How To Eat Healthy – When You’re Skint!
Been a tight month? Student Loan not quite covering the bills?
Been to one too many social gatherings? We’ve all been there.
But how do you stretch that pound and not end up living off baked beans for a few weeks…
After a long period of having absolutely no money (my entire drama school years) I became very unhealthy.
Because I was barely eating anything I was stick thin and always tired and under the weather.
There are two causes of this unwellness – Diet & Rest.
Because I had no money my eating habits were atrocious. (Because of long hours at drama school and working a part time job almost every night, my sleep was also an atrocity but that is the subject of another post.)
Here’s how I fixed it and how you can too…
I am not a health care professional, just a self-experimenter, so consult somebody with a piece of paper telling you they know what they are talking about before deciding for yourself.
“Dieting” vs. “Diet”
People say eating healthily is expensive.
I would argue that, if you’re following a radical fad “diet” that demands you eat certain types of foods all the time then yes that can be very expensive but you will also be missing vital nutrients gained only through eating certain types of foods. There are plenty of other options that strike a good balance between being healthy and being cheap.
For every ‘diet’ out there, there is some expert who will happily tell you how ridiculous the regime is.
Raw Food Vegans will tell you your body wasn’t designed to digest meat, whereas Dukan Dieters will tell you that the best approach is to eat ¾ meats only in your diet.
When I use the word “Diet” I am not referring to an eating regime designed for weight loss, rather to the sense of “a healthy and balanced diet”. But remember, our goal here is not simply optimum health. Our goal is the healthiest diet possible, with no money.
So where does that lead us…
Having seen the effects that radical diets like Dukan had on classmates (particularly girls with weight loss goals in mind) I can categorically tell you now that they are NOT a good idea.
While I cannot argue with short term, visible results (eating nothing but ham out of a packet is sure to strip your belly fat, not to mention your pockets, but also makes you a moody cow) I can tell you that girls who went on this diet DID NOT ENJOY IT.
What, wait… did you say enjoy?
Surely you’re not supposed to enjoy a diet. It’s meant to be pain and torture?
What rubbish! Did you know that 45% of people who begin a diet of any description give up in the first week? Over half don’t get past the first month and they almost always put all the weight back on that they tortured themselves to lose. It shouldn’t be like that.
Modern “Diets” are constructed to deliver drastic results quickly. The problem is drastic results only come through drastic, unsustainable eating habits. So where can we strike a balance?
- Eating the same foods regularly – This is proven to be the best way to sustain a healthy eating plan. It removes the element of calculation from all meal choices. Keeping the ingredients to as few as possible is best.
- Eating different combinations of the same foods – This is the best way to keep a variety and stop you getting board.
- Plan your meals – Deciding in advance and preparing by doing large shops and pre-cooking makes it cheaper and removes the temptation of “grabbing something from the shop”
Ok so now what about the actual foods. I have constructed this simple plan based on the Paleo/Slow Carb diet for anyone interested who wants to read up on it, but have made some minor changes to either make it cheaper or more suitable for a performers lifestyle.
For each of your meals pick (at least 1 from each category) of these ingredients.
Eggs – Cheapest
Chicken Breast – Ideal
Beef – (Escalope or “casserole steak” cheapest)
Fish – (Tuna is cheapest but I like salmon)
(If meat isn’t an option, for cost or choice, have more of these)
“Mixed Vegetables” (Including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweetcorn and peas etc.)
(Optional Extras/Carb Cheats – Not for weight loss!)
Rice (Brown preferable to White)
Salsa/Chilli Con Carne Sauce
Points to note
- Most people who have weight loss goals and are thus on “low”-carbohydrate diets complain of low energy and quit because they consume insufficient calories. To combat energy level dips you need to compensate by eating more legumes for caloric load. If you do not have weight loss goals and are just trying to each cheaply, this is a very comprehensive “diet” but if you must have carbs try sweet potato first as this is technically not a carb, then make it rice if you must. Brown is best, brown basmati is the king of the rice family.
- Also note NO FRUIT (your drama teachers would shoot me). 5-A-Day is a clever marketing ploy used by the government to big up the fruit and veg industry. Humans do not need fruit 6 days a week and certainly not all year round. Think your European ancestors had Florida oranges in winter 500 years ago? No, but you’re still here right?
- Red Bull is not a meal. If your energy is so low that you feel you need a sugar rush infused with addictive stimulants than you simply are not consuming the right amount of calories and probably more likely not getting enough quality restful sleep. Read my post about getting the most rest from your sleep,
“But you can’t make meals out of those ingredients!”
Oh Yes you can, and if you’re struggling for cash, you will!
Sample Meal Plan
Breakfast – 2 eggs (no milk, no butter nothing), in the microwave in a Tupperware for 1:30. Add 1/3 can of chick peas & kidney beans.
(Optional extra for taste – coarse ground pepper in the eggs, sweetcorn and a little salsa/chilli sauce)
Cost – 23p+33p (+12p+7p+7p) = 56p (82p optional)
Lunch – Mexican Style Stir Fried (Dry) Shredded Chicken Breast (optional), mixed beans as before, and peppers. If you’re not weight conscious you could add 60g rice here too which is good to keep the calories up or energy.
Cost – (£1+ 3p) +33p+10p = £1.46
Snack – Rice Cake with Peanut Butter. Not advised for weight conscious as peanut butter is calorie dense.
Cost – 5p + 4p = 9p (Why not have two, it’s still less than 20p & better than a Mars bar at the cafe)
Dinner – Sweet potato skins stuffed with sweet potato mash, peppers and kidney beans, Beef escalope and green beans/ asparagus.
Cost – 45p+10p+16p+£1.2+10p = £2.10
To make the potato skins stab a full sweet potato a few times. Put it in the oven at 180 for 35 min. Take it out. Slice it open like a clam scoop the mushy inside into a bowl. Put the two halves back in the oven to brown at 220 for 10 mins. In the bowl add diced peppers and kidney beans and mash together. Then take out the skins and scoop the mash back in! (I like to add cheese to the top and grill it but that’s totally up to you!)
Total cost per day £4.47
…based on a big supermarket shop every two weeks. Not only using basics range. If you are really, really skint you can whittle this way down by making everything basics.
PS. My last delivery, which also included things not on this list like wine and chocolate, came out under £75 – That’s £5.35 a day including wine and chocolate!!
Remember – This is not the cheapest way to live when you have absolutely no money!
This is the balance between cheap and healthy. Once when I had a particularly bad month at drama school I managed to survive on nothing but rice cakes and peanut butter and whatever food the café was throwing out that day for more than 2 weeks – not recommended, but this is a very healthy and also very cheap balance.
For further reading on the types of complex diets I referenced in crafting this head over to BulletProofExecutive and give the Bullet Proof Diet Illustration a read.
What methods do you use to stay healthy when money is tight?
Let me know in the comments below.