10 Tips for Doing Whole30 on a Budget

With proper planning, you can try the Whole30 diet and stick to your grocery budget.

If you’re just now starting on your New Year’s resolution to get healthy, you might find yourself considering the Whole30 program. The latest diet craze, which is meant to be a sort of physical reset button, requires you to cut out grains, sugars, alcohol, processed foods, legumes and dairy for a full 30 days. So basically you feast on meats, veggies, fruits, nuts and eggs.

Lots of people are jumping on the bandwagon, and not without reason. Changing your eating habits in this way can help you find trigger foods that cause you problems. And this kind of structured diet can set you on your way to a true long-term lifestyle change. (Of course, every person’s different and, if you have concerns about changing your diet, you might want to consult a professional before getting started.)

But there’s a big financial catch: The Whole30 diet can be expensive!

My husband and I have been doing a Whole30, and it’s definitely increased our grocery budget. On the one hand, this is fine. I’m OK with paying a little more for food that I know is better for my body. But I don’t want to pay a lot more, especially since we plan to stick with this style of eating for much longer than 30 days.

Doing a Whole30 may increase your grocery budget, but it doesn’t have to blow it out of the water. (That would seriously damage your wallet  —and your credit. You can keep an eye on how your scores are doing for free on Credit.com.) If you decide to try this way of eating, use these tips to keep from spending way too much.

1. Don’t Worry About Going Organic

The Whole30 guide suggests going organic. After all, you want to cut out all the nastiness from the food you put into your body. But if you can’t afford organic meat, fruits and veggies, don’t sweat it. Consider just purchasing organic if your produce is on the “dirty dozen” list of foods most impacted by pesticides. The bottom line: Even conventional fruits and veggies are much better than processed foods. So go with what you can afford.

2. Get Familiar With the Best Prices

Now is a great time to get familiar with different grocery stores in your area. We personally try not to make more than two stops on our Saturday morning shopping trips. You may find it’s worth your while to make three or more stops. Consider shopping outside of the big box stores. Try your local Trader Joe’s for Whole30-approved snacks like plantain chips. We love Aldi for scoring most of our meat and produce at great prices, and local farmer’s markets may have in-season produce for a steal.

3. Keep Emergency Snacks on Hand

The first couple of weeks of Whole30 can be rough, I won’t lie. I was hungry basically all the time and really craved carbs. This is totally normal, but you can push through it. It’s a good idea to keep emergency snacks on hand so you can stick to your eating plan. Some options include nuts (buy in bulk and portion them into small packages), fruit (apples and bananas keep well in the car or a purse), and, in a pinch, certain Larabars (when on sale!). Emergency food can also keep you from dining out, which is confusing, frustrating and even more expensive when you’re on a Whole30.

4. Plan Your Meals

I’ve always been a meal planner, but I’ve gotten even more serious about it since starting the Whole30. Now I know each day what we’ll have for dinner. I plan everything on Saturday before we grocery shop. When you plan your meals, you don’t buy extra food that ends up spoiling. And if you really want to be cheap, you can make just enough extra food to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of the Freezer Aisle

You might think eating Whole30 would mean all-raw fruits and veggies. But that’s not the case. In fact, oven-roasted veggies drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar are our favorites right now. And those can be made with frozen veggies as easily as fresh ones. You can also save on meats, fish and berries when you buy frozen rather than fresh.

6. Try Some Canned Items

Cheap canned goods aren’t off limits. You’ll want to read labels to make sure nothing weird has been added to your canned veggies or tuna. (Some canned tuna has added sugar.) Once you find brands and types you know are compliant, you can work them into loads of different meals to stretch those savings.

7. Choose Conventional Lean Meats

Organic grass-fed meats are the best option, but they’re also super-expensive. If you can’t afford this type of meat, don’t sweat it. However, you’ll probably want to steer clear of fattier cuts of conventional meats. The worst of the toxins stored in a cut of meat will be in the fat. So just go with leaner cuts while you’re doing your detox.

8. Get Used to Making Eggs

The Whole30 relies heavily on protein and fat to keep you feeling full and satiated without a constant intake of carbohydrates. One way to get both of these macronutrients without spending a load of money is with eggs. Keep hardboiled eggs on hand for an easy snack. Make a sweet potato hash with eggs for breakfast. Serve a frittata for dinner. Just generally get comfortable with making eggs every which way, and they’ll save you money while keeping you on track.

9. Skip Expensive Whole30-fied Products

Yes, you can buy Whole30-fied beef jerky, mayonnaise and salad dressing. But these products can be hard to find and very pricey. If you need to stick to a budget, make them yourself or cut them out of your diet altogether. I discovered in this journey that making mayo is incredibly simple and cost-effective. And homemade mayo makes a delicious chicken salad!

10. Keep it Simple

There are loads of great Whole30 recipes online. Pinterest is chock full of them. Many include a variety of delicious spices, veggies you’ve never heard of and interesting cooking techniques. And this is definitely a good time to expand your palate with some new tastes. However, don’t go crazy with the brand-new recipes, especially those that will require you to buy a bunch of new spices or cooking equipment. Instead, keep things simple. A piece of grilled meat and some roasted veggies will do.

Following this popular eating plan can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be too hard on your wallet. With the proper planning, you can succeed at the Whole30 and stick to your grocery budget, too.

Still looking for ways to chop down your food costs? Check out these tips for how to eat for less than $6 a day

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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The Science Behind Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

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January 1 brings a lot of sobering realities. Most of us will wake up with a literal or metaphorical headache. We’ll likely be heavier, facing bigger credit card bills, and headed away from our families and back to the grind. We’ll probably be facing the worst weather of the year and the darkest days, too. Not a great time to make a major life change.

But about half of us will resolve to do so anyway. And, according to a lot of anecdotal research, half of those folks will have given up on their resolutions by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and a majority will abandon ship by Valentine’s Day.

This year, be the exception rather than the rule. There are some simple steps you can take to really increase your chances for success. (Simple, the word is so important, it bears repeating.) Here’s some research about why resolutions fail so often, and what simple changes you can make to make your promises stick instead.

1. Vague vs. Specific

These lessons apply to losing weight or saving money, but they can really apply to any life habit you want to change in 2016. In fact, I hope none of you resolve to lose weight or save money, because those are vague, grandiose goals and you will almost certainly fail. Instead, you should pick small, specific goals and stick to them. As professional athletes often say, take care of the little things and the results will take care of themselves.

Vow to generally spend less this year and you’ll likely fail (I promise). Vow to bring a lunch two days each week and save money on your food bill, and you’ll have a fighting chance. Vow to eat a piece of fruit instead of a bagel for breakfast every other day, and you’ll really be getting somewhere.

2. Big vs. Small

Sure, it’s great to decide you’ll run a marathon, and for some people that works. TV shows are made about those people. Normal humans have to start with something much more modest, like walking around the block after work three times per week. But there’s great news on this front. Much of the health benefits from exercise occur within the first few minutes. Simply getting started is where it’s at.

New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds published a book in 2012 called The First 20 Minutes explaining the science behind this phenomenon, but here’s what you need to know: Put your sneakers by the door and make sure you walk or run around the block every day. Buy some really warm yoga pants if that helps. And forget about the marathon, just make it to Valentine’s Day. A cascade of good things will happen to your body. Ariane de Bonvoisin writes in her book The First 30 Days that it takes 30 days to replace a bad habit with a good one (but many people fail at around two weeks). That’s why it’s so important to make it to mid-February.

3. Perfect vs. Sympathetic

A day will come when you choose happy hour over running. Or you don’t pack your lunch. Or you eat pizza. Don’t despair! Just put your sneakers on tomorrow. The real reason most resolutions fail is because people quit when they stumble. They say “the heck with it,” technically, releasing the goal. You won’t be perfect. Plan for that. And just plan for the day after your failure to pick right back up where you left off.

In our book The Plateau Effect, Hugh Thompson and I wrote a lot about the creeping disease of perfectionism hitting the Western World. Perfectionism is the enemy of change, and you should see it as that. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before and The Happiness Project, makes the point that people who treat themselves (and others) with sympathy have an easier time picking themselves up after a fall. People who beat themselves up lose energy and give up more often. Be nice.

4. Failure vs. Plateau

Speaking of The Plateau Effect, there’s a biological reason many diets fail around the two-week mark — because that’s when diets seem to stop working. In the book, we analyzed weight loss of participants in a TV show and found average weight loss always plummets during week two. That’s natural, success followed by stuck. It happens in every life adventure, be it starting a business, saving money, learning to play piano, exercising or studying a new language. Beginner’s luck followed by sophomore slump. Plateaus often make people despair (“why skip dessert when I’m not losing weight anyway?”) because they are misunderstood. Prepare for plateaus, and you’ll be able to keep going when it seems like you aren’t going anywhere.

5. Bias vs. Reality

University of Colorado researcher Margaret Campbell described an important phenomenon in a paper published this year in the Journal of Consumer Research called “When One Step Forward Seems Larger Than One Step Back.” She called it “progress bias.” Basically, people trying to save money or lose weight give themselves too much credit when they do the right thing and not enough “demerits” when they slip up. For example, Campbell and fellow author Caleb Warren of Texas A&M measured people’s reactions to either spending or saving money. Turns out, they tended to overestimate how much they saved and underestimate how much they spent (which is why that January credit card bill is nearly always such a surprise).

But, good news: All sorts of new technologies make measuring progress easier. Fitness apps let you log in your eating habits; budgeting apps follow day-to-day spending. Tools, like Credit.com’s free credit report summary, let you track your credit score each month. Rubin calls this the “Strategy of Monitoring.” Reality can sometimes be harsh, but it will keep you on track.

6. Alone vs. Together

Everyone knows it’s easier to stick with exercise when you have a workout buddy. Peer pressure really does work. It’s much easier to wake up in the morning when hitting the snooze button will let down a friend. But if you don’t have a workout buddy, you can replicate some of that positive peer pressure in lots of ways. Tell friends your goals (“If I don’t bring my lunch on Monday, yell at me!”) Make promises (small ones) on social media. Sign up for an online class or program designed to coach you through change. (Gretchen Rubin offers 21 days of 21 tips to change a life habit; I have a 30-day Getting Unstuck Challenge; you can find plenty of other similar programs online.)

7. Denial vs. Reward

Both these things are important as you try to make a life change. Positive reinforcement is lovely, but in reality, there will come a day when you will have to say no to the new TV you don’t really need or the cupcake you definitely don’t need. However, plenty of research suggests that the carrot is more important than the stick when sticking to a goal. My favorite involves Joe Kable’s brain studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He finds that people who are good at imagining positive future outcomes – say, they can imagine that new car smell in the future when deciding to save money today, or they can imagine how great it will feel to look good in that bathing suit – make better choices about food, money, drugs, even relationships.

So practice imagining. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dreary. Go easy on yourself. Think about spring. Give yourself cheat days. Buy yourself new workout gear or running shoes. Do whatever it takes to get you walking around the block or saving a few dollars every day. Valentine’s will be here before you know it. If your body and your bank account are a just little healthier by then, you’ll be doing great. And way ahead of the pack.

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6 Ways to Cut Your Food Costs & Still Eat Healthy

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Holiday season is heating up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start on your New Year’s resolutions. Besides getting control of your finances, you probably want to eat healthier. More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, while obesity among school children is still too high. Not only is that an unhealthy way to live, it can put a strain on bank account. Here are six habits you can try to turn your lifestyle around.

1. Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture asks members to pay upfront, but once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of seasonal fruit and vegetables — direct from local farms — at a lower cost than grocery stores. You’d be amazed at how much fresher the produce tastes, too.

2. Get a Slow Cooker

Not only are they convenient — put ingredients in the pot in the morning, and dinner’s ready by the time you come home — they can easily save your family hundreds of dollars a year. As Trent Hamm writes in U.S. News and World Report Money, “it’s pretty easy to assemble a slow cooker meal for all of us for less than $2 per meal.” You can make cooking stock, batches of oatmeal and the list goes on and on. The key is making use of leftovers.

3. Repurpose Meats

Another way to make use of leftovers? Finding ways to repurpose them, over and over. Whether it’s making a turkey sandwich from a Thanksgiving-style feast or adding last night’s brisket to this morning’s quesadilla, you’ll begin to look at leftovers differently and think twice about going out.

4. Plan Ahead

Prepping dinner in the morning sounds like extra work, but it also means being less likely to run out to the store for any last-minute purchases or leave ingredients to rot in the fridge. You can make a list of what you need for next week’s meals, and potentially stop wasting groceries (plus the money you would have spent on them) for good.

5. Don’t Shop Hungry

The old advice still holds true: When you’re hungry, you end up buying more than you need. The rule applies to regular shopping as well, according to a study at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Said Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of marketing: People “may spend more money online or in a store if they’re hungry while they shop.”

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