I’m on a mission to get fit and eat healthy for cheap. I spent the majority of this winter sitting in front of a computer for 70+ hours a week, totally stressed out and exhausted, and it wreaked havoc on my body. Stress is tough to keep in control when you’ve got deadlines out the wazoo and the days fly by in a flash because you’re constantly on the go. And when my stress goes up and my schedule gets insane, I stop exercising, and I don’t eat well. And that makes me feel sluggish and tired all the time. So I’m trying to change that and get back to a more balanced lifestyle. I’ve gained a few pounds over the last two months and I’m determined to shed them before my vacation this spring and get some tone back while I’m at it!
The Trend Of Pricing Healthy Food At A Premium
Trying to save money on healthy food can be quite a challenge, especially when you don’t like to cook like me. San Francisco is an expensive city to live in too, and its been bugging me how much I’ve been spending just on eating lately. It’s almost embarrassing that I can easily spend $150-200 a week on food. There are so many incredible food trucks, to-go places, and sit down restaurants across all types of cuisine in San Francisco. And all of those checks add up fast, especially with the food taxes and “Healthy SF” surcharges that go towards health insurance costs for staff.
Food isn’t one of those budget items that I’ve found that shrinks with time either, at least not for me. My spending on food has actually gone up each year. Fortunately my body size hasn’t expanded at the same rate as my spending, but I’m definitely not as fit as I was a year or two ago. Since I’m on a mission to save 30% of my income this year, I’m trying to make some adjustments to my food budget without sacrificing my health.
Sure it’s possible to only spend $10 a week eating 0.25 cent ramen noodles and $1 cheeseburgers, but I won’t do that to my body. San Francisco loves to charge a lot for healthy foods because it’s hip to be health conscious here. People flock to places that have organic options, freshly squeezed juices, and use local produce. They’re trendy, expensive, but man soooo tasty.
Where Have All The $4-5 Lunches Gone?
There have been many reports of food inflation over the last few years and I believe it. Food prices keep climbing in San Francisco, and I can burn through $60 without even blinking just on M-F workday lunches. A take-out vegetarian burrito costs $7.50, a delicious and small Pilipino food truck lunch costs $9.50, 6 tiny pieces of avocado cucumber rolls have reached $8, most salads cost $10-13 (wth!), and a bowl of tofu pho (that leaves me hungry after just an hour) is a whopping $12. Sheesh!
There are a few places places where you can get $5 lunches in downtown San Francisco, but it takes some searching. I’m going to try and start focusing on those places when I need to grab food instead of getting trapped at the $13 organic mixed greens salad places. $5 can get you a small sandwich from a hole in the wall cafe, 2 Vietnamese spring rolls from a street food cart, 1 large samosa from a food truck, a small pay-by-weight salad, or a small cup of soup. About an hour after that though, it’s easy to feel your stomach growling for more food. 😉
What I’m trying to do now is get myself to the grocery store more often so I can buy my lunches there to bring to work. Trader Joe’s has a lot of nice ready-to-eat salads for $3.99-4.50 and things like frozen Indian meals for $3-4. It’s not as convenient having to go to the store and remembering to bring something to work, but the options are significantly cheaper! The portion sizes are on the smaller side but the benefit of eating a lighter lunch helps with productivity because it avoids getting super sleepy in the afternoon.
Cooking At Home vs Eating Out Debate
Before I became a workaholic, I actually enjoyed cooking. I wasn’t any good at it, but it was something I didn’t mind doing after a day at the office. I had more time on my hands to make grocery lists, plan meals, and felt relaxed in the kitchen.
Nowadays, just thinking about the words, “what can I eat for dinner?” tends to raise my blood pressure! It’s totally my own fault for not keeping a well-stocked fridge, and I need to learn how to buy ingredients on the fly that can actually make complete meals. I only go to the grocery store maybe once a month, so I’m going to have to step this up if I want to stop paying a premium for take-out meals and sit-down dinners. I just can’t stock up on too much produce because I don’t want to end up throwing away food from not cooking often enough, and I really hate wasting food and money.
I can’t see myself making all of my meals but I think if I can utilize more ready-made options from the grocery store, especially for lunches, I’ll be able to save roughly $50 a week. And cutting down my food budget by $200/month sounds really nice.
Slowing Down and Shrinking Your Appetite
I had a funny conversation with one of my friends recently over dinner. We met for dinner after work and I super hungry because I had a small lunch. Shortly after I started eating my pad thai, my friend started cracking up and said, “Don’t forget to breathe Sydney!” I looked up with my cheeks full of noodles and almost choked from laughing at how silly I must have looked. A picture of a chipmunk with a mouth stuffed full of peanuts popped up in my head.
“You should slow down and enjoy each bite,” she continued. “You’ll end up eating less that way and you’ll have leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow!” Talk about a nice way to “sandwich” my bad eating habit with a positive piece of advice. And even as much as I wanted to continue shoveling down forks full of that tasty Thai food, I found myself pausing and nodding my head in agreement.
I have a really bad habit of eating too fast, especially when I’ve got a dozen things on my mind, and as a result I end up overeating. I need spend more time enjoying my food, chewing thoroughly, and setting my fork down in between bites. If I can eat slower without overeating, I should feel better, stay more productive, and also save some money by having leftovers for later. OK, game on!
Avoiding Large Group Dinners & A Gym Membership
I’m also trying to avoid large group dinners. Don’t you just hate it when you’re out with a group and even though you came late and only ordered water and a side salad, you end up having to split the bill evenly with folks who ordered appetizers, filet mignon, and several bottles of wine?
I don’t drink that much and tend to order the cheapest entrees, so I always end up getting screwed when a big bill gets divided up evenly. If I enjoyed drinking wine it wouldn’t really be as much of an issue, but I don’t. So I’m trying to convince my friends to do more potlucks on weekends, which works out a lot better for everyone in terms of cost, and are also a lot more fun IMO. I’m much more a fan of casual atmospheres too and it’s nice not to have to pay taxes and tip, which gets expensive with large groups.
I’m also not paying for a gym membership because I never end up getting my money out of it. The weather has been warming up nicely here, so I’m spending as much time as I can outdoors now and getting my exercising in for free. I like to go on bikerides, hikes, yoga dvd workouts, and do situps and toning exercises at home. It takes discipline to carve out time to do it, but I’m getting better at it.
What Works Best For You?
What are you doing to get fit and eat healthy for cheap? Are you a clumsy cook like me who tries to avoid cooking whenever possible? Or are you a whiz in the kitchen who rarely goes out to eat? I imagine those of you who love to cook probably save more by cooking at home because 1) it’s something you actually enjoy to do, 2) you know what to keep in stock and pick up at the store, and 3) you actually know how to quickly whip up a tasty meal in 30 minutes or less.
Looking for affordable term life insurance? Check out PolicyGenius, an independent insurance broker that is revolutionizing the way we shop for life insurance – for free! You need life insurance if you have dependents or debt. Chances are high that if you currently do have life insurance, it’s not the best policy for you. PolicyGenius provides unbiased advice on more than 25 A-rated top life insurance companies they have thoroughly researched and vetted. Because life insurance prices are regulated, you don’t have to worry about not getting the best deals. PolicyGenius helps you compare the best quotes all in one place. I’ve met the CEO, Francois de Lame in person in NYC and strongly believe in his business
Need affordable health insurance fast? Take a look at the plans offered on Agile Health Insurance. They offer term coverage for as little as $1.50/day with premiums up to 50% less than Obamacare (ACA) plans. There are no lock-out periods so you can enroll any time of year, get immediate approval and get coverage in as little as 24 hours. Agile Health Insurance also offers broader doctor networks than most Obamacare plans and has customizable options for dental and discounts on prescriptions. Find a plan that works for you today.
Need the best auto insurance? Check out eSurance online. They have the best auto insurance rates on the web. Auto insurance is the #1 expense besides your car payment which you can control reducing.
Updated for 2017 and beyond.