Health & Happiness: Eating on a budget? How healthier meals could actually save you money

Health & Happiness: Eating on a budget? How healthier meals could actually save you money

By Aloha Curves/Jenny Craig

If you’re like many Americans living in today’s busy world, you may have developed an all-too-familiar habit of eating out, whether you opt for fast food, restaurant meals or takeout. After a long day at work and tending to your never-ending to-do list, it’s hard to argue with the convenience of having somebody else prepare your meals.

You may have even rationalized to yourself that eating out doesn’t really cost that much more than meals prepared at home—or having healthy, ready-made meals on hand. And the meals don’t differ that much when it comes to healthiness, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While it’s true that the cost of food in general can be pricey, eating out, on average, is substantially more expensive than if you were to prepare your own meals.1 What’s more, restaurant fare of all types has been implicated—for years—as a likely factor in our nation’s obesity epidemic.2

Here’s a look at how consistently eating out can potentially harm your budget and your health, and how eating healthfully might actually save you money in the long run.

Eating out can be bad for your waistline.

Eating out has long been implicated as a factor in Americans’ battle with obesity.2And according to a 2016 study8 that looked at restaurant meals in three geographically diverse U.S. cities—San Francisco, Boston and Little Rock—portion sizes in general are too large. In fact, a full 92 percent of all the meals analyzed “exceeded typical energy requirements for a single eating occasion,” the researchers reported.

Another study9, from 2015, found that Americans tend to consume 200 more calories per day when they eat out compared to when they eat meals at home. Meals eaten out also contain more cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium, according to the same study. And don’t think that avoiding fast-food places can put you in the clear: The results were similar whether people ate meals from fast-food or full-service restaurants.

Free-flowing beverages don’t help, either. A 2017 study10 found that fast-food customers who chose to refill their soft drinks consumed, on average, 29 additional ounces of beverages and 250 more calories (all from those beverages) than customers who did not get a refill.

The good news

Now for the good news: Eating healthfully doesn’t have to break the bank, especially if you cook your own meals at home or even outsource your meal planning. A recent study by Visa12 showed that the average American spends on average $78 for lunches consumed away from home over one week—but, by brown bagging it, they could be saving almost $34 a week just on lunch, with the average meal costing around $6.30 per day.

And if you’re in the habit of ordering meals to be delivered from a restaurant, hold onto your hat: The cost is almost five times higher than if you were to prepare the same meal at home.13 One 2018 analysis showed that having a meal of fish with kale and rice delivered came with a price tag of $25.94. If you were to make the same meal yourself, it would cost $3.94. That’s a savings of $22—for one meal!

Tips to Help You Eat Healthfully on a Budget

To help you save money while eating healthfully, the National Institutes of Health suggests the following14:

Consider generic or store brands. These usually cost less than name brands.

Try to buy in bulk. Prices are almost always lower if you buy larger quantities—just beware of spoilage if you buy perishable items and make sure to keep an eye on portion sizes when preparing food.

Buy less-expensive fruits and vegetables. Apples, bananas, cabbage, carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables, green peppers, oranges and sweet potatoes are often more affordable than other types of produce.

Ignore the snacks at the check-out stand. Those tempting treats are put there for a reason: impulse buying! Plus, they’re usually less-than-stellar options including candies and other low nutrient foods.

Make healthy choices. Load up on fruits, veggies and natural low-fat dairy products at the grocery store. Try to avoid purchasing (or do so in moderation) processed foods like baked goods and chips. If you’re looking for healthier versions of your favorite snacks, Jenny Craig offers a variety of options to choose from.

Convenience of takeout without the cost

If you still like the convenience of not having to cook your own meals, you don’t have to resort to eating out. Jenny Craig, for instance, offers around 100 healthy, delicious, chef-designed meals and snacks…all for about $20 per day.15

And if you’re looking to lose weight, you should know that Jenny Craig has been ranked a top diet by U.S. News and World Report for eight years in a row.16

We hope we’ve convinced you of all the good reasons to skip the takeout, the fast food and the restaurant meals as your go-to eating plan, and that you’re inspired to start eating more healthfully—and more frugally. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you!

Poor diets cause billions in healthcare and other costs.

The Tufts researchers11 have found that diet-related conditions account for billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Each year, they say, cardiovascular diseases alone are responsible for approximately $200 billion in healthcare costs, plus $125 billion in lost productivity and other indirect costs.

For more information on how Jenny Craig can help you find your optimal caloric balance for weight loss, contact Aloha Curves/Jenny Craig at 503-356-5454.