How To Eat Well (And On A Budget) For Busy Women
Last updated on : February 18 2023
Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for overall well-being, but it can be challenging for busy women on a budget.
Between managing work, family, and other commitments, it's easy to neglect healthy eating habits and rely on quick and cheap food options. However, compromising on nutrition can lead to many health issues in the long run.
Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. With a few smart choices, it's possible to eat well even on a tight budget.
This article will explore practical tips on how busy women can prioritize healthy eating without breaking the bank. From planning meals to making the most of leftovers, these tips will help you stay healthy, energized, and on budget.
Jump to the section you want by using the links below.
- A: Begin your day with a good breakfast
- B: Pack and carry healthy snacks
- C: Do not make coffee your go to
- D: Shop smart
- E: Prep in advance
- F: Refrain from snacking and multitasking
- G: Avoid skipping meals
- H: Be smart while dining out
- I: Consider supplements
- J: Stay hydrated
- K: Jot down what you eat
- L: Be mindful when you shop
- M: Grow your salad greens
- N: Stock up on seasonal produce
- O: Organise your fridge
- P: Opt for cheaper cuts of meat
- Q: Plan your meals and prep
- R: Carry your lunch to work
- S: Swap desserts with different fruits
- T: Stop buying unhealthy drinks and junk food
1. Eat Well And Smarter
Try these tips to combine healthy eating with a hectic schedule.
A. Begin your day with a good breakfast.
We all know that breakfast is an important meal of the day. A nutritional breakfast sets you up for the day, maintains your energy levels, and stops you snacking. Don't skip it. Plan to have breakfast and fit it into your schedule.
Consume foods that are high in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Whole grain cereals, oatmeal, organic dairy items, and nuts are healthy if chosen wisely.
Stay away from refined or processed foods with high sugar content and artificial flavors. Avoid artificially sweetened items and instead, use fruit in your bowl of oatmeal or make a quick smoothie.
Processed food includes any food that is not in a natural state. For example, food that is frozen, canned, baked, or dried.
Not all processed foods are unhealthy. However, they often contain harmful levels of salt, sugar, fat, or chemicals - additives to make a more appealing flavor, extend shelf life, or structure.
Examples of common processed foods include breakfast cereals, tinned vegetables, savory snacks, such as crisps and sausage rolls, meat products like bacon and sausage, microwave or ready meals, cakes, and biscuits, soft drinks and sodas, and of course junk and fast food.
B. Pack and carry on-the-go healthy snacks.
Getting a healthy meal at the right time is often not convenient or feasible. Inconvenience is no permission to indulge in unhealthy snacking. Or worse, not eat at all. Carry a piece of fruit, a protein bar, or a healthy snack wherever you go (they hardly take up any space in your bag).
Eat your snack between meetings, or during a break with your co-workers. Make this a habit to keep your blood sugar levels at optimum levels, preventing you from overeating or unhealthy snacking.
C. Do not make coffee your go-to.
Relying on a shot of espresso to increase alertness is unavoidable for some of us.
Keep your coffee intake to a moderated because too much caffeine, at the wrong times, can make you sluggish. Coffee is a diuretic, dehydrating your body and leading to irregularities in blood sugar levels.
If eliminating your regular cuppa is too much, try replacing a few cups throughout the day with healthier alternatives. Green or herbal teas are excellent substitutes and are caffeine-free.
Your overall energy levels will improve when your body adjusts to less coffee. You will feel less sleepy and have less reliance on caffeine for a pick me up — all the right things.
Update: On the coffee front. Recent science shows coffee has many proven medical benefits - and the significant advantage is its ability to boost your metabolism and help you burn fat. Drinking coffee correctly and in moderation might be healthy for you.
D. Shop smart when picking up groceries.
Don't be tempted to buy processed or pre-packaged foods because they are faster and easier to prepare. These foods are universally bad for your health.
Instead, pick healthy foods to last you through the week.
Healthy foods include lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, and organic produce. We need high quantities of iron to make up for loses during menstruation. Consuming healthy foods is an excellent way to replenish it and keep other health problems at bay.
Avoid the fast and processed foods section in supermarkets if you're struggling to make healthy choices.
E. Prep in advance.
Instead of cooking every day, try planning your meals over the weekend and cooking in large batches.
Here are a few prep meals to get you started.
Many recipes can be cooked in advance and frozen for use during the week. Sauces, soups, and curries are excellent examples. Play around with ideas adding your touch to every meal. Eating healthy is not boring.
With delicious and easy-to-eat meals available at home (frozen and waiting to defrost), you will be less dependent on prepackaged and fast foods.
F. Refrain from snacking and multitasking.
Multitasking saves time but has its drawbacks.
Don't eat and work at the same time. Plan your day to eat away from your desk. Enjoy your food with a colleague, your partner, or friends for a quick lunch outside.
Eating away from your desk allows you to focus on what you eat. It prevents overeating and makes mealtimes more enjoyable. You'll feel nourished in body, mind, and soul and ready to start work fresh and with energy.
G. Avoid skipping meals.
When you skip meals, you lose energy, are tempted to snack unhealthily, and end up bingeing the next time you eat. For these reasons, skipping meals leads to eating more calories, not less.
There is a high risk you'll consume bad calories too, like sugars or processed foods in the snacks you eat. Studies show that your risk of diabetes increases when you skip meals, just because of the binge and unhealthy calorie factors.
Make it a point not to skip meals. Eat every few hours to keep your metabolism working and to avoid unhealthy food choices.
H. Be smart while dining out.
Watching what you eat, need not spoil your restaurant meals or prevent you from eating out at all.
Many professional women find it impossible to avoid lunch meetings or work dinners. So eating wisely by picking the right foods from the menu is essential. Choose salads, soups, and baked, grilled, or steamed dishes instead of digging into greasy fries and onion rings.
If you know where your meetings are, choose restaurants where your needs are more likely to be met.
There is no shame in asking questions or requesting restaurant staff to customize your meal. You never know when doing this may inspire others to eat healthily!
I. Consider supplements.
Even with all the right choices eating choices, there are nutrients that a woman’s body needs to stay healthy and active. Complement your diet with supplements like magnesium, omega-3 acids, B-complex vitamin, and multivitamins.
Remember to consult a doctor or nutritionist before starting any supplement, because each woman has a different nutritional profile.
J. Stay hydrated.
We cannot stress this enough—drinking water throughout the day is essential to your wellbeing. Sodas, caffeinated drinks, or similar beverages do not have the power that plain old water has. So don't drink these instead of water.
Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Keep count until it becomes a habit.
Carry room-temperature water in a glass or stainless steel bottle and sip on it consciously throughout the day.
K. Jot down what you eat.
Writing things down makes it easier to monitor and organize. The same goes for writing down what you eat.
Keeping a food diary that tracks how, when, and what you consume encourages you to eat well. It hardly takes any time. Jot down everything you eat in a book or pad or use an app designed for the job. Review regularly to make sure you are eating in a balanced way.
2. Eat Healthy On A Budget
Given the hectic yet sedentary lifestyles that most of us lead, eating healthy is an effort we often cannot afford - literally.
Research conducted in 2013, revealed that healthy diets incorporating fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—costs more than unhealthy diets (for example, those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains).
And according to a study by the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH a day’s worth of healthy foods cost approximately $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones.
However, there are ways to eat healthy without having to bust your budget or drain your bank account.
Combine the time-saving tips above with the budget-saving tips below to ensure you are eating healthy and cost-effectively.
L. Be mindful when you shop
What you put into your shopping cart determines what you plan to eat and snack on in the following days. Make it a point to be mindful when you grocery shop and refrain from randomly picking up whatever seems tempting - focus on whole clean foods.
These are some foods that are easy on the budget and high on health:
- Whole eggs:
Besides being a rich source of protein, whole eggs also nourish your body with vitamins A, D, and E.
- Canned tuna:
Canned tuna is one of the densest sources of proteins, and also one of the cheapest sources of protein in the grocery stores today.
- Canned mackerel:
Though less-protein-rich than tuna, mackerel tastes good and is excellent for adding variety to your seafood. Toss some mackerel on your salad or in some seasoned rice.
Though somewhat rich in fat - milk is an excellent source of proteins and other nutrients. Choose low-fat versions. Milk is a simple choice for your daily intake of protein and calcium and is relatively cheap.
Almonds contain protein as well as monounsaturated fat and fiber and research shows, reduces the risk of diabetes. Whenever you feel like snacking in between meals, grab a handful of almonds instead of a bag of potato chips. Choose almonds still in their shells to save more on their cost.
Peanuts are an excellent source of good fat, and also help in lowering the risk of diabetes. However, ensure that you consume these only in moderation.
Richer in protein as compared to meat, lentils are an excellent addition to any diet. These food items are high in naturally-occurring sources of antioxidants. Explore dishes using lentils to add variety to mealtimes.
High in fiber, low in fat, readily available, and excellent at lowering cholesterol. Make oats for a healthy breakfast. This versatile food item is also delicious in many other ways. Savory oatmeal with onions, mushrooms, and herbs makes a great lunch in a pinch.
Yogurt is filled with calcium and probiotics, improves your body’s immune system and enriches muscles and bones. There are several yummy varieties and flavors. Choose low-fat versions and aim for Greek during the weeks you have extra cash.
- Brown rice:
The whole-grain version of white rice, brown rice helps cut the risk of diabetes and is a rich source of fiber. It also helps keep you full longer which wards off hunger pangs.
- Whole-wheat pasta:
Whole-wheat pasta has a deeper and more complex taste and texture as compared to regular pasta. It also contains more fiber, antioxidants, and protein. So if you love your Italian cuisine, stick to the whole-wheat options.
Bananas are a fruit high in fiber and potassium, and research shows they help reduce cholesterol. Moreover, they are one of the most delicious, easy-to-eat, and cheapest fruits - especially during warmer seasons.
Packed with Vitamin C, watermelons boost immunity and help strengthen bones. Eating watermelons is an excellent way to keep hydrated on hot days.
Onions are not only powerhouses of flavor; they pack a surprising amount of antioxidants too. So go ahead and be liberal in the use of onions in your cooking.
- Avoid these "healthy" foods
Not all foods are created equal, and what is considered healthy is not always so. We spent a bit of time trying to understand this, and now you can read our article on "healthy" foods to avoid.
M. Grow your salad greens
Eating salads are healthy, but picking fresh ingredients all the time does become a tad expensive. The best option is to grow your produce and go true-blue organic.
We are not saying that you need an entire farm, just a windowsill, and some small planters to help you start your herb garden and a few other items.
Sprouts, onions, tomatoes, and several herbs are just some of the things you can grow - although if you have space, you can do a lot more.
You will have fresh ingredients available when needed and a new hobby. Plus, your home will look prettier than ever, and lots of satisfaction knowing you can grow your food.
N. Stock up on seasonal produce
Any smart shopper knows that taking advantage of sales is one of the most cost-effective ways of shopping, so why not plan your grocery shopping too?
While you may not be able to stock up on staples this way, when it comes to fresh produce it is best to buy them in bulk when they are in season.
Fresh is better any day, but if you are on a tight budget, it may work against you. Instead, stock up when you get a good deal and then take time to segregate and freeze foods for later.
Keep an eye out for discounts on online shopping sites. Also, try rebate applications such as Ibotta to get exceptional deals and paid rebates immediately.
O. Organize your fridge the correct way
We often open the fridge when hungry, and grab the first thing we see. Make this work to your advantage by arranging the food in your fridge so that the healthiest items are visible first.
Consider this - if you notice a tempting piece of chocolate cake right on opening the door are you likely to lean towards the apple shoved in the corner?
Make an effort to store your healthy foods in transparent containers while stashing away the junk food in opaque boxes at the back.
Moreover, keeping your fridge organized means remembering those leftovers and avoiding waste - more savings if you are trying to stick to a food budget.
P. Opt for cheaper cuts of meat
We all need (and love) our protein and while it is vital to a nutritious diet, buying meat frequently puts a massive dent into our budget.
Go for the cuts of meat that cost less than others, and use these cuts in different ways throughout the week.
Chicken thighs are an excellent choice. Also, consider going for a whole bird so that you can use different parts for a variety of dishes.
Moreover, leftover meat is easily used to add flavor to stews, soups, stir-fries, and salads.
Q. Plan your meals and prep for it
We are more likely to dine out or call for pizza after a long day of work if there are no easy-to-eat meals available.
This ordering in temptation likely also means that you are wasting whatever is in the fridge.
To avoid this, start planning and prepping your meals for the week (this includes breakfast) over the weekend. And you will not only eat healthier but also not feel guilty about indulging in a restaurant meal once in a while - all the time remaining within your desired budget.
R. Carry your lunch to work
Eating lunch with coworkers is fun and very expensive. Dining out does not come cheap, and does not do much good for your health either.
So start packing home-cooked lunches and carrying it to work—no extra effort (since you are already prepping your meals for the week).
This excellent habit costs a fraction of eating out and ensures that you stick to your healthy meal plan.
S. Swap your desserts with different fruits
It is tough to resist the lure of the brownie calling out your name. But before you devour it, think about how many calories you are gulping down.
To stick to a healthy diet with a sweet tooth, merely make fruits your dessert. There are enough varieties not to get bored, and you can buy cheaply during sales or in the season to stock up, and have frozen fruits available anytime.
T. Stop buying unhealthy drinks and junk food.
The best way to avoid eating unhealthy food is to stop buying them.
Canned juices, soda, fries, and processed foods are not cheap, so why spend money to harm your body?
Cut out the junk food and make water your choice of drink—costs almost nothing and has a whole lot of health benefits.
3. Final Thoughts.
Busy women need to take extra care of their nutritional needs. Paying attention to what you eat, how and when will make sure you get a balanced and nutritious diet.
And, eating the right foods for a healthy lifestyle is not a time-consuming or expensive process if you are smart about it.
All you need is determination - so try incorporating these tips, and soon you will notice changes in your health and your bank account.
4. Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.
1. Is it possible to eat well on a tight budget?
Absolutely! While it can be challenging, there are plenty of ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank. By making smart choices and planning, you can prioritize nutrition without spending too much.
2. What are some healthy, budget-friendly staples to keep on hand?
There are plenty of affordable foods that are also nutrient-dense. These foods can be used in various recipes and provide a good balance of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Some examples include beans, lentils, whole grains, frozen veggies, and canned fish like tuna or salmon.
3. How can I resist eating out or ordering in when I'm busy and stressed?
It can be tough to resist the convenience of takeout, but you can try a few strategies. Consider meal prepping or cooking in larger batches, so you always have something on hand, and try to make cooking a relaxing and enjoyable activity rather than a chore. You can also find healthier takeout options or limit yourself to a certain number of meals out each week.
4. How can I get all the nutrients I need on a budget?
Eating a varied diet is vital to getting all the necessary nutrients. Incorporate a variety of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals to ensure you're getting a balance of nutrients. Consider taking a multivitamin to fill in any gaps.
5. What ways to use leftovers to reduce waste and save money?
Leftovers can be a great way to save time and money, but it's essential to use them in creative and tasty ways. Try using leftover grains or veggies in a stir-fry, making a sandwich or wrap with leftover protein, or turning leftover soup or chili into a sauce for pasta or rice.
6. How can I stay motivated to eat healthy on a budget?
It can be tough to stay motivated when you're busy and on a tight budget. One strategy is to focus on the benefits of healthy eating, like increased energy, better mood, and improved health. You can also find healthy, budget-friendly recipes you're excited to try or enlist a friend or family member to join you in your healthy eating goals. Finally, don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up occasionally – it's all about balance and making sustainable changes over time.
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