Eating healthy can be expensive. So is dieting on a budget possible or just expensive pie in the sky?.
It's a sad fact that the healthiest food is typically the most expensive. Unfortunately, high calorie, nutrient sparse fast food is cheaper and more accessible than ever before. And for a lot of people this means the desire to eat healthily is quashed by the sheer cost. So is dieting on a budget even possible? Can you get the right food in the right quantity without breaking the bank? Or do you need to be a high roller to get in shape?
The simple answer is YES. Dieting on a budget is 100% possible. All it takes is a bit of planning and a little bit of imagination.
So whether you're looking to get leaner or build some muscle I'll show you how you can get results without spending the Earth. Because making good food choices and getting your diet on point will be the most important part of achieving results.
Now, it's important to say that although this article is about dieting on a budget, it's not about finding the cheapest and shittiest food possible. Because I could quite easily list out some cheap food choices and have done with it. But that's not my style. Ultimately, I want you to have nutrient-packed food that will make you feel, as well as look, healthier.
In this article you'll find out my top tips for dieting on a budget. All of them are simple and easy to put into practice.
Dieting on a Budget: The 5 Tips to Success
Dieting on a Budget. Tip #1. Plan, Plan, Plan
If you're looking at dieting on a budget then keeping a tight grip on those purse strings becomes even more important. Because, you simply can't race around the aisles of the supermarket loading your trolley with random food. No. You need to go in there with a plan. In fact it should almost be a plan that has an element of military precision. Every element planned to the last detail.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea, right?
And the first place to start is with your calories and macros. Because knowing these numbers help you plan what you're going to eat and how much.
Once you've got those all important numbers in place the real planning can start. If you're dieting on a budget then I highly recommend creating yourself a meal plan. Now, meal plans aren't for everyone, because they're a bit prescriptive and sometimes rigid. But in your case, a good meal plan is going to help you come in on budget.
So you can do this many different ways, but here's two of the simplest ways you should consider.
A Good Old Fashioned Spreadsheet
This is a really simple and straight-forward way to get started. Simply list out the meals you intend to eat in a day and total up the calories and macros. Then all you need to do is make sure everything is still within your preset numbers.
For example, here's an Iron Paradise Fitness meal plan so you get the idea. This is going to take away a lot of the guess work and unplanned meals, which can rack up those bills. And before you even step into the supermarket you know what to buy. No straying off plan. And no unnecessary expense.
There's an App for that
These days there's pretty much an app for everything. And therefore it won't surprise you to learn that if you want to plan your meals, "there's an app for that". And there's more than one to pick from. Some of the more popular one's include MyFitnessPal, MyMacros+, and Mike's Macros. You've probably heard of the first two, but maybe not the latter. If you're in the US then Mike's Macros is well worth checking out. Mainly because the guy that made it (Mike Vacanti) is an awesome dude. And the best part is it's free with no ads and annoying functions. Go check it out.
So how can an app help you? The main benefit is that you can programme your macros and plan in meals and food using the sizeable databases. So whether it's some oats and a banana for breakfast, or a steak dinner, you can find what you need and pre-programme it all.
Getting yourself a meal plan (in one form or another) and mapping things out in advance will save you money in the long run. It might take a bit longer upfront to do, but you'll be saving those all important pennies.
How to set up the perfect meal plan
A well-structured meal plan is going to help you achieve your aim of dieting on a budget. So your next logical question is probably "how do I set up a good meal plan?". And that's a great question. Because setting up a good meal plan can make or break your success. Get a meal plan that is restrictive and dull, and you'll being ditching it within in weeks. However, set yourself up with one full of foods you enjoy and you can achieve your goals while enjoying yourself at the same time.
So if that sounds good then you can join the Iron Paradise Fitness '7 Steps to Get Lean free online nutrition workshop. All you need to do to register your place is click the image below. In the workshop you'll discover the exact approach I use with all my clients to achieve great results. You'll learn everything you need to build a plan that will help you lose body fat and build muscle, quickly and enjoyably.
Click on the image below, register for free, and get your dieting on a budget plans off to the best start.
Dieting on a Budget. Tip #2. Shop Online
Shopping for food online has become easier and more convenient than ever before. So much so that it should be your primary choice if you're looking at dieting on a budget. And this is for the simple reason that you can 100% control how much you're spending. All too often when you traipse around the supermarket, you're lured by various offers and other treats just staring at you. And before you know it you've spent £50 more than you intended to. Undoubtedly, you get back home and question why the hell you bought some of this stuff.
So shopping online allows you to be precise about what you're buying. And you can also compare costs between brands much more easily, which helps curb those costs.
Plan out your meals as per step 1 and then jump online and get the exact stuff you ordered delivered straight to your front door. You can do everything without even stepping foot out of the house.
Shop online so you only buy what you need for your meal plan. It removes the temptation to fill your trolley and cupboards with needless things. Ultimately, it's going to save you money.
Dieting on a Budget. Tip #3. Become a Meal Prep Jedi
Once you've planned out your meals and shopped for everything online, now's the time to prep.
And this is not just any meal prep. You need to become a meal prep Jedi. You're aim is to be the Yoda of the meal prep world.
Taking the time to prep meals for a few days in advance is a great way to make sure you don't veer off your plan. Because more often than not, it's the constant deviations from your plan that will cause your costs to spiral.
Trips to the work vending machine or grabbing that overpriced lunch at the canteen will quickly cause your wallet to feel the pinch. Constantly eating out is expensive. So preparing meals at home, ahead of time will save you plenty of money in the long run.
Don't allow Meal Prep to take over your weekend
Meal prep doesn't have to be a laborious chore that takes up the whole entire weekend either. Just take the time when you're planning your meals to pick recipes that are quick and easy to prepare.
The BBC Good Food website is a great place to start. Because there's hundreds of recipes all with the prep and cook timing detailed out. In addition to that, all the calories and macros are there too. So just spend a little time finding recipes you like the sound of and fit your plan.
And another top tip is to cook in bulk. Making several portions of a dish that you can freeze and come back to another day is a great way to get the most out of your money.
For example, cook up some beef mince and freeze it in portions. When you need it, you can defrost it and turn it into a chilli, spaghetti bolognese, or a cottage pie. That one ingredient allows you to make several different meals that keep you constantly interested and excited about the foods you're eating.
Having those meals already prepared will not only save you cash, but they'll also take the headache out of sticking to your plan.
Meal prep is a crucial aspect of dieting on a budget. Those expensive lunches and dinners will be a thing of the past. And ultimately, you'll make the most of all that food you bought.
Dieting on a Budget. Tip #4. Be Smart About Protein
Whether you're aim is to lose body fat or build muscle, protein is important. In fact, it's the most important macro for you to consider. Because getting enough protein in your diet will help you build and / or retain muscle depending on your goal.
But protein will be the most expensive food you have on your shopping list. For example, if you fancy a nice piece of steak, then that could set you back £3-£4 per portion. And if you wanted a couple of pieces of salmon for those Omega 3 fats, that's the best part of a fiver.
So you can see how those costs can start to rack up with a high protein diet.
Therefore, when dieting on a budget it's important to make good protein choices that fit your budget.
Chicken and turkey often weigh in as the best value for money. And if you add to that the fact they're high in protein and low in carbs and fat, then they make a great choice. And you can be extra savvy by going to your local butcher. They're likely to be much more open to a bit of negotiation and haggling on price, especially if you plan on being a regular customer.
Your other option is to buy in bulk from websites like musclefood.com, and themeatman.co.uk. Typically, you can save a few quid by ordering through these types of websites, which all adds up in the end.
Look out for deals
If you decide to shop in the supermarket always be on the hunt for deals. Shop towards the end of the day (particularly on a Sunday) and you can find a ton of bargains. Cheap cuts of meat are great and you'll usually find huge discounts on meat with a short shelf life. Buy them and turn them into a great, healthy, and nutritious meal.
It's not all about meat
While chicken, turkey, and beef are great sources of protein, they're definitely not the only sources. For example, canned tuna is a great option. 4 cans will come in at under £1 per can and pack a whopping 30g of protein. And all without a load of tag along carbs and fat.
'Real' food should always be your first option when planning what to eat. Years of evolution has taught us that food is just fine for us. You don't need to live off meal replacements and protein shakes all day long! However, protein shakes do come in handy from a convenience point of view. And, if you shop around you can get good deal on huge tubs of the stuff.
And that might mean a bit of an initial outlay, but you'll still be saving money overall. Just don't be a douchebag and fill your day with 10 protein shakes.
And don't forget the humble egg. Because they're packed full of nutrients, protein, and healthy fats. Those little white orbs are so damn versatile that you can use them in loads of different ways. And they're pretty damn cheap. So make them part of that shopping list!
And your choices don't end there. Because foods like greek yogurt and cottage cheese pack a hefty amount of protein per portion. So you can hit those protein numbers much more efficiently and at a lower cost overall.
Chicken, turkey, and canned tuna are great lower cost protein choices. Use them creatively for great tasting dishes. And look out for cheap deals and cheap cuts of meat to add variety to your diet without adding cost.
Dieting on a Budget. Tip #5. Go to Town on the Carbs
Believe it or not, it's actually pretty easy to hit your carb targets without spending much money at all. These days there's so much choice that you don't need to break the bank to get the energy you need.
Lots of carbs are dirt cheap
Bread, pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa, potatoes, and oats are all good carb choices. And most importantly, they're all pretty damn cheap. What's more, you can buy them in bulk to keep the costs down further.
In fact, you can really drive the cost down by opting for value brands, instead of the more well-known options. For example, own brand oats are about 75p per kilo, compared to more recognised brands coming in at £2.00. That's more than 2.5 times the price. And are you getting more for your money? The short answer is no, other than some fancy packaging.
More often than not there's barely a noticeable difference in taste between value brands and their more expensive counterparts. Essentially, you're just paying for some clever marketing and a brand name. In my opinion, you should do yourself a favour and hunt for those bargains.
What about other carbs
We all know that there's loads more carb choices out there beyond bread and pasta. And some of those choices aren't perceived to be cheap.
Fruit and vegetables are high in micronutrients, but also can be high cost. So if you're dieting on a budget you might have the temptation to skip the fruit and veg aisle in the search of something cheaper. But don't!
Because with a bit of forethought you can have the delicious micronutrient dense foods without busting that budget. And here are a few suggestions for you.
A decent sized watermelon will set you back about £3, which might seem expensive. But it can make days and days worth of portions.
You should be able to get at least 4 x 400g portions out of one watermelon. And if you reduce the portion size that number is only going to increase.
In addition to all that, it's going to provide you with Vitamin A, C, Potassium, and so much more goodness.
These are the staple of most fitness people's diets and yours should be no different. Packed full of potassium, they provide you with a ton of health benefits at a relatively cheap price.
Plus the fact they're incredibly versatile, which makes them a winning choice.
So whether they go in your post workout smoothie, mixed in your oats, or eaten as a snack, bananas are a great way to increase carb intake cheaply.
And another top tip is to shop for loose bananas. Because the pre-packed ones are much more expensive. And it might only seem like a few pence, but it all adds up.
APPLES AND PEARS:
Another solid bet for a staple fruit to have in your diet is apples and pears. Compared to something like grapes or strawberries, you'll get more portions for your money. So make these types of fruit your go-to on a day to day and leave the berries as treats.
Don't be scared to go frozen
Frozen food, particularly fruit can be a more cost effective way to shop. While fresh fruit and veg undoubtedly taste better, frozen options are not a bad second choice.
And because they are frozen at source, they retain all the nutrients and goodness. So even though the tastes suffers a bit, you're still getting everything your body needs.
And on top of that, there's zero wastage. So no more throwing away fruit and veg that's gone mouldy because you haven't eaten it in time. This stuff will stay good for months on end. Perfect for your dieting on a budget needs.
Load up on vegetables
Stocking the cupboards with vegetables is a great strategy for dieting on a budget for two reasons.
- Carrots, cabbage, kale, potatoes, and broccoli are just a few veggies that are incredibly easy on the wallet.
- Veggies will fill you up relatively cheaply. So if you plan your meals with lots of vegetables, then you will feel less hungry throughout the day. And therefore, less likely to crave treats and other foods that will be more expensive and take you off plan.
Again, don't be frightened to go frozen. There's lots of great choices out there, so never be limited. You can always find highly nutritious options if you look hard enough.
Carbs are the easiest macronutrient to plan for when you're dieting on a budget. Get a good mix of fresh fruit and vegetables and your diet will be full of micronutrients. But don't completely ignore frozen options. Add in bread, pasta, rice and other carb rich foods to round out your diet.
Dieting on a Budget: The Final Word
So there you have it. Dieting on a budget is totally possible with just 5 simple guidelines to follow.
The most important one of all is planning. Planning your meals and diet up front will help you stick to your budget. So take the time to map things out. Because trust me, it will be worth it in the long run.
And the other important point to note is that these 5 guidelines show you that you can still have a well-rounded and nutritious diet even if you're on a budget. So don't think you have to go for crappy food just because you want to be tight with the pennies.
Here's want to do if you want to take the headache out of the process
Finally, if you like the idea of dieting on a budget but you still feel a little overwhelmed then why not check out the Iron Paradise Fitness online coaching programme.
I can take the headache and time out of getting everything set up for you. All aspects of your training and nutrition are taken care of and done for you.
And each element is truly personalised. So you're not getting something off the shelf and generic. Every programme is 100% unique and generated from scratch using information you provide.
So if you want to find out more information and see what else is included in this comprehensive programme, then just click the button below.