You know you need to make some healthy changes to your diet. The promise of better health beckons. If only it wasn’t so damn expensive.
Here are some other ways of looking at it.
Consider the cost of non-essentials
I was surprised to learn that soft drinks (sodas) are in the top ten purchases in Australian supermarkets. They’re not even a food group! Items such as cigarettes, alcohol, biscuits and cakes, soft drinks and take away can add up to thousands of dollars a year. Cutting down in this area can free up money that can be spent on creating a new, healthier you.
By cutting down we minimise the negative impact of these habits and lower our calorie intake leading to weight loss. Our health receives a much-needed boost as we increase our intake of foods that nourish our bodies such as more fruit, vegetables and fibre.
The financial costs of ill-health
Our unhealthy diets and the rising rates of obesity are also fuelling an increase in joint replacement surgery, with one study finding that 9 in 10 people having knee replacements and 7 in 10 people having hip replacements were overweight.
Even in a country like Australia with a public health system, costs incurred from major surgery can be extensive, including sick leave, dressings, assistance with housework, the costs of painkillers and doctor’s visits.
We know that one third of cancers are dietary related. The out of pocket expenses of cancer treatment can run into thousands. In the U.S. if someone has no health insurance, this can be five or six figures easily.
The personal costs of ill-health
It is one thing to talk about the financial costs of ill-health but quite another to consider the personal costs. We breeze through life thinking we are bullet-proof until one day it comes crashing down around us. Or it might sneak up on us so gradually we don’t even notice until it’s too late.
It may be the anguish of a cancer battle, the pain of an arthritic joint or simply realising that we can no longer do the things we once took for granted. Don’t let a preventable health condition suck the joy out of your life.
The cost of medications to treat conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure can be considerable. Someone with type 2 diabetes may need medication to reduce their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels in order to lower their risk of complications.
These costs can really add up. In one study 20% of people surveyed reported foregoing food and other essentials to pay for medication. Far better and cheaper to follow a healthy diet and prevent some of these conditions from developing in the first place.
What are some strategies to work around the cost?
1. Write down everything you buy
This will highlight spending on non-essential food items such as biscuits, cakes and soft drinks. The added benefit is that if the budget is tight, it will also highlight spending on other items that could be culled quite easily such as magazines, eating out and shopping for the latest clothes.
2. Wait 60 days before buying non-essential items
3. A food diary can be a real eye-opener
We tend to ‘forget’ what we’ve eaten. How often are ‘sometimes’ foods such as biscuits and cakes showing up?
4. Eating less can reduce our waist size and increase our bank balance
Our plate size heavily influences how much we eat and plate sizes have grown over the past two decades. I used to think that using smaller plates was just a gimmick. However there has been some really good research around this and by using a smaller plate we are satisfied with up to 30% less.
5. De-cluttering and organising can be an effective strategy
This will naturally reduce our impulse to buy more ‘things’. Organising the pantry can result in savings from not buying items that you already have.
Plan meals ahead of time, making your own meals using food in your pantry. Many Australians discard at least $1000 a year in fresh food. Planning ahead and shopping to a grocery list can reduce wastage, freeing up money that can be spent on healthy food such as fruit and vegetables.
6. Buying grocery items on special if you have storage and freezer space
7. Packing your lunch
This gives you the opportunity to make healthy choices that cost less. Do you really need that latte every day or can you make do with a green tea instead? (Think more antioxidants, less calories and money in your pocket).
8. Reducing your meat intake
This can help offset the costs of increasing our vegetable intake. There is a strong link between the consumption of red and processed meat and the development of bowel cancer.
Following a healthy diet is less about perfection and more about trial and error.
Create great health and put money in your pocket by trying some of these strategies. Do you have any tips for eating healthy food on a budget? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.