Fuel Your Fitness on a Budget
Most of us know that in order to stay healthy and fit, you have to exercise, eat clean, get enough protein, and avoid processed food. Those practices are easier said than done, especially on a small budget.
While my husband and I always managed to eat healthy on our tiny budget, for years I avoided exercise. I thought we couldn’t afford the healthy food and protein needed to keep us fit and strong. However, several years ago we realized we had to try.
Surprisingly, eating for fitness isn’t as expensive as we expected it to be. Here’s how we save money and eat healthily.
Clean eating simply means consuming simple, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and meats. When you exercise, eating clean gives you energy and helps you see results faster. The good news is, you don’t need to shop at the health food store or exclusively from the farmers market. Almost every grocery store has what you need:
- Lean protein
- Nuts – almonds, cashews, peanut butter
- Whole grains – rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc.
- Greek or plain yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Olive oil
- Spices, herbs
The store that helps me save the most money on these items is Aldi. Some people associate Aldi with cheap processed food, but I’ve been eating clean with Aldi for almost 10 years. I have Crystal to thank for that. Aldi carries all the basics at some of the best prices for fresh and frozen vegetables, chicken, ground turkey, and even organic products.
If you want to learn more about building your own frugal, real food kitchen, check this out.
Protein is extremely important for building muscle, but it doesn’t mean you eat steak and chicken breast every day. Greek yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, and ground turkey are fantastic, frugal sources of protein.
You also don’t need to buy out the butcher shop. There is a huge community of vegetarian and vegan fitness enthusiasts who build muscle on plant-based foods. In fact, I have a Pinterest board full of recipes, meal plans, and tips that we use to serve meatless meals filled with protein for fitness.
If supporting local, sustainable farming is important to you, here’s how we save money on grassfed and pasture-raised meat.
Avoid Processed Food
In order to avoid unhealthy eating habits, the best defense is a good offense. I found 4 ways that help us stick to our eating goals while staying fit.
1. Eat Food You Like
If you’re trying to eat healthy for the first time, acclimating your taste buds is difficult. They will change over time. Meanwhile, you must survive eating healthy when all you want is pizza.
Here’s my advice: cook food that you love. You probably have a few healthy foods you enjoy – whether it’s fresh peaches or chicken stir-fry. If you can’t stand spinach, eat broccoli and lettuce instead. Start slow and emphasize those recipes you like – because if you hate the food you eat, you won’t stick to it.
2. Keep it Simple
Cooking healthy gets overwhelming amidst everything else in life. Who says you have to cook a different meal every day? Find 10-15 dinners/lunches, 5 different breakfasts, and just cycle through them. You’re not running a restaurant – you’re living your life. Keep it simple, and you’ll win.
3. Make Ahead
Freezer cooking and making food ahead of time is a game changer. It easily cuts dinner down from an hour to 10 minutes. We make chicken, beef, oatmeal, and meatless taco-filling for simple, healthy, quick meals.
To make a successful, frugal dinner, you must think about dinner at breakfast time – NOT at 4 PM when everyone’s hungry and you’re tired from working all day. A little thought goes a long way.
4. The 80/20 Rule
Remember to live a little. Avoiding processed food means it’s okay to eat it occasionally. Just make sure your body gets most of its fuel from healthy, whole foods.
For years, I didn’t work out because I didn’t think our tiny budget could handle eating healthy enough to build muscle. However, when I started applying these ideas I learned that eating for fitness doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive or overwhelming. Keep it simple, eat frugal sources of protein, and enjoy a treat every now and then. It’s absolutely worth it.
What You Can Do Now:
If exercise or eating healthy is your new goal, try this.
- Make a quick list of your favorite whole, natural foods – scrambled eggs, apples and peanut butter, roasted broccoli, etc.
- Add them to your grocery list or menu plan for next week. It’s one baby step in the right direction!
- Share your favorite healthy foods in the comments! Mine are eggs, sweet potatoes, and spinach (not always together, but they do kinda work).