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Nine Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

By Vanessa Rodriguez
For Active.com

Although we know good nutrition is crucial for training, shelling out those extra few dollars for healthier groceries can be painful. These practical tips can help you meet the needs of both your budget and your body.

1. Establish your priorities.
How important is good nutrition to you? Answering this question honestly can help you determine how much money you are willing to invest in your food. It’s difficult to spend money on things we don’t prioritize. Once we decide that our nutrition is something we want to invest in, it’s easier to make the following changes.

food2. Plan and prepare.
When it comes to food, saving money always means investing more time in planning and preparation. Yes, we love the convenience of food on-the-go. But eliminating them from your grocery runs can instantly slash our expenses. Be prepared to start washing, chopping, storing, and freezing. Sit down and plan your meals out for the entire week. Make a grocery list and stick to it.

3. Invest in a freezer.
If you have the space, this can save you major dollars in the long term. Buy good meat in bulk. Buy entire animals if you can. Get fruits and vegetables in large quantities when they are in season (and therefore the cheapest), then freeze them for use throughout the year.

4. Invest in a nutrition or cooking class.
Get a few friends together for a group session to save money. Pay for just a few consultations or classes to cover the basics. Learn to read food labels and get a grocery store tour (be careful when attending free tours—they are usually sponsored by a company with a vested interest in what you buy, so you won’t always be getting completely transparent information).

Spending money on a nutritionist may initially seem counterproductive, but there’s nothing worse than finding out that you’ve been spending all your money on food you thought was healthy, but really wasn’t. Many labels like natural, raw, and whole wheat are not regulated and can be used to sell products at a higher price. A nutritionist can teach you how to determine which foods live up to their labels and which are just clever marketing.

5. Sit down for meals.
You’ll be amazed at how much more you eat when you’re on the run. Make time for meals. Sit at an actual table. You generally eat less if you eat with others, plus you are more likely to enjoy your food.

6. Pay more but eat less.
Buy higher quality foods but pay attention to your portions. It’s important to accomplish this without feeling hungry, which is very possible by eating the right foods. Fruits and vegetables contain significant amounts of water and are therefore more filling. Whole grains are more satisfying than white flour-based products. In the end you feel full by eating less.

7. Choose your battles.
You don’t have to buy everything organic. Pick and choose according to your means, but keep in mind that there are certain foods with higher pesticide loads (and therefore better bought organic). You can find a list of these foods here.

8. Get to know your food community.
Most cities have some sort of resource for getting fresh food at a good price. It could be a community garden, a food box program, or a farmer’s market. A little bit of research into your local options can go a long way.

9. Remember that any change is good change.
Don’t get discouraged. Your body is the greatest asset you own. Eating well may take up more of your time, but it can also help you live longer and feel happier. You’re stuck with your body for life; how you prioritize your food is ultimately your choice.

Vanessa Rodriguez is the former nutrition editor for Active.com. She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an avid ultra-distance trail runner.

This article originally appeared on Active.com — your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

Active.com