It’s tough being a low-income earner and trying to make the right choices when it comes to housing, groceries, saving for retirement, hobbies, and general fitness when sometimes there’s not even enough money to cover basic bills. I knew it was time to come up with a post to address these issues, and here we have it: 10 easy tips to stay healthy on a budget.
You want to eat well and lead an active lifestyle and stay healthy. Everything we read says to buy organic foods and sign up for a gym membership. Those aren’t usually realistic expectations for someone trying to stretch a dollar.
In a previous post I asked if buying from the bulk food bins always the cheaper option. In my experience, not always. You have to compare against what’s on the shelf and price it by ounce, pound, or grams to see where the better deal is. However, some stuff that you don’t need a lot of because you’re trying a new recipe that calls for an ingredient, then sure the bulk bin section of the grocery store is a good choice. If you’re low on cash, the bulk bin is also a good choice to buy just enough oatmeal, beans, or rice to carry you through until you have some money coming in.
1. Don’t buy food on credit
It’s a mantra I live by: never buy food on credit (unless I’m in another country where it’s easier to use the credit card and conserve cash) and I also give tips on low cost groceries to buy if you only have $20 and need to buy groceries to last a week.
2. Frozen produce
Buy frozen fruit and vegetables. Whether or not they’re in season, as a single I find that I often don’t eat the fresh produce before it goes bad. Frozen produce is just as good, and often cheaper than what’s currently in the stores. I especially like frozen sliced avocado and mango chunks. These are two things that I always seem to get bad ones when I buy them fresh.
3. Comparison shopping
I’m huge on comparison shopping. The produce store I usually shop at, Fruiticana, has lower prices than other produce stores in the area. I buy a bag of spinach for $2.29 that costs $2.99 at the Real Canadian Superstore. It’s the same brand of spinach. The Real Canadian Superstore leases much larger retail space and has to pass along their cost of operations in the groceries they sell. Every week I buy a bag of spinach and a bag of mini carrots. The mini carrots are $1.49, at least $1 cheaper than at the grocery stores for the same brand, Jolly Green Giant.
Generally produce stores have fresher and lower priced items than grocery stores. But when a grocery store is running a sale on something, it’ll probably be cheaper. Pick your grocery stores carefully, some charge higher prices for the exact same product you can buy at a discount grocery chain. I’m always looking for discounts. If I see a good sale price on something I regularly buy, I’ll stock up.
Make oatmeal your friend. It’s inexpensive, freezes well, and is heart healthy. I buy it in large bags and store in the freezer. My Black Lab, Chica, also struggles with weight and eats oatmeal for breakfast and dinner. Sometimes I cook oatmeal for breakfast, and I use oats in my chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal bake, super easy veggie lentil loaf, and super easy overnight trail mix oats.
5. Eat more soup
Hot soup really fills you up. Whether you open a can or make soup from scratch, eat (drink?) more of it. When I’m grocery shopping I keep an eye out for crackers on sale, and even better if they’re low on calories and I can eat a whole lot of crackers for under 100 calories. Soup and crackers. Works well for either lunch or dinner. Check out my recipe for super easy Instant Pot vegetable barley soup.
Flea markets can be a good place to buy inexpensive produce. Farmer’s markets might be a good place to buy fresh produce but not necessarily at good prices. Our local flea market has several vendors who show up and sell fresh produce and nuts. The clientele at flea markets are looking for good deals so vendors know they’ll be taking home a lot of fruit and veggies if they’re overpriced – therefore they keep their prices low for the bargain hunters!
7. Home workouts
We all know we should exercise. If you’re on a budget, you probably can’t afford a gym membership. Not unless you’re giving up something else in your life and making the gym a priority. Reality check for most of us who don’t like to exercise. Paying for a gym membership is torture, whether or not we’re on a budget! Let’s find free or cheap alternatives. And when I say free, I’m assuming you have a computer with Internet and own a bike. Or can find a free or cheap bike on Craigslist. Most of us have a bike collecting dust in the shed. It’s time to wipe it down and remember why we love riding a bike! Walking. Hiking. Biking. Fitness videos on Youtube.
Hot months – swimming. Most cities have at least one free outdoor public pool. Or a lake or an ocean with free public access.
At the very least, go for a walk every day. It’ll be good for you!
8. Plant a garden
At my last house I planted apple, plum, pear, and cherry trees. I also had raspberries, blueberries, potatoes, and rhubarb. I still have that rhubarb but now it grows in pots. Planters are the way to go if you have a small space.
If you like green onions, the next time you buy them at the store, chop off above the root area and put them in a cup of water. You’ll have green onions growing in days to chop for your salads. Change out the water every few days so it doesn’t get slimy.
9. Be preventable
Can you afford a sick day? Mentally, physically, and monetary. You don’t get paid if you don’t work, so getting sick is no fun. Many times you can prevent or lessen your chance of being ill.
Wash your hands frequently. I’m always washing my hands, but then they get dirty a lot thanks to horses and dogs! This is basic hygiene after using the washroom or before preparing food.
I’m not fanatic about hand sanitizers but I keep one in the bathroom and one in the car for those just in case moments.
Use sunscreen if you’re heading outside on a sunny day. I use Olay face moisturizer with SPF 15 and use SPF 50 sunscreen for the rest of me. My father and his sisters constantly had sun spots removed by dermatologists. I’m very conscious about making sure I wear sunscreen.
BC does a series of “preventable” videos. https://www.preventable.ca/
Check them out. Not only do they pack a good reminder of making good choices, they’re kind of entertaining!
10. Healthy brain
Another thing I worry about is Alzheimer’s Disease. I know it’s not hereditary but my mother had Alzheimer’s. No one else in her family did, and I hope it doesn’t happen to me. Keep your mind active. I read a lot. I’m not huge on crosswords, but occasionally I’ll do one online. Sometimes I watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy – and I’m not bad! I’ve even found online jigsaw puzzles I’ll do every now and then. Check Meetup for groups that play card games. Not the kind that bet money on the outcome! Or a Meetup book club. There are many free ways to use your noggin. Keep yourself thinking and keep that brain active. Use it or lose it!
If you’d like to read my mother’s story as Alzheimer’s took over, I wrote a book called Recipes My Mother Forgot. If you click the link below, you’ll be taken to Amazon and if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
Thank you for sharing these valuable tips on staying healthy on a budget! Your article is not only informative but also practical, and it’s great to see that being healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Your tips are easy to follow and implement, and I appreciate the effort you put into creating this helpful resource. Keep up the great work!
Thank you for stopping by! I’m planning a redo since this post was written before Covid and inflation. Most of the advice still stands, but taking care of our mental health and food affordability are important topics.