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.
Here are some free or budget-friendly tools we used.
My Fitness Pal
If you need to track calories, My Fitness Pal is a free app that helps you determine your caloric needs based on your age, height, weight, activity level, and fitness goals. Once you determine your goals, you can use MyFitness Pal to track the calories of the food you eat.
It’s a great reminder to me of how much energy my body needs. However, I encourage you not to focus too much on the numbers. Every human is different, and our goal is overall health and wellness, not control and a certain number.
This is my favorite fitness app ever. It’s like a personal trainer in an app. The developers took research about what makes apps really fun and keeps people coming back to them, and applied it to fitness.
So Fitbod creates personalized workouts based on your fitness goals and the gym equipment available to you (even if you have nothing and need to do bodyweight exercises only). Then it adapts your training based on the progress you plug into the app. This helps you to constantly improve!
The personalized workouts keep it interesting and fun, and the confetti on my phone screen at the end of every workout certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Fitbod is a paid app, but it has a free trial. We hardly ever pay for apps, but this one was absolutely worth it, no question.
Yoga with Adriene
Before Fitbod, we used Fitness Buddy. If you have no idea how to exercise, this a fantastic app. It shows you exactly how to do different exercises so you can learn proper form. They also have pre-made workouts that walk you through every step. It’s like a workout video without needing to use a video, and you can listen to whatever music you want.
While I don’t love the gimmicky name of this app, the workouts are on point. These 5-6 minute core workouts that leave you feeling strong and exhausted.
Nike Run Club
I joined this running app with some friends and we keep each other accountable. Nike Run Club, like many other running apps, keeps track of your miles, your pace, etc. You can create running clubs with friends, and see each others’ miles each month.
I’ve never used any other running apps, so I’m not sure how it compares. However, after my first run, Kevin Hart congratulated me for going after it today and to keep running, so it’s hard to beat that.
Eating for Fitness on a Budget
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).