Sticking to a healthy diet can be tough when you are surrounded by convenient and unhealthy options everywhere. Hawker stall offerings and fast food value meals rarely make the cut when you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, while sourcing for wholesome meals when you’re out at lunch with colleagues can be an expensive endeavour.
That doesn’t mean you should give up completely! Sure, it’s a tad tougher to maintain your healthy eating efforts in our foodie nation, but it’s entire possible to do so while still keeping your expenditure low. Here are a few ways to ensure you eat right without unnecessary overspending.
1. Limit the number of times you have lunch out
Whether you enjoy ordering in a fuss-free healthy lunch or heading out for some quinoa at that cool new salad bar, the reality is that it’s going to cost you a lot more than making your own meal. You’re largely paying for the convenience of having someone make it for you, which is a luxury when you think about it. If you’re trying to save money, you first need to figure out if you’re willing and able to fork out cash for this convenience.
2. Plan your grocery shopping
It’s easy to walk around the supermarket throwing random things in your basket (I’ve picked up avocados on a whim too many times to count), but shopping impulsively often leads to buying expensive food items you might not be able to finish by yourself. Yes, you’re eating healthier, but it’s definitely not the road to take if you can’t afford it. It’s also important to avoid shopping for groceries on an empty stomach (this is when we are at a greater risk of indulging unhealthy cravings).
Some other smart shopping pointers: Take a look at the food in your refrigerator when planning your grocery list so you don’t accidentally buy something you already have. Try and think of what meals you can throw together with the items you already have, then shop for any ingredients you might be missing. Don’t be afraid to buy house brand produce, which is often of comparable quality at a cheaper price.
3. Avoid convenience foods
Not unlike paying for someone to make you lunch, paying extra for convenience like pre-packaged salads and deboned meats are incremental costs that add up over time. Again, this comes down a cost-benefit analysis of sorts vis a vis the time you can spend on food prep. If you’re buying meats, for instance, you might find it cheaper to buy in larger quantities from wholesalers. When you get home, simply divide your produce into smaller freezer bags in amounts that you might reasonably use at a time.
4. Cook larger meals and freeze single portions
Buying a larger pack of something often saves you more money in the long run. Of course, if you’re just cooking for one or two people, it’s easy to waste food that expires before you get around to eating it. It’s easier to figure out some great single pot recipes that you can cook at the start of the week, which can be divvied up into smaller containers and frozen for when you need it. Unfortunately, this tip doesn’t apply to fresh food that shouldn’t be frozen like a salad, but it’s great for pastas, chicken or baked dishes.
Cooking larger meals also means you have to cook less frequently, which is perfect if time is an issue for you. Just dedicate one night a week to cooking, and cook in bulk. Just make sure you have enough variations in your food combinations for the week so you don’t get sick of eating the same dish every day for lunch and dinner.
If you’re working on eating healthy with a colleague, you can divide and conquer by whipping up something different each week for the other to eat on alternate days.
A version of this article originally appeared on www.herworld.com.