How to live a healthy lifestyle on a tight budget

Making changes that save you money and improve your health are a win-win.
Amika Shah
December 14, 2021

It's no secret that living a healthy lifestyle has the potential to be expensive. But it doesn't have to be - making small, but good changes can go a long way.

1. Don’t be afraid of frozen

The myth that frozen or tinned vegetables are worse for you won’t go away.

In reality, frozen vegetables are usually picked at their prime freshness. They’re then put straight into the freezer, preserving all the nutrients. They’re a lot cheaper, and as you don’t have to worry about them going off, you can minimise food waste too.

The same goes for tinned vegetables – as long as they’re in plain water rather than with salt, sugar or oil. Beans are a great source of fibre and protein. Beans an excellent option to buy tinned, but buying them dried can be even tastier and cheaper. If you opt for dried beans, do bear in mind they’ll need soaking before use.

2. Choose water

One of the easiest changes for many people is giving up sugary drinks. A glass of tap water is about as close to free as a drink can be, and does only good things for your health. A can of fizzy drink damages your teeth, your stomach and messes with your insulin levels – this is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar.

Unfortunately, even fruit juice isn’t a healthy option – it contains all the sugar from the fruit, and none of the fibre. This can end up meaning that a glass of orange juice has the same amount of sugar as a chocolate bar.

It’s easy to ignore the health impact of things we drink, as they often feel less ‘real’. They definitely don’t fill you up in the way food does.

If you’re craving a sweet drink, try fruit juice diluted with 1 part juice to 3 parts water, or a glass of sugar-free squash.

3. Find your green fingers

If you have access to some outside space you can give growing your own vegetables a shot. You don’t need a full garden, even a small space that can fit a planter or two does the job. A single tomato plant can grow between 3 and 5kg of tomatoes! Courgettes, beetroot, potatoes and even chillies all grow easily in British soil, and can be a great way to be frugal and fit at the same time.

Even if you don’t have access to outside space, there are some easy ways to get  extra use out of vegetables you buy. Lettuce, celery, spring onions, leeks, lettuce and fennel can all be regrown in  tap water. All you need to do is place the root in a small amount of tap water, and leave it on a window sill – one that gets lots of sunlight is best.

4. Perfection is the enemy of progress

Any healthy changes you make are a good start, and it’s important to try and remember that. When trying to make lifestyle changes it’s important not to get bogged down in trying to be perfect. Try and take small steps. You’re much more likely to succeed when you make small sustainable changes.

More than that, these small changes are likely to be things that make the biggest difference. Swapping your afternoon chocolate bar for an apple brings greater benefits than swapping a normal apple for an organic apple. Organic food does have some environmental benefits, but the health benefits are much more contested. Organic produce can be a good option if you have spare cash and want to do your bit for the environment. But if you’re not in a position to buy organic, it’s not worth worrying about

5. Sleeping is free

Sleep is the ultimate frugal healthy lifestyle tip. It’s free, and it holds a multitude of health benefits.

Sleep helps your body produce hormones that help to regulate stress; and stress can lead to high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of the hormone ghrelin – leading to excessive hunger, making it harder to eat healthy. People who sleep six hours or less, work nights, or travel often are more likely to have high blood pressure, partly due to disturbed sleep patterns.

Whilst we all have the occasional bad night, aim to give yourself an 8 or 9-hour window to sleep in. This hopefully should mean 7 or 8 hours of good quality sleep.

Our quick guide

Living a healthy lifestyle on a tight budget:

  • It's definitely harder to live a healthy lifestyle if money is tight, but it's not impossible. There are some things you can do that'll make it a bit easier.
  1. Use frozen and tinned foods.
  2. Drink water, rather than sugary or expensive drinks.
  3. Grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs where you can.
  4. Aim for progress, rather than perfection.
  5. Get more sleep - it's free!
Related articles