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How to stay healthy on a budget

This is first and foremost a personal finance blog, so why am I talking about physical health you may ask. Well, physical and mental health are both linked to your financial health. And what’s the point in having all the money in the world if you don’t have the health to enjoy it? Therefore, this post will focus on how to stay healthy on a budget.

Health is often, and rightly so, considered a privilege. Eating healthy can be significantly more expensive than fast food and the cost of gym memberships and exercise classes can soon mount up.

The UK government has a new focus on healthy living, inspired by Covid-19. In fact, the Department for Health and Social Care is “taking action to help you fight obesity” by:

  • Banning adverts for high fat, salt or sugar products on TV and online before 9pm
  • Calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways
  • Ending promotion of high fat, sugar or salt products in store and online

I don’t want to focus on losing weight in this post because that is a personal decision that should be taken with the advice of a professional. Instead, I will look at ways to stay healthy on a budget, because I know I feel much better and have more energy when I’m looking after my health.

How to stay healthy on a budget

This post will cover:

  • Eating healthily on a budget
  • Exercising on the cheap
  • Looking after your mental health
  • The importance of sleep

I am not a nutritionist or personal trainer. These are just tips I have personally found useful that will hopefully save you some pennies too.

Eating

Eating healthily is one of the keys to living a healthy life, but it’s no secret that nutritious food can be more expensive than junk food.

The first thing to avoid is buying into diet culture. This is essentially a business which makes its money off your insecurities. These programmes rarely want you to actually succeed because then you’ll stop buying their products. It’s perfectly possible to be healthy without buying diet products.

Cheaper supermarkets are a good place to start if you’re looking to eat healthily on a budget. Aldi and Lidl can be great places to start and often offer cheaper alternatives to mainstream supermarkets. Lidl often offers a £1.50 veg box which is packed full of different vegetables. You may not get much choice in what you get but it’s hard to complain when it’s so cheap.

If you’re looking for healthy frugal shopping inspiration check out PandaBoss Anna and David at Pretty Penny Club’s eating on £20 a week videos.

While £20 a week for food may be a bit extreme every week, what this demonstrates is it is possible to eat well without breaking the bank.

Another money blogger who manages to eat well on a tight budget is Mrs Mummy Penny. She recently spoke to The Sun about how she spends just £39.64 for the whole week on food for herself and her three sons, amounting to just £1.42 per person per day.  

The key is planning. Batch cooking at the start of the week can help you save money and make you eat healthier. It can also help stop you from popping out to buy lunch each day, particularly when you’re in the office and the temptation is strong. If you’re not keen on eating the same meal every day, you can cook a range of meals and freeze some to eat at a later date.

Another tip for saving money on groceries is to avoid main brands, which are much more expensive than their unbranded counterparts. Supermarkets often place these at your eyeline to draw your attention to them and encourage you to buy their products. Next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at the other shelves and see if you can grab yourself a bargain.

Exercise

My social media feeds are regularly filled with influencers attending expensive classes and going to boutique gyms. This not only looks expensive but also can put people off who are just trying to get into fitness.

But exercise doesn’t have to be that way. My favourite form of exercise is running, which can be done on the cheap; all you need is a pair of trainers. It can become expensive with fancy watches and technical equipment but running ‘naked’ can be just as effective and more enjoyable.

If running isn’t for you, walking is a great alternative. You can combine it with doing errands or walking the dogs (if you have a furry friend), making it easier to fit into a busy schedule.

There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of fitness instructors on YouTube all offering a range of free workouts. At its peak PE With Joe was being streamed by over 1 million people every day during lockdown. And if HIIT workouts aren’t for you, there’s yoga, pilates, strength sessions and more all online for free.

It’s also worth having a look to see if any local gyms are offering free trials or discounted membership. Anytime Fitness and DW Fitness First regularly have free guest passes available.

Mental Health

Mental health is equally important in terms of your overall health. Luckily, there are also some cheap ways of looking after your health. However, if your feelings are persistent or more severe then you should seek advice from a doctor.

The Headspace App offers a range of guided meditations for free, building your foundations in mediation and mindfulness to allow you to develop a regular practice. After a free two-week trial, it costs £49.99 for a yearly subscription.

Another option is the Calm App. This offers help with sleep and mediation and, as you would imagine, is designed to calm you. It costs just £29.99 for a yearly membership.

Practising selfcare is useful too. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t have to book a spa weekend to look after yourself. Simply curling up on the sofa with a good book or doing a face mask could improve your mood.

Exercise can also help, so the above tips for exercising on the cheap could benefit your mental health as well.

Sleep

This is often neglected when people think about health but is so important. It is also very difficult to spend money while you’re asleep so it’s great for budgeting! It is also proven to help you eat better.

Research has shown that you are more likely to crave foods high in fat and sugar when you are lacking sleep. If you get less than six hours sleep a night you are likely to find it much harder to lose weight.

Conclusion

Staying healthy is difficult for everyone, particularly when you add in time and budget constraints. I’m aware I speak from a privileged position here, generally having time to exercise and being able to afford nutritious food, but I hope these tips will benefit you whatever your circumstances might be and help you stay healthy on a budget.

For more budgeting tips check out my top four summer saving tips.

If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please do leave a comment! Are you trying to be healthier? Do you struggle to stay healthy on a budget?

By The Twenty Percent

Hi I'm Katie and I use my blog to help young people take control of their personal finances.

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23 replies on “How to stay healthy on a budget”

I love that you focused on health here and being healthy rather than weight. There’s too much focus on weight at the moment and it can be damaging for so many different people. Also so great to see you’ve mentioned mental health which often gets forgotten in physical health conversations. But we need them both to be truly healthy!!!

Wow, I love that the UK is doing so much to stop encouraging poor eating habits! There is nothing wrong with a little treat now and again, but I hate walking into a store and being bombarded with huge pictures of the most foul doughnuts you ever saw . . . I love that you point out being healthy is not just about eating well; it is a lifestyle.

I love your holistic and frugal approach to healthy living and eating. You’re right, it’s not just about what you eat, it’s about being a good mental space, and getting enough sleep (which may be my biggest personal challenge, I’m a terrible sleeper). These are all extremely useful tips and advice. And good on the UK for banning advertisements for unhealthy food before 9pm! I almost fell out of my chair reading that. Here in the US, advertisements for unhealthy food are screaming at you no matter where you look. No wonder we have such terrible health outcomes. Great post!

Very simple, straightforward but effective advice for living a healthy lifestyle. I think because there’s a lot more information about exercise and nutrition available to the public than in the past people can get misled and confused about how to live a healthy lifestyle but what they do not know is doing the basics consistently can be enough (avoiding food with high fat, sugar and salt content, getting adequate exercise and sleep). What doesn’t help is how much cheaper junk food is compared to their healthier alternatives (government ought to do more about that than banning adverts imo) but shopping around can get around that issue of course.

Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures
https://johnnystraventures.com

These are excellent points. We shouldn’t underestimate the connection between physical, mental and financial health. Personally, I find the idea of going to a gym intimidating. I have worked out at home for many years. It saves me time and money. I also love walking. Thanks for another great post!

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