Disclosure: The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to Real Advice Gal and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.
Can frugal living and living a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand? Absolutely! Being frugal does not mean living on less. In fact, it can be argued that frugal living is more about making the most out of what you have. The same can be also be said of a healthy lifestyle. You don’t need to have a ton of money to provide healthy alternatives to cheap junk food to feed your family. When you start thinking frugally you start thinking of ways to make the most out of every bit of what you have. Most of the time that not only means planning (planning ahead is key to eating healthy on a budget) but it also means getting creative.
Ask any mom out there which food is the best bang for their buck and most will not say broccoli. There is a pretty common misconception that healthy food must be expensive and is not something kids want to eat. The issue lies in the old saying “Fast, cheap, and good… pick two. If it is cheap and good it won’t last”. The saying can definitely be applied to food. It is appealing when living a frugal lifestyle to go strictly for cheap, but I think it is obvious to most who pay attention to healthy living at all that most cheap foods are cheap for a reason and usually it is the “good” that didn’t get chosen in the question posed above.
Here are some suggestions on where to find affordable foods to support your family’s health while maintaining a budget:
1. Produce stands
Shopping local will always be one of the best things you can do for your family and your community. By doing so you are helping out other families and their efforts to provide safe local food, especially fruits and vegetables, to the community. In the long run preventative health is one of the best ways to save money. Not getting sick as often by eating healthier and having more energy can do nothing but fatten your wallet! A lot of times locally sourced food bought at produce stands also will be less expensive because they do not have the same brick and mortar costs that a grocery store has.
Co-ops are definitely something that not every community has, but should. If you are lucky enough to live in a community that has food co-ops take a moment to find out more. Cost sharing and seasonal selection are two great benefits to a co-op. Not only are you splitting the cost and gaining more variety in your food, the selection is usually seasonal crops which when picked fresh last longer, which will add variety to your menu rotation and save money on food waste.
3. Farmer’s markets
If you have never been to a farmer’s market, it’s hard to describe how wonderful they are. For most people we have become accustomed as a society to shopping for our goods in stores. Open air markets where the hustle and bustle of commerce is simplified can be refreshing and make shopping for fresh food fun again. Every time my family goes to a farmer’s market I challenge my children to pick out one new food they’ve never eaten before and try it. (Next time I think I might challenge them to help find produce so we can eat the rainbow for dinner!) They almost always go for a fruit or vegetable that is new and interesting looking. Most of the time you also find that it’s not having to buy in large quantities will help keep your costs down as well. This is another major benefit to buying fruits and vegetables this way. Rarely will you have to throw out extras. You just make what your family needs at the moment.
For more suggestions on how to improve your healthy eating habits, join the Healthy For Good movement. Visit www.heart.org/HealthyForGood and click “join the movement” to get started. There you will find many suggestions and ideas on ways in which you can implement a healthy eating lifestyle and create and maintain a healthier lifestyle in your household.
Frugal living is about more than the cheapest alternative to any situation. It is about living smarter so you don’t work harder. Rethink the way you look at health as a priority in your life and you will reap the benefits in more ways than one.