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5 Things Healthy Eaters Do Differently (Without Breaking the Bank)

06/10/2014 08:31 am ET | Updated Aug 10, 2014

In our increasingly on-the-go world and with the temptation of cheap fast food lurking around what seems like every street corner, eating healthy can be a major challenge, even if doing so comes with multiple benefits. Eight out of 10 Americans say they eat fast food monthly, and about half said they do it at least weekly, according to a Gallup poll taken last year. While eating fast food might seem more affordable in the short-term, eating nutritious food certainly doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some tips to help keep your wallet fat while keeping your waistline thin.

1. They budget and plan before heading to the store.
We've all been there: Walking through the grocery store on an empty stomach, shoving everything in sight into the cart. But shopping with a full belly plus a plan in mind can help prevent you from overspending and buying unhealthy items. An hour or two before heading to the grocery store, sit down, create a grocery budget, and make a list of groceries you'll need for the week. When planning, search for recipes online while crosschecking them with your store's weekly fliers to see what the store has on sale. When you do go the store, avoid temptation by staying out of the aisles that don't include items on your list.

2. They buy in season -- and in bulk.
When making your grocery list, consider which fruits and vegetables are currently in season. Seasonal produce is usually plentiful and less expensive than produce that isn't in season. Try to stay away from pre-sliced, pre-prepared fruits and vegetables. They may be more convenient, but are often more expensive. Also when shopping, consider what you buy often and buy in bulk. If a certain protein is on sale, like boneless chicken or ground turkey, consider buying more than you need for the week and freeze what you don't use. Similarly, for produce you use often, a larger bag may be a better buy.

3. They prepare meals ahead of time.
Prepping ahead of time can help stop you from making unhealthy food choices in a rush. Set aside one day out of the week to prepare your meals in advance. This will ensure you'll have healthy meals waiting in the fridge and help you save time on cooking during the week. When searching for meals to prepare, look for recipes like stews or casseroles to make the fresh, healthy ingredients you've purchased stretch further. When cooking over the weekend, consider doubling the recipe and freezing in individual-portion sizes for weekday lunches or dinners.

4. They limit their eating out.
It can be hard to resist the temptation of dining out, especially at the office when co-workers are heading out for lunch. The average American eats lunch out twice a week, spending about $10 per occasion, which adds up to an average of about $936 a year, according to a survey by Visa. It's better to avoid dining out altogether, if possible. If you just need to get away from your desk for a while, consider having your packed healthy lunch al fresco or taking a quick stroll around the block. Your mind and body will thank you.

If you can't always cut back on dining out, then seek out restaurants with healthy options and regular lunch specials. Stick to water instead of sugary drinks, which can add to the bill and your waistline.

5. They grow their own.
If you have the space, starting a garden of your own can be a great way to help save money on produce. Seeds or small plants can cost just a few dollars and can produce fruits and vegetables all season long. Depending on your region, plants like tomatoes, lettuce or cucumbers can be grown in containers on your porch or balcony. When choosing what to plant, look at what you are purchasing most often, as well as what will grow in your region. Having nutritious options in your own backyard can help ensure healthy eating. Plus, is there anything more rewarding than preparing food you've grown on your own?