News flash: When we eat healthy food and get plenty of exercise, we feel better. We all know this, but we also know that living a healthy lifestyle can become expensive fairly quickly.
So, what do you do when you’ve made the commitment to live on a budget this year—and set a goal to eat better and exercise?
Good news! We’ve got six ideas to help you stick with both goals. And, if budgeting is a new skill for you, we’ve got some tips for that too.
Related: The Simple Way to Make a Budget
1. Spice Things Up
Buy your spices and seasonings from the international section of your grocery store. You’ll generally find they’re cheaper than the same spices in the little containers on the spices/baking section.
Brown rice is a healthier alternative to white rice. Just buy the cheaper, store-brand. Add more flavor by substituting one cup of beef broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth for one cup of water during cooking.
2. Eat Some Greens
Adding a salad is always a healthy option. You can buy the individual ingredients (iceberg or romaine lettuce, leaf spinach, cucumber, bell pepper and carrots) cheaper than buying the prepared, packaged salad mixes. Store your salad in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy quick, fresh greens for days.
It may sound odd, but adding fresh, grated zucchini to ground beef not only makes your burgers juicier, it also makes the meat stretch a bit further—plus you’re sneaking extra veggies into the meal! Zucchini chips are also a tasty and healthy alternative. Bake them with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs or try out any of the hundreds of recipes on the Internet.
3. Choose Protein
Sure, chips and cookies are a crunchy, easy snack to grab at the gas station, but they aren’t super healthy, and you’ll be hungry again before you know it. Keep your belly and your wallet full by choosing some protein options. Hard-boil some eggs and keep them in the fridge. Take a couple for breakfast in the morning and as a great grab-and-go healthy snack with some string cheese on the side.
Try keeping a bag of jerky in your car for a quick hit of protein while you’re on the road. And, if you’re really craving a crunchy snack, try some of the different flavors of chicharrones (a.k.a. pork rinds) for a super crunchy, no-carb snack packed with protein. Just pay attention to portion sizes, and don’t go overboard! That salt can add up.
Chicken breasts are a healthy diet staple, so when they go on sale, stock up! Buy the large family packs, divide the pieces into freezer bags, and pop them in the freezer. Frozen chicken can go directly into your slow cooker with a variety of other items. Just set it and head to work. You’ll come home to a ready-made entrée. Just add a bowl of that salad you stored in the fridge and you’ve got a complete meal.
4. Pick Up Some Potatoes
A bag of potatoes is fairly inexpensive, and there are endless ways to prepare them. Just slice baking potatoes into eighths then drizzle with olive oil and add salt, pepper and some garlic powder. Roast them at 425 degrees until golden brown. They go perfectly with those slow cooker chicken dishes or even as a side to your hard-boiled eggs. If you’re looking for fewer calories and carbs, you can make faux mashed potatoes using cauliflower. Really. Check it out online.
And while you’re hauling around five- or ten-pound bags of potatoes, why not pump out a few bicep curls or tricep extensions? Speaking of exercise, here are a couple of budget-friendly tips for the new year to keep you from paying a bunch of money to a gym or cross-fit facility to get in shape.
5. Get Outdoors
One of the very best exercises is walking. Just lace up some good walking shoes and hit the pavement. Not only will you get some exercise, you’ll enjoy the outdoors and fresh air while sight-seeing in your neighborhood and community. Don’t forget—the faster you walk, the better the benefit.
In addition to walking, you can run, bike and skate outdoors—all for free! When you go out to run, try doing some interval training to mix things up a bit. If you have a community pool, swimming is also great exercise.
6. Use What You’ve Got
You don’t have to go to an expensive gym to get fit. Just search the Internet for body-weight exercises. That’s right—using your own body weight is an effective and free way to exercise. Planks, crunches, burpees, leg lifts, push ups, squats and wall sits are just a few of the exercises you can do anywhere that don’t require any equipment.
When you’re ready to add some weights to your routine, there are plenty of things around your house you could use. Even that huge container of cat litter is an option. Just knock out a few reps with that full container.
That should be enough ideas to get you off and running—literally. If one of your goals is to get fit and healthy this year, you can do it and stay on a budget.