Health: How to live well on a budget




Rising energy prices and escalating inflation may mean you need to make sacrifices. The good news is your health doesn’t need to be one of them. Here are four ways you can lose the pounds without going bankrupt in the process.

Buy nutrient rich over nutrient poor foods: In my experience as a Personal Trainer I’ve discovered a frustrating truth: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats can cost more than a diet of mostly processed and fast foods. That said, it’s possible to eat very healthily, even on the tightest of budgets.

To do so, I recommend you plan your meals for the week before you go food shopping. This will ensure you don’t buy things you don’t need, and waste food (and consequently, your money). Here are some examples of nutrient dense foods which can be bought at a reasonable cost:

Proteins: Whole chicken, organ meats, tinned fish, certain cuts of beef steak, tofu and eggs.

Carbohydrates: Potatoes, brown rice, lentils and oats.

Fats: Sunflower seeds, extra virgin olive oil, full fat yoghurt, full fat milk and butter/ghee.

Fruits and vegetables: Carrots, cabbage, frozen veg, spinach, romaine lettuce, bananas, apples, melons, frozen fruit.

Taste boosters: Onion, garlic, butter, herbs and spices.

Beware the trick that highly processed foods play on you. They may seem more filling initially, but you are getting less nutrients, meaning your body will never be truly satisfied. The result? You end up back at the shop during the week buying more food.

Batch cooking healthy meals can save you a substantial amount of money, not least because it inhibits the urge to turn to ‘quick-fixes’ such as expensive ready meals and takeaways (especially when you might feel too tired to cook during the working week).

There are a few ways to batch cook. First, you could cook extra portions of meals that you are already preparing and have it for lunch the next day. Second, you may prefer to cook two or three big dishes such as a healthy chilli or stew. A Sunday afternoon cooking session can yield several portions, just pop them in the fridge of freezer ready for the rest of the week.

If you want to be a real pro here, you should learn how to preserve food for as long as possible. When fruit or vegetables start to ripen, pop them in the fridge and that will extend their life by a few days. When food in the fridge won’t be eaten soon, pop it in an airtight container and put it in the freezer. This will ensure you build up meals for months to come.

Learn where and how to shop: You may be surprised how much money you can save just by being a smart shopper. Do some research and find the places that you can get what you need for the lowest prices. For example, you may find some great deals at different supermarkets or smaller stores or your local market.

Smart shoppers also look at the price per unit of an item. For example, I have seen chicken on sale like this – £3.50 for 500g and £5.00 for 1kg. If your cash flow allows for it, go for the slightly more expensive version as you will get more for your money. Smart shoppers also know when to turn a deal down, and key to that is planning your meals in advance. If it’s not on your list, and you can’t really afford it, leave it on the shelf.

Exercise doesn’t have to cost you anything: Using a knowledgeable Personal Trainer (hello!) and having a gym membership will definitely add value to your health. However, when times get tough, you may want other options. When I was a Royal Marine, I would often get deployed to places where health clubs did not exist. But I had to stay in peak physical condition and that took some creative thinking. I highly recommend circuit training, which will help you lose weight, and maintain good fitness. Do a full body workout, for example, press ups, sit ups, squat jumps, pull ups and, yes, even the dreaded burpees!

To make your non-gym plan bullet proof and fun, I highly recommend pairing up with a friend to push each other, keep each other accountable and to laugh while doing it (ok, perhaps not during the burpees).

There’s no denying that for many of us, times just got a whole lot tougher. That doesn’t mean your health has to suffer as a result. In fact, studies show that eating well and training consistently will help with resilience and stress management. You may need to adjust your current health plans but I have seen people hit really hard times, especially during the Covid 19 lock downs, and come out healthier than ever before. You can do this.

Main photo credit: Sam Knight via Unsplash

Mark Ames

Ex-Marine, Mark Ames, is the director of Taunton-based Pure Performance Personal Training.

You may also like

Sorted Magazine

Sorted discusses the big issues of the day – focusing on subjects as diverse as culture, sport, cars, health, faith, gadgets, humour and relationships. We aim to be positive and wholesome in all we do. And we have been achieving this since 2007.

Every printed issue of Sorted is read by more than 100,000 men in 21 different countries – while digitally, the number of people reading our online content (free and via subscription) continues to soar.




Follow Us



Visit our shop for great gift ideas