Food is fuel for our body, but the right fuel can be pricey... With that said, often food is more than just fuel. Whether it is right or wrong, people also use it for psychological comfort, celebrating events, and as a staple for socialization. All of which may have had some influence on the creation of diet culture. Consequently, the online world gives diet culture a very defining voice. At times, the number of voices can be overwhelming and conflicting. What we do know for sure is that what we intake plays a crucial role in our health. We also know that the stress from finances can cause issues with our health. Somewhere in the middle is a place where food fuel and finances can meet. The challenge is, that can be defined very different from person to person. Here are some tips to help you find your middle.
Plan, plan, plan!
One of the first things the USDA suggests when eating healthy on a budget is that you plan. You’ve probably heard this before, but before you start shopping, plan your meals for the week. Before you say it, I’m way ahead of you. Who has time for that?! Interestingly enough, it may only take 30 minutes planning for the next 7 days. If you are anything like me, you’re spending 30 minutes discussing, internally debating, or searching recipes - all too often to decide you don’t really feel like cooking. All of which leads to eating out or just poor choices. Just like that, 30 minutes doesn’t seem that bad. Plus, making those decisions in advance can not only help you make better decisions, but can help prevent decision fatigue later in the week. If you want to know more about decision fatigue, check out our blog on it.
The USDA also suggest you check to see what foods you already have and make a list for what you need to buy. Many of us have fallen victim, or at the very least, know someone who has, to the rotting food that got shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten. I once heard someone call the refrigerator drawers, “the rotters.” When I asked why, he said, “because everything you put in there rots.” Out of sight, out of mind, all out of your wallet… Planning can help you be more aware of what you already have and encourages efficient spending.
Cook once... Eat all week!
Prepare a large batch of your favorite meals. You can always freeze in individual containers. Use them throughout the week (or next week if you freeze them) and you won’t have to spend money on take-out meals. If you don’t like the idea of cooking for all week in advance, think about preparing for a couple days at a time. Personally, I like to cook enough to have lunch for the next day at least.
Check out the Unit Price
Have you ever checked out the “Unit Price” on the shelf directly below the product? This allows you to compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to determine which is more economical. Substituting for store brands can help you save money. Yeah, I get it. Some are just not worth substituting. Find a few that you can. You might be surprised at how many you don’t mind. Comparing the unit price is also a great way to determine if buying in bulk is really saving you money. You can find some savings when buying in bulk (provided there will not be any waste), but I have definitely come across situations where that is not true.
Convenience costs... Worth it?
The convenience foods like frozen dinners, pre-cut vegetables, or instant rice may end up costing you more. Taking the time to prepare at home may help you save. Ok, I do agree with this. However, sometimes, life is about picking your battles. Here's a thought, pick a few items you can prep ahead of time, and set time aside to do it all at once. If you have the knife and cutting board out already, why not cut up all the fruits and veggies you need for the week? Maybe throw some tunes on, the news, or another Forreston State Bank podcast!
Learn by being mindful...
Being mindful of your actions is a great start when it comes to eating healthy and creating a budget. Utilize the tools you can. When it comes to starting a budget, things as simple as frequently monitoring your spending with your mobile banking app can help you become more aware of your spending habits. At Forreston State Bank, logging in can be as simple as a fingerprint with compatible devices. Just want to check your balance? Hit the instant balance button and see your account balance at a glance without logging in!
Decide what your skills, time, and resources are and plan realistically. Don’t get discouraged. It takes time to create routines, but small gradual changes can make a difference. Click here for some resources and worksheet to help you get started on a plan.