down and did this years ago, I could see where the “leaks” in our family’s budget were. As we cut back on eating out, designer coffee, and too many snack foods, there was more money to spend on fresh, whole foods.
This meant we had to get tough with ourselves; we had to opt for healthy over convenient. But what we learned is that it IS doable and that fresh produce doesn’t necessarily cost much more than its packaged or conventionally grown counterpart.
Understand that packaged food isn’t much cheaper (and it comes at a cost)
Is it really cheaper to buy a can or plastic cup of fruits and veggies rather than fresh?
If you sit down and do the math, your savings aren’t really that significant.
I looked up a couple of foods from WalMart (the cheapest place I could think of to buy food) and compared canned, plastic cups, frozen and fresh to see how they stacked up money-wise. (None of these foods were on sale.)
15 oz can = $0.98 ($0.06/oz)
4 oz plastic cups (package of 4) = $1.98 ($0.12/oz)
4 pound bag whole oranges (conventional) = $4.98 ($0.07/oz)
4 pound bag whole oranges (organic) = $5.76 ($0.09/oz)
14 oz can = $0.65 – $1.00 ($0.04 – $0.07/oz)
7 oz plastic cup = $0.65 ($0.10/oz)
12 oz bag frozen = $0.84 ($0.07/oz)
16 oz fresh (conventional) = $1.98 ($0.12/oz)
As you can see above, sometimes packaged foods aren’t saving you much. Sure at first glance $2 looks a lot less than $5 but ounce for ounce, the savings are not significant. In fact, in the case of the oranges, it can sometimes actually cost more!
There are several problems with packaged food, even fruits, and vegetables.
- Packaged foods are cooked (in order to preserve the food) therefore destroying vital enzymes and nutrients. When you eat canned foods you’re getting a denatured product that does little to build a healthy body.
- Cans and plastic packaging leach harmful metals and plastic chemicals into the food which you then ingest. These metals and chemicals can build up in bodily tissues causing cellular toxicity. Plastics, for instance, can mimic estrogen in the body leading to hormone imbalance.
- More packaging (particularly those plastic cups) leads to a more polluted planet. Do we really need to be adding to earth’s landfills for the sake of convenience and a mere dollar saved? The beauty of whole foods is most don’t come with unnecessary packaging!
In the end, saving a couple bucks this way just isn’t worth it to me!
If your budget is truly that tight, do as much as you can to cut out the packaging. Decide where it’s worth it for you to save and where it makes more sense to just buy fresh or frozen.
Shop at discount grocery stores
Where I live, there are several discount grocery stores such as Eshes and Trader Joe’s. Each of these stores offers deep discounts on fresh produce, organic whole foods, and organic snack foods.
The reason these products are so discounted is that some are quickly approaching their expiration date. I know that sounds a little gross! But actually, most of the foods have several weeks and even months to go so you can eat it without worry – or the bigger hit to your wallet.
Google discount grocery stores in your area!
Buy in bulk
Typically, buying in bulk will save you ounce for ounce and pound for pound than smaller sizes.
Yes, it’s a bigger grocery bill initially but it also means you can shop for the next week (or 2 or 3!) without the need to keep going back to restock.
For example, a one-pound bag of rice is $1.28 at WalMart while a 25-pound bag from Sam’s Club is $9.98 ($0.40/pound). That’s a whole $22 less for 25 pounds. Holy savings Batman!
Keep it simple
When I first started eating more plant-based, I wanted to make every gorgeous recipe I saw on Pinterest.
I quickly figured out a tight budget usually doesn’t leave room for fancy, gourmet meals with never before heard of ingredients (that I realized I didn’t like anyway!).
It’s a lot easier on the wallet to stick to simple meals and snacks with staple ingredients.
Think brown rice with legumes and vegetables, quinoa with spinach and tomatoes, carrots and celery with hummus, and fresh fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are generally cheaper because there’s no need to ship them long distances.
Instead, many are local and therefore better for you as they’re picked at their peak of freshness and therefore contain more nutrients. Studies show that as food ages, vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants decrease.
Cheaper AND better for you?? I think yes.
Buy the “clean 15” conventional
If your budget is super tight, focus on buying the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables organic. You can get away with buying the “clean 15” conventionally grown with less chance of toxic overload (wash them well!).
Join as CSA or co-op
A CSA (community supported agriculture) is a group that connects directly with local farms to bring you fresh and in-season produce.
When you join a CSA, you’re buying a “share” of produce in that farm. Because there are no middlemen (think wholesale versus retail), prices are typically cheaper.
Each CSA is different, some offering delivery to your home address, others requiring you to pick up from a set location, and each varying in the amount of produce available. To find one in your area, check out Local Harvest.
Shop your local farmer’s market
If you don’t want to be tied into a long-term commitment with a CSA you can get the same benefits by shopping your local farmer’s markets. Call your city hall for information on times and locations in your area.
Pick your own fruits and vegetables at a local farm
In my small midwest town, there are several nearby farms that allow you to come at certain times of the year and pick your own fruits and/or vegetables.
They offer large 25-pound bags for a small flat fee. You can take home as much produce as you can squeeze into your bag.
We do this a few times a year and make it a fun family outing – our kids love it! It’s a fun and inexpensive way to stock up on fresh produce for the next few weeks.
Google local farms in your area!
Embrace a couple of vegetarian or vegan meals per week
Have you noticed how expensive meat is?? Of course you have, you’re one smart, frugal cookie!
As a vegan or vegetarian you’ll save yourself money simply by not buying meat.
If you just can’t handle the thought of giving up meat (this would be my husband), then opt for fewer dishes revolving around meat. This alone can save you quite a bit each week on your grocery bill.
Make extra money with a side hustle
Whether or not you pursue a side hustle will depend on a couple of things: do you really need to and how badly do you want this?
If you find you’re still too strapped for cash to pay for a bigger grocery budget after honestly analyzing how you spend your money, look into different ways to make some extra cash.
This post from the Penny Hoarder has 50 great ideas.
HOW TO EAT HEALTHY WHEN YOU HAVE NO MOTIVATION
Ah, motivation, that fickle cat-like beast. One moment it loves you and the next it’s nowhere to be found (probably hiding under a bed somewhere).
Give your healthy eating motivation a boost with these tips.
Get clear on your why
Ask yourself why you want to eat healthier.
Then keep asking why.
Because I’ll fit into my clothes better.
Why do you want to fit into your clothes better?
Because when I look good I feel better about myself and I’m more assertive and confident.
Why do you want to feel more assertive and confident?
Because when I’m more assertive and confident I’m less afraid and have the courage to go after things I want.
Get to the heart of what really fires you up and motivates you, and remind yourself of this often.
Make healthy eating a family affair
It’s hard to achieve healthy eating goals when the rest of your family isn’t on board and you’re cooking 2 or 3 separate meals for everyone.
As much as possible, involve your family in the process. Shop for food together, cook together, eat together, discuss what healthy eating means and why it’s so important.
Even if your family doesn’t want to join in, continue to set a good example – you never know the kind of impact you’ll have on them in the long run. In the meantime, find friends (even if they’re just online) that will motivate you to stick with it.
Don’t think of this as a diet, think of it as a lifestyle
As in the tip above, immerse yourself in healthier ways of eating, get familiar with all its many benefits, infuse it into your everyday life so that it’s no longer just a temporary diet but a fully fledged lifestyle.
Making this simple mindset shift can dramatically change how you feel about eating healthier.
Read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, follow their summits and join in on their challenges to keep yourself pumped!
Turn your kitchen into a haven for cooking
Ok, who wants to cook in dirty, unorganized kitchen that doesn’t even have all the appliances and gadgets needed to cook healthy meals? #nothisgirl
Put in the effort to makeover your kitchen into a space you enjoy coming to (even if that just means cleaning up the cluttered pile of bills on the counter and placing a plant on the windowsill!).
Your motivation to get in there and whip up something yummy and healthy will be much higher!
Collect delicious recipes, success stories, and quotes to inspire you
If you haven’t already, create a board on Pinterest to collect all the healthy recipes you want to try, quotes that motivate you and success stories that inspire you.
Or if Pinterest isn’t your thing, buy a new cookbook or create a space in a 3-ring binder to collect these things.
Whatever it takes to keep things fresh and your eyes on the prize!
How wonderful is it that you get a choice in what you wish to eat? That you have the power to transform your health by what you put in your mouth and a variety of flavors available to you?
Take time to reflect on these blessings. Slow down and eat mindfully. Give thanks for what you have.
When gratitude is kept at the forefront of your mind it becomes easier to cherish your body and maintain the desire to care for it in any way you can.
Gratitude quite literally makes you healthier!
There you have it, 28 transformative tips to save you time and money, and keep you motivated!
There’s no way around it, healthy eating does require forethought, effort, and persistence. It’s not as simple as popping open a bag of chips and pretending like you don’t care (we both know you do).
From experience though, it IS possible to eat healthy (or at least healthier) despite a lack of time, money or even motivation.
Give these tips a try!
Do you struggle to eat healthy? What do you find helps you succeed despite a lack of time, motivation or money?
Hi! I’m Liane, a self-proclaimed ‘scrunchy mom’ (as in semi-crunchy). I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday habits that can transform your well-being and life.