I’m usually pretty good at budgeting around food, because it’s the thing I spend the most on, but traveling always messes with my calculations. Between international phone charges, train tickets, and souvenirs, I’m on a pretty restrictive budget for the next few weeks. It’s nothing I haven’t done before, so here are a few of the ways I make sure to eat well when I’m trying not to spend too much. It’s a bit of adjustment, but after a few days I get into the swing of things and it’s always reassuring to see that I can get away with spending next to nothing.
1. Cook your own food.
It’s a known fact that ready meals and eating out will blow up a budget like nothing else, and it’s always easier to avoid dodgy preservatives and additives by making food on your own. I’ll usually devote a Sunday afternoon to preparing my own meals and popping them in the fridge so I can have one in minutes when I get home. Focus on bulk foods that won’t go off to get the best value for money, and buy things like produce and meat when they’re reduced on a daily basis. Cheaper produce won’t last as long in the fridge, so it’s best to buy and cook it in the same day, if possible.
2. Learn to love routine.
I’m relatively consistent in what I eat from day to day, and I save most of my variety for the times I eat out, or when someone else is cooking. When you’re trying not to spend too much and are buying in bulk, having the same basics over and over again is pretty much inevitable. I’ll rotate oatmeal, rice, pasta, and potatoes as a base, and then add vegetables, sauces, and seasonings as I can get them.
3. But, let yourself indulge.
The more deprived I feel, the more likely I am to spend my last fiver on a burger. If I can get a sandwich on sale for next to nothing, and it’ll make me happier that whatever I’ve got at home, I’ll just go for it. When I’m low on funds, I tend to go out less, and the urge to treat myself will pop up more often the more bored I am. Letting off a bit of steam every now and then keeps me from doing anything ridiculous.
4. Don’t panic.
I also have a tendency to freak out whenever buying food and try to get the most caloric value for money so I spend as little time hungry as possible. I once ate nothing but buttered toast for three days and although I didn’t feel hungry, I also didn’t feel energetic, or motivated, or good about myself. I would have been better off having a sandwich or soup or something that was less filling but more nutritious. Keeping blood sugar levels as stable as possible will keep random hunger pangs from striking, and it’ll keep your body from going crazy trying to operate without the nutrition it’s used to.
5. Stay hydrated.
This one’s more obvious but I’m definitely a boredom eater, and having a cup of tea before I eat anything when I’m feeling hungry cuts my food intake almost in half. Plus, if you’re eating less fruit and veg and more simple carbs because of their affordability, staying extra hydrated will help your body digest and cope with the reduced number of nutrients it’s getting. And, we should pretty much all be drinking more water at any given time, budgeting or not.
In a world (and stage of life) where everything seems expensive and eating well can fall by the wayside, it sometimes take going without for a few weeks to remind me how much I appreciate being able to choose to eat healthily.