Eat cheap, live well

The lose-weight-and-save-money lifestyle

It's a myth that eating healthfully means spending a lot of money on food. With some simple steps, you can improve your diet and your bank balance at the same time. Start with these tips:

1. No fast food and no soda — ever

This one is a no-brainer by now — fast food is quick and cheap, but really costly in terms of your overall health. And it's not as inexpensive as you may think: a bag of chips is more expensive than an apple; soda is never as healthful or cheap as a glass of tap water; and a healthful homemade sandwich can be made for less than a take-out hamburger.

2. Walk and bike

Take one car trip you make on a regular basis and walk or cycle it instead, like picking up the kids from school, getting a gallon of milk or visiting a friend. Then take another car trip, and walk it. And another. Soon, it'll be a healthful habit. You'll save money on gas, and lose some pounds.

3. Local, in-season produce

Skip the exotic, imported produce and stick with fresh, in-season and buy in bulk. Or buy frozen, and you'll still get the health benefits your body needs.

4. For meat, less is more

Americans eat a lot of meat, which adds to your weight and to your grocery bill. Serve smaller portions of meat, and instead of eating meat every day, start replacing it with other proteins, like beans or tofu, both of which are inexpensive and good for you. And when you do buy meat, look for inexpensive cuts. For example, a whole chicken costs less than one already cut up and packaged, and it'll go a lot further, too.

5. Brown bag it — without the bag

Lunch boxes aren't just for kids anymore. There are a lot of attractive food boxes available now—look for a tiffin, a bento box, or a Tingkat — and not only will you save on the cost of buying a lunch every day, you'll also save on buying disposable lunch bags (which aren't so good for the environment, either). Taking your own lunch means a bit of planning, but it also means you can guarantee a healthful, cheap meal.

6. Skip prepared

Avoid buying anything prepared — no boxes, bags or packages. All that packaging costs money that's passed on to you in the price, and processed food just isn't as good for you as unprocessed. So skip the cereal bars and make your own snack of dried fruit and nut trail mix instead. Breakfast cereals are often loaded with sweeteners so trade them for plain yogurt mixed with nuts, fresh fruit and a little bit of honey for a quick, healthy and inexpensive morning meal. For great winter nourishment, make oatmeal from scratch — it takes 5 minutes and will keep you going all morning.

7. Invest in a cookbook

Eating out is a big wallet-drainer and pound-adder; cooking at home is better for your budget and your health. There are so many cookbooks on the market designed for busy people in mind, there's no reason you can't plan a little ahead and make a healthful dinner instead of stopping at your favorite restaurant.

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