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Budget Savvy: Healthy Habits That Won’t Break the Bank

Proper self-care can be an expensive journey!

Think about how many wellness pieces contribute to your monthly budget: fitness, beauty, nutrition, mental health (…the list could go on). It’s no surprise we’re in favor of investing in nutrition spend, but we have a few hacks on how to get the most bang for your buck. After all, a girl can always use some extra savings for things you actually want to spend your money on — like a spa day, if you’re anything like us!

Less pricey proteins 

In the game of nutrition economics, there are a few winners in the protein category that can bring balance to your budget.

  • Eggs: A staple in our day for their contribution of protein and 13 essential nutrients (including choline – important for us pregnant ladies). A dozen can range from around a dollar or two making their nutrition go a long way. It’s a personal preference whether to select cage-free or free-range eggs (meaning the chicken has more footage to roam), which are a bit pricier. Nutritionally, however, they’re identical, so don’t feel pressured to pay up. 
  • Peanuts: Often forgotten in an era of “superfood” nuts and legumes, peanuts are a simple, heart-healthy fat and protein powerhouse — with a nutrient profile that is just as healthy as the others. Peanuts are versatile enough to be added to salads or smoothies and, of course, used as peanut butter. Plus, compared with pricier nuts, they are one of the cheapest plant-based proteins around. Quick tip: just avoid peanut butter “spreads” that add hydrogenated or palm oils, sugar or other sweeteners. Instead, look for “peanuts” as the one and only ingredient to keep it simple and nutrient-rich.
  • Tuna: Not the most high-brow seafood around, we know, but canned tuna can’t be beat when it comes to a lean, versatile protein-on-the-cheap. We love keeping pantry-stable tuna around for quick-and-easy meals, like mixing with fresh herbs, feta and cucumbers to serve with high-fiber crackers or adding to a Niçoise-style salad. With essential nutrients many of us are lacking, like vitamin D, omega-3s and selenium, canned or pouched tuna is the meal-time hack you never knew you needed. Feel free to skip the mayo and get creative with your mix-ins, or add 2 TBSP of dijon to 1 TBSP of mayo for a lower cal option. 

Bulk up on better-for-you grains

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that we do not skimp on grains — whole grains to be specific! Whole grains deliver fiber and an array of other beneficial nutrients. When you cut corners on grains, you often miss key nutrients that go a long way in promoting a healthy GI system, which ultimately impacts the rest of the body, too. The key is to keep portions in check and choose high fiber options. 

Shelf stable grains can be purchased at wholesale stores or in bulk bins at any grocery or market to save on prices. With Instacart and Amazon, it’s never been easier to stock up! 

We love all the whole grain varieties from Bob’s Red Mill, which can be purchased almost anywhere. Wheat bran is something we both use on a daily basis to makeover high fiber versions of our favorites, like wheat bran muffins or waffles. As the outer layer of a wheat kernel, wheat bran is the straight fiber portion of the grain offering a whopping 6 grams per ¼ cup. Plus, it is also a prebiotic fiber, which contributes to healthy gut bacteria. Mueseli is another easy way to sneak in extra whole grains and fiber first thing in the morning, as the combo of whole grains, nuts and seeds make an easy breakfast. Just be sure to stick with a ¼ cup to keep portions in line. Also try it as a topping for yogurt or mix with almond milk and chia seeds for easy overnight oats. 

Get familiar with the freezer aisle

The freezer doesn’t have to be a forgotten abyss of questionable ingredients and mystery food you ignore until you move into your next place (guilty!). Instead, we recommend leaning on freezer-friendly options to keep meals interesting, yet economical. Frozen produce is picked at its seasonal peak and quickly frozen to preserve the highest quality nutrients. This means frozen varieties are not only nutritionally equal to fresh fruits and veggies but often times even more nutritious, as so many of us use out-of-season produce all year. Plus, there’s no concern over wasting food (and your hard-earned money) on produce you can’t eat quickly enough and goes bad in a few days. Just be sure to check out the ingredient list to make sure frozen varieties only contain the whole fruit or vegetable — no added sugars, sweeteners or sodium. We love stirring frozen vegetables directly from the freezer into soups as they are heating on the stove to add extra fiber and nutrients, or thawing and roasting for a no-prep dinner. Frozen fruits are great for adding to smoothies or to plain, unsweetened yogurt to naturally sweeten as they thaw, without added sugar. 

By Amanda Baker Lemein and Julie Pappas

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