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Being healthy can be quite costly. Organic food, gym memberships and yoga classes all add up. Most of us have a limited budget but we still want to be healthy! We want to eat healthy, move and exercise. To help you get there I’m sharing 17 simple hacks for how to be healthy on a budget!
Give one of these ideas a try and then come back and try another and you will soon be in a virtous circle that will improve both your health and your money!
How to Be Healthy on a Budget
1. Go to the Farmers Market
A farmers market is a market where local producers come together to sell their veggies, fruit, baked goods and a myriad of other products. It’s locally produced, often with higher grade of animal welfare and – often cheaper than in the supermarket!!
We are lucky enough to have a farmers market within walking distance from where we live that comes twice a month, and by walking there we get some exercise in addition to more nutritious food. By choosing what we buy we also find extremely good value for money.
As an extra bonus, Mr. Habitista and I spend some quality time together on a Saturday morning – and we support local businesses. Both things that are in line with our values.
Don’t have a farmers market nearby? Get on the internet to find a farm shop, local bakery, butcher or street market that can serve the same purpose.
2. Walk Instead of Drive
I’m not saying get rid of your car, unless you want to. However, every time you make the choice to walk somewhere instead of driving you get a double win. You will save on petrol and car usage, and get some good movement.
Even better as you get some strength training in there! Get a good back pack so you can carry your shopping easily.
Going somewhere further away? Can you cycle? Get an electric cycle? Between the traffic and the parking it will often not take you longer to walk or cycle somewhere and instead of paying for car use and parking got a good chunk of exercise in.
Another tip? Good rain gear will get rid of the excuse of bad weather!
Read More: 10 Health Benefits of a Daily Morning Walk
3. Plan Social Activities Outdoors
How do you usually meet up with friends and family? In the pub? Coffee shop? Restaurant? How about a picnic, taking a walk together or meeting up for a game of footie?
I’m not saying not to to go for a pint afterwards, but you can actually strengthen a friendship by doing something together and if at least a part of the time you spend together is with an activity, the amount of money you spend will likely be a lot less.
4. Cook at Home for Healthy Eating on a Budget
We all know cooking at home is key to be healthy on a budget. Eating out is expensive. Take-away is expensive. Even supermarket microwave foods can be rather expensive in the long run, and none of these will support long term healthy eating habits.
In addition to a lot of calories, the food you eat will most likely be full of salt and sugar to increase the taste.
Feel it’s too much to commit to cook at home all the time? That’s fine! The important thing is to take baby steps and small improvements over time.
Is there one meal a week where you usually do a take-away that could be replaced with a home-cooked meal? Could you make a double batch of something that lasts you for two days like a Bolognese? Or maybe learn this one super simple meal (like a stir fry) that you really enjoy but that takes very little time and energy.
Just replacing one meal a week with a home cooked meal will significantly help both your health and your wallet.
…he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.Dalai Lama
5. Meal Plan to be Healthy on a Budget
You may already be doing some, or a lot, of cooking at home but you often get deterred because you don’t have what you need at home and don’t fancy going to the shop. Or you end up spending half a fortune by always popping into the corner shop on your way home from work.
By planning your meals and have a routine with a weekly shop to make sure you have what you need for the week you will find the magic triple whammy of making things easier for yourself, improving your health and saving your wallet!
6. Eat Less Meat is Both Healthy and Good for Your Budget
Meat is expensive. It has a lot of nutritious value but it can be very calorie dense. The NHS in the UK recommends that you don’t exceed 70g of red or processed meet per day.
70g is equivalent to a piece of steak about the size of a pack of cards, 3 average-sized rashers of bacon or slices of ham, or a quarter-pounder beef burger. Per day, not per meal.
I’m not saying to become vegetarian or vegan unless that’s what you want for other reasons. It can however be a powerful win to learn a few delicious recipes that doesn’t require meet that you can add to your diet.
How about a delicious Indian dal or curry, Mexican bean dishes or a simple pasta pesto? Find something that looks good to you and give it a try! Can you aim for one vegetarian dinner a week?
7. Use Online Exercise Classes
Many of us like to spend money on our exercise like going to a nice gym, pay for a trainer or a special type of work-out group. And on some nice work-out clothes to go with that!
That is not in itself wrong if you really love the place you go to, and get other value out of it like meeting people you enjoy. It is however, not necessary for a good exercise routine. When many of us think about exercising outside of a gym we think of running, needing a treadmill in our cellar, or those cheesy 80s work-out videos.
Online exercise classes have come a long way since then and with very little equipment you can get the same benefits as at your gym but to the fraction of the price and without paying for those nice new leggings! Missing your tribe? Many of the big players keeps forums and Facebook groups for you to share and connect with likeminded people.
I personally use Les Mills on demand where I get access to the same body pump and balance classes I previously took at my much more expensive gym and Yoga with Adriene who does brilliant free online yoga classes on YouTube.
There are a lot more out there though, so browse around and try different things until you find what is right for you.
8. Healthy on a Budget: Bring Your Lunch to Work
It’s very tempting to get your lunch in the work cantina or at the restaurant with you co-workers (or just run out to the shop for a sandwich to eat at your desk) but the cost adds up over the years, both for your finances and your health (and waistline).
I know that “brown bagging it” doesn’t sound like the most appealing way to spend your life, but remember we are not looking for deprivation but for a way to optimise our lives!
If you go to the shop for a sandwich, can you go out for some fresh air anyway and then eat the sandwich you made at home?
If you go out with your coworkers, can you agree with one or several of them to eat in the office kitchen? Can you take turns brining in food every Friday so you only actually have to cook every few weeks?
Can you all bring in a salad ingredients and share them among you?
Use your creativity and find ways to engage others in your plans making it a lot more fun and thereby much more likely you will stick to it!
9. Go to the Dentist Regularly
To borrow a fraise from a famous sports brand. Just do it. And do what the dentist and hygienist tell you to do. Brushing and flossing and all. By getting the habits in place around dental hygiene you will save a lot of money – and toothache- in the long run!
And just think about what a relief it will be to never again feel bad for knowing you should go to the dentist! As with all habits it takes some experimentation to get the habit (flossing) into place but take it one step at the time, it is so worth it!
10. Using the Local Library has Benefits for Both Your Health and Budget
Today it’s very easy to buy books online, either to have a physical book delivered or an e-book or audiobook downloaded. It’s also easy to spend quite a bit of money this way without lifting more than a finger.
Most communities today still have a local library. This is a place where you can walk around and browse books, you can pile them up and carry them home, you can return them and get new ones.
However many you want!
And not just for yourself, if you have kids, they can experience choosing their new books and borrowing them. Maybe you can even walk there?!? Making it into an experience.
If you don’t have a local library that you can access, most libraries have online resources for e-books and audiobooks.
Still completely free!
This doesn’t give you the experience of waking, moving and carrying but at least you are not spending the money. If you can use that audiobook you borrowed to get you out for a walk while you listen it’s still a win win!
11. DIY is Healthy and Good for Your Budget
This one sounds easy but it was one of the last one on this list I embraced. I felt that as I was making good money it was my prerogative to pay for someone to do stuff around my house rather than it taking up my, or Mr. Habitista’s precious free time.
On paper doing DIY is a win win for your wallet and your money but at the time I felt that my time was a higher priority than my money. There were two things that changed my mind:
- Mr. Habitista insisted on putting in the nice wooden floor we had picked in the living room himself.
It took time and was a lot of work but still, years later, we both know every time we walk on that floor that it’s something that he did.He accomplished something and he knows everything about how that floor is laid down. It helps making the house ours.
- As I realised that there were other things I could do with my money than spending it (like securing my retirement) my thinking around the value of money changed, and paying people that I or we could do ourselves no longer felt like good value.
12. Make Great Coffee at Home
If you love a good cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or really anything else that you buy regularly for a few quid when you are out and about: consider taking a fraction of that money and instead do an absolutely great version at home! A daily coffee at £3 a cup is about £1000 per year.
You can use £300 of those on a great coffee machine, spend £10 a week on high quality coffee beans and still save money already in your first year. Is the convenience of standing in line at the coffee shop really worth the money and the, often, lower quality product?
12. Plan Your Meals Out in Advance
Love eating out? Me too! That said, I don’t love what is does to my figure or my wallet if I’m not mindful about it. There are two things you can do that can really make a difference:
First, choose the restaurant yourself. If you can make yourself the person who chooses the restaurant you can steer the group towards a place that has healthy options on the menu and that’s not out of your price range. Often people are happy to let someone else spend the time and the energy to find and book a restaurant.
Second, choose your food before you get to the restaurant. Almost all restaurants post their menu online and by looking at it when you are calm and not too hungry, you can make value based choices on what you will eat.
You can consider the price and the health factor of the dishes as well as their taste and making a decision that you will feel really good about the next day as well as while you are eating!
14. Don’t Shop Hungry
In the same way that you shouldn’t choose what to eat at a restaurant when you are hungry you shouldn’t do your food shop hungry either. Picking something up at your local shop after work when starving will most likely lead to poorer choices than doing your planned weekly shop after a filling breakfast on Saturday morning.
This is something you will have heard before but it is so powerful it is worth mentioning over and over again.
15. Cut Down Your (Alcohol) Drinking
Is your drinking in line with your values? Are you spending money at the pub instead of having a walk with a friend followed by a drink at their house. Are you buying several bottles of cheaper wine rather than one really good bottle?
There is no surprise that cutting down your drinking will help you to be healthy on a budget, but it can be very difficult to do so without feeling deprived. Especially as drinking is deeply incorporated into our culture.
My recommendation is to really think about what amount, context and quality of drinks is in line with your values. Consider how much you would be drinking in a life you yourself if you designed it from scratch.
Be intentional and look for other ways of getting some of the same benefits, which leads us right into….
16. Find a Healthy Stress Release
Many of the ways we relieve stress are both costly and bad for our health. Having a drink, eating ice cream in front of Netflix, going shopping, taking an expensive all inclusive holiday… the list is long.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find one kind of stress relief that works for you that does not come with any negatives. This needs to come from you so brainstorm what you enjoy such as…
…a hot bath
…a nature walk
…getting a massage from your significant other,
…pet your cat
…knit a scarf
…or do woodworking.
Just having one healthy kind of stress relief that you can go to will in time reduce your reliance on the less healthy options as they inevitably will make you feel worse with time, not better.
17. Stop Smoking to Help Your Health and Your Budget
If you are a smoker you will have heard this so many time you won’t even want to read this section. I know. I smoked for 15 years.
Quitting smoking may be simple but it isn’t easy. Understanding the reason you want to quit will be a good first step, but then make sure you get the help you need. I personally had a lot of help from Allen Carr’s book Easy Way To Stop Smoking and there is also a lot of resources and support available for free on the NHS.
The important thing to remember is that you are not a bad person for smoking, nor for not having quit smoking yet. With nicotine being so addictive, it’s one of the most difficult habits to kick. You should use all the resources and support at your disposal to help you find a way out of the addiction that works for you.
How Will You Get Healthy On a Budget?
After getting through that long list, what stuck out to you? Anything worth giving a try? Anything you thought about previously but never really got around to? I urge you to pick one action, to see if it would work for you and to explore if it would be worth making it a habit. Would it improve your life with 1%?