Sticking to any diet plan is tricky enough, but if you also have to follow a strict budget, it can feel impossible. After all, picking up processed products or fast food is much cheaper and faster than preparing healthy alternatives at home. But you can still meet your health goals when your finances are tight. Here are a few tips for sticking to both your diet plan and your budget.

Decide on a Diet Plan

In order to stick to both your diet and budget, create a diet plan. Your dietary needs are unique, so don’t jump on the bandwagon of a popular diet; figure out a long-term diet plan that will work for you.

Make a Budget Grocery List

Whatever diet you decide on, commit to it wholeheartedly. Know what items you can and can’t eat, and know them well. If you are knowledgeable about off-limit foods, you will be able to make smarter choices at mealtime.

Regardless of what kind of diet you choose to do, look up some recipes to try out at home. Lifesum provides a diet plan app which can help you track progress and nutrients for your plan, supplemented by diet-friendly recipes. After you’ve found some recipes to try, use them to create a grocery list and ensure you can afford all the items. Be sure to check for ingredients you may already have at home, so you don’t buy doubles of anything!

Grocery Shopping

To keep your wallet full at the store, you’ll have to shop smart. Keep the following in mind when doing your shopping:

  • Once you’ve made your list, do not deviate from it. If you forgot to write something down but remember it mid-trip, go ahead and grab it, but avoid impulse purchases at all costs. If you didn’t account for it in your diet plan or your budget, it’s off-limits.
  • Do all of your grocery shopping at once. You can lose money by grabbing items as needed from a convenient, but probably pricey, store. Make a weekly meal plan, head out to a less expensive store, and buy everything in one trip.
  • Cut coupons, but only for the things you need. There’s no point in spending money on a product simply because you have a coupon for it. When done correctly, cutting coupons can save you a lot of money on things you’re already planning to purchase.
  • Shop sales and stock up if possible. If your budget is particularly tight, stocking up may be tricky. However, if you catch a good sale on an expensive item that you will eat now and in the future, it’s definitely worth doing.
  • Check out the bulk bins. Depending on the size of this section at your grocery store, you may only have a handful of options, but some bulk bin sections will have everything from dog treats to spices. You can buy only the amount of food you need, so you aren’t wasting money on something you won’t use all of.
  • Look beyond the produce section for your fruits and vegetables. Organic, fresh produce can be expensive, so check the frozen aisle for an equally nutritious alternative. Canned fruits and vegetables are generally just as healthy as fresh, but even less expensive than frozen produce.

Cooking at Home

The best way to both eat healthy and stick to your budget is to cook your own meals at home as much as possible.

Make a Schedule

Before you begin cooking, make a schedule of what recipes you’ll cook on which days. You can use a small whiteboard on your refrigerator to keep track, and plan around your plans for the week. If you have to work late on Tuesday evening, make a big meal on Monday night so you can eat the leftovers the next day. Not only will this hold you accountable for your plans, it’ll give you something delicious to look forward to.

Meal Prepping

Sounds intimidating, right? Meal prepping is easy to do on a budget, and is actually incredibly versatile. Set aside some time each week to prepare meals for the days ahead. You can choose which meals to prep — breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks — depending on your needs. If you find yourself skipping breakfast because you go to work early, make something you can grab and eat easily when heading out the door in the morning. If you often eat unhealthy snacks when you’re hungry at the office, prepare healthier snacks to bring in every day. Focus on how you can make meal prepping on a budget work for you.

Avoid Eating Out

There’s no faster way to blow both your budget and your diet than eating out. Eating out is much more expensive than cooking at home. Everything, from drinks to that well-deserved tip for your waiter, adds up quicker than you think. You also probably have groceries sitting at home that you can make into something much healthier than the food you would get from a restaurant.

However, sometimes eating out is inevitable. If you do go out to eat for a friend’s birthday or work event, prepare as much as possible. If you know where you’ll be going, look at their online menu in advance for options that will fit both your budget and your diet. Try eating a small snack beforehand, so you aren’t as hungry; then you can either order an appetizer or eat part of an entree and save the other portion for later.

Splurge Occasionally

Don’t forget to treat yourself every so often. Build splurges into your diet plan and your budget. If you plan for it, you won’t be upset with yourself when you choose to do it. Be sure not to go overboard with your splurges though! If you do it too frequently, it’ll be harder to stay on track with your plan.

Making a healthy diet plan on a budget doesn’t have to be a difficult or stressful process. Check out everything Lifesum has to offer for more information on setting and realizing your weight loss goals, and help with diet plans.

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