Weight Loss on a Budget

Weight Loss on a Budget

Have you spent hundreds of dollars on trending diet programs or fat burning supplements? Have you begun to give up hope? Losing weight can seem unattainable when you’ve spent countless time and money, with no results in return. The time to change course and achieve sustainable weight loss on a budget is now.  

No more counting calories or spending an obscene amount of money on detox plans!

If you have already read our post on The Best Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss but are unsure about how to implement changes in an affordable way, this post is for you. If you haven’t read that post out, its worth a read because it can help you learn the keys to achieving and maintaining weight loss.

These days the health and fitness industry is rapidly growing, making it easy to become overwhelmed by the creative marketing claims of clean and healthy foods. Trendy juice bars and high-end specialty grocery stores are popping up everywhere it seems. Although these hot health foods may have some value, you are not missing out if these products are too pricey for you. In this post, we will talk about tips to a sustainable weight loss journey, especially if you’re on a budget. Cost should never be the barrier between you and your weight loss goals!

Weight Loss on a Budget all Starts With…Fresh Foods!

The Healthiest and Cheapest Option

Your weight loss plan can be as simple and affordable as you make it. The answer? Eat a clean, well-balanced, and nutrient-dense diet made up of whole foods. Why is this important? Real, whole foods do not contain added sugar! Replacing junk food with the healthy stuff may be hard at first, but your body will eventually stop craving sugar the less frequently you eat it. Getting rid of your soda and candy stash allows for more room in your budget to buy organic produce and quality meats.

A whole foods approach to weight loss is achievable for every person, particularly those on a tight budget. Let’s dive deeper into how we can make real food affordable.

Why We Should Focus on Eating Real Food

How often are you resorting to meal replacement bars or shakes over full meals with real food? After eating a protein bar, do you ever think to yourself “Wow that did nothing for me!” Why is this? These products can be packed with good calories and nutrients, but they typically contain less volume and fiber than fresh foods like such as green leafy vegetables or chicken breast. AKA you’re eating less food for more calories…Not fun!

Although these options taste delicious and come in handy when short on time, the cleanest bars and protein powders on the market will cost you a pretty penny. Consuming as much real food as possible will give you more bang for your buck! More food for the same or fewer calories than a bar or shake will keep you satiated for an extended period of time.

Stay Simple With Produce

How convenient that the foods most likely to facilitate weight loss are often the cheapest foods in the grocery store?! However, it is easy to fill your cart with everything that catches your eye and more times than not, these beautifully packaged foods are not conducive to weight loss. Soon you’ve got $100 worth of food in your cart before you leave the produce section. Things to keep in mind:

  • The more you buy, the more you eat. Even though fruits and veggies should be your go-to snacks, you may end up eating more than planned. If a bowl of juicy strawberries is staring at you as you open the fridge, those babies are going down like candy. A serving or two of strawberries is great, but the whole carton, not so much…if you struggle with portion control, try portioning out your fruits and veggies for the week ahead of time.
  • Early Bird gets the worm! So maybe you’re not a morning person, but beating the crowd on Sunday morning can get you some serious deals. Usually, select produce is marked down in the early hours of the store opening. Try to get there early before it’s all snatched up! It’s also worth mentioning that you are more inclined to make rationale decisions when purchasing if you are not fighting the crowds.
  • Veggies go bad quickly. Unlike Captain Crunch and Easy Mac, your veggies have thankfully not been preserved or processed for increased shelf life. YAY! So, only buy a few types of veggies for the week and portion out what you’ve got. This can help control spending, while also combating food waste. Even if you purchased fresh produce, don’t be afraid to freeze the remaining portions if you feel that you are unable to eat everything before it goes bad. Frozen produce can be blended into soups and smoothies. 

Beware of Marketing Claims Aimed to Keep Us Buying More

Companies are incredibly talented at scamming shoppers into believing that their products are your secret weapons for weight loss. Just because a label reads “All Natural” or “Organic” doesn’t necessarily make it weight loss friendly.

The prices on these products are usually racked up because of their false advertising. They know most consumers will fall for a few keywords, regardless of their truth. Although special creamers or fancy name-brand nut butters seem necessary, your weight loss goal CAN easily be achieved without them.

Stick With What’s in Season

Take advantage of lower-priced produce that’s “in season.” For example, asparagus, berries, and watermelon are much cheaper (and taste WAY better!) in summer than during the winter months.

Fresh foods can be very affordable if purchased at the right time. Some foods are consistently cheaper than others, so if you’re on a budget, the following options could be staples in your house! These options are on average less than $1 per pound.

Fruits and Veggies:

  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Honeydew
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Green Beans

Grains and Starches:

  • Rice
  • Potatoes (all types)
  • Beans
  • Lentils

Spice It Up The Simple Way!

Maybe you read this list and you think, “BORING”… We get it! The sauces often used for salads and cooking veggies are detrimental if you’re looking to slim down AND actually enjoy the process. Even worse, the purest dressings sold at the store are usually double the price of conventional brands like Kraft or Wish Bone. However, don’t you worry, spicing up your food the guilt-free way is possible, even if your goal is to achieve weight loss on a budget. 

Use herbs and spices: Spice up (literally!) your foods the cheap and healthy way with the following:

  • Pink Himalayan Salt, Mediterranean Sea Salt (Try Traders Joes brand if you want a smaller size), and Great tasting pepper
    • (If you belong to Costco, you can pick these up at your local store for an unbeatable price.  If not, try this excellent Kirkland brand 3 pack off Amazon.  While they’re large sizes, they don’t expire quickly and will help you stretch your money a long way.)
  • Garlic powder, cinnamon, basil, oregano, sage, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper, are great options as well!
  • If you prefer the taste of fresh herbs but feel that you never actually use up the entire (expensive) package. Cook with what you need, break off the remains into tiny pieces and freeze small portions in each cube of an old-school ice cube tray. Pour about a tablespoon of water on top to hold everything together and pop one or two out when you need it a few weeks later. These little cubes blend well into smoothies and can be sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil for extra flavor when cooking protein and veggies.

Make your own dressing: The best part about homemade dressing is controlling everything that goes inside! Making healthier sauces and dressings is a perfect way to limit excessive calories, fat, and sodium and are cheaper than purchasing from the store. Some of the tastiest recipes can be made with  3 or 4 ingredients!

Here are some simple ways to bring your food to life:

  • To spice up your potato: Don’t sacrifice the health benefits of your potato by loading it with bacon, cheese, and sour cream. Try lightly tossing your chopped sweet potatoes in olive oil with salt, pepper, and garlic sprinkled on top. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes and you’ve got delicious guilt-free fries.
  • To spice up your veggies: We can still make vegetables taste good without the added sugar and calories from sauces. In a skillet, sauté your bell peppers, broccoli, and onions on low to medium heat with some form of cold-pressed oil, then sprinkle Mrs. Dash’s Fiesta Lime seasoning blend on top. A little goes a long way with this stuff. More of a sweet tooth? Try cooking roasting carrots in coconut oil with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. 
  • To spice up your bananas: If you’re still craving something sweet and want to avoid the ice cream, bananas can satisfy that sweet tooth in a minute. In a blender, mix 1-2 cups of frozen banana slices, 1 tbsp. of almond butter, 1 scoop of your favorite vanilla or chocolate protein powder, (We love Jarrow Grass Fed Whey Protein powder) a splash of unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg for the ultimate flavor boost. 

Grow Your Greens!

Have you considered growing a small vegetable garden in your yard? If your schedule allows for ample time and continuous work needed for a home garden to thrive, go for it! You will save money on groceries and have delicious and fresh vegetables to support your weight loss efforts. You may also find that homegrown produce taste better than conventionally grown produce.

Limit Going Out to Eat 

Why do we love eating out at restaurants? Because it usually tastes great!  Or, at least better than we can make at home.  Even better, we didn’t have to prepare the meal!

However, going out to eat is often hard on the budget and heavy on the calories.  Even if you think you are purchasing something “healthy” such as a salad or smoothie bowl with many healthy items in it, these options are usually loaded with calories either from added sugar or simply too much food.

Here is a perfect example…First Watch offers the “A.M Superfoods Bowl” which is available under the “Healthier Side” portion of the menu. This deliciously appealing dish consists of:

  • Coconut milk chia seed pudding
  • Fresh bananas
  • Berries
  • Blackberry preserves
  • House-made granola
  • Whole grain artisan toast topped with almond butter and Maldon sea salt

Sounds harmless right? Well… not for somebody who thinks they are ordering a low-calorie option. This meal contains a whopping 1,070 calories, with 50 grams of fat and 150 grams of carbohydrates. Although this bowl is packed with high-quality fat, antioxidants, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, it contains more than half of the average person’s recommended calories for the day.

How can eating out hurt your wallet: Eating out at restaurants too much can hinder your weight loss goals, but more importantly hurt your wallet. Stopping for food on the go can easily cost you $10-$15 if choosing the more health-conscious options. Opt for this route multiple times a week and you’ve added another $50-$75 dollars to your grocery bill! This amount of money could equate to 4-5 days worth of food prepared at home. Plus, let’s be real, how many times do you receive a meal that could feed three people and you polish off the entire thing?

  • Salad Bars: Eating a salad tastes way better from a restaurant. I’ve said it, you’ve said it, and we’ve all heard it. Although the Whole Foods salad bar is a health-nuts heaven, it’s not the most cost friendly. Pack your container full, and you’re walking out of there with a $20 salad. Save yourself the immediate satisfaction and convenience by purchasing $20 worth of ingredients to make salads for the whole week. The $20 spent on this upscale option will truly add up over days and weeks.

We get it though…eating out is part of life! Sometimes you just need to grab something on the go. Our social lives and relationships often revolve around the eating experience as well, so we recommend that these occasions happen once in a while instead of every week. We also recommend that you never show up feeling ravenous and that you place half of your meal in a doggie bag before you even take your first bite. Just realize that eating out is WAY more expensive when choosing the fresh, whole foods that support your weight loss goals.

The MOST Crucial Action for Success: Meal Prep

We’ve already mentioned “planning ahead” and “pre-portioning” your food. Now, let’s talk meal prep!

How many of you grocery shop on Sunday and halfway through the week find yourself back in the grocery store?! SPOILER…you can probably survive without that second and third trip. It’s SO easy to rationalize going back in the store for a few things here and there. However, prepping your food at the beginning of the week can help cut the cost of groceries and improve eating habits.

  • Only buy what you need: Sometimes it’s fun to walk the aisles and fill your cart with items you think you need. Save yourself time and money by making a list and only purchasing what’s on that list. If you pre-plan the meals you want to make and only purchase the items needed, you avoid over-stocking food that won’t get used.
  • Make big batches: Big family? Lots of different taste preferences? This is where prepping large batches of food and letting everybody choose can be helpful. Make a few big containers of roasted broccoli, brown rice or roasted potatoes, and some type of lean protein. Keeping these healthy options prepped will prevent getting Take-Out on the way home from a long day.
  • Switch things up: Rotating your veggies and grains of choice is important to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients in your diet. You also want to avoid getting “burned out” on food by eating the same thing every week.
  • Travel Tupperware: Head into your local Costco or log onto Groupon and you’ll find bulk, reusable storage meal prep containers for great prices. Eating clean on the go too frequently will suck your wallet dry. So…the best way to avoid buying fast food is to pack and prepare as much as possible ahead of time. All it takes is a little extra planning and self-discipline to make sure your meals are ready to take for the day.

Key Point to Remember

As you’ve heard time and time again, weight loss does not happen overnight or days, and weight loss on a budget can appear to be even tougher.  However, sticking to a tight budget really isn’t a barrier if you include some of the tips we discussed such as cooking in batches which saves costs on eating out or picking food up to go.  

Any real weight loss plan requires true commitment and consistency over weeks and months.  We recommend you check out our posts on 11 Mindful Eating Strategies for Weight Loss and Improved Digestion as well as Best Lifestyle Changes for Weight Loss because they have some awesome tips to help you with the commitment and consistency it takes for long-term success. In the end, remember that replacing processed foods with real, whole foods is going to be the most effective and inexpensive way to achieve a healthy weight!

About The Author

Abby Vichill

Abby Vichill is finishing her undergraduate degree in Dietetics and aspires to pursue a career in functional sports nutrition. Abby has been an athlete her entire life, but never truly discovered her potential until she dialed in her nutrition from a whole-foods approach. She always ate what she believed was "healthy" but as a high school athlete and into her college career often experienced fatigue, discomfort, and nagging injuries that held her back from excelling athletically. Throughout her education and competitive involvement in the sport of Crossfit, Abby began a more holistic lifestyle, which has significantly improved her performance and overall well-being. Abby is very excited to learn about and experience the world of functional sports nutrition, and hopes to share her knowledge and passion with others in the future.

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