7 easy hacks to get fit on a budget

"She assumed because you run a big business in Southern California that you have money to always eat wild salmon and organic broccoli," a friend candidly told me years ago.

My friend knew better, but this person who made a gargantuan assumption didn't: At the time I was a single mom raising two kids while running a new-but-growing business. I got by by just like everyone else, meaning I had to remain vigilant about my bank account balance, so big-tickets foods like grass-fed beef weren't usually in my budget. Regardless of financial shortcomings, I made it work. I'm a nutritionist and therefore a role model, but I also developed strategies to eat healthy on the tightest-shoestring budget.

Flash forward to today. We've hacked the ways you can meet fitness goals on a budget, and now it's time to take on our food supply. Out of curiosity, I recently visited a nearby grocery store and loaded one cart with high-sugar impact, processed, foods you should never eat, and another with healthy, whole, unprocessed, low-sugar impact foods. I thought they might be about equal price-wise, or maybe the healthy cart might cost a little bit more, but guess what? The healthy cart actually rang up for less. Yeah, even I felt shocked.

Countless clients concluded similarly when they compared what they spent weekly on processed foods, designer coffees, health-food impostors (looking at you, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt and soy burgers!), and other overpriced items. Like me, they learned to stretch their food budget. Even during my financially leanest years, these seven hacks helped me provide my family the healthiest foods.

1. Make breakfast a protein shake
With tax and gratuity, I once spent 30 dollars for a veggie omelet room service-delivered at a hotel conference. They even charged extra to sub blueberries instead of hash browns! Likewise, tally up how much you spend on store-bought breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal. Those charges add up fast, right?

For about what you'd spend on a large coffee, a green smoothie that also boost your immune system or protein shake using non-soy, non-dairy plant- or defatted-beef protein powder makes a convenient, filling, cost-effective alternative that keeps you full and focused for hours.

2. Buy frozen or in season
Buying in season means fresher, more delicious, nutrient-denser, less expensive foods. If that isn't possible, frozen foods prove equally cost-effective and don't spoil as easily.

In my freezer you'll find essentials like organic frozen spinach and blueberries as well as grass-fed beef, dark chocolate, and yeah, probably even no-sugar-added coconut ice cream (yum!).

3. Plan ahead
Thinking ahead saves you time, money, and effort. "Fail to plan, plan to fail" goes triple at the grocery store, and arriving hungry practically guarantees pricey, unnecessary items "land" in your cart. Instead, follow these 5 grocery shopping hacks for maximum health.

Write down exactly what you need, determine your budget range, shop weekly sales, and no deviating. Create a set time every week to prep meal ingredients. Employ this one alone and watch your food budget and waistline shrink.

4. Ban this bad habit
Frequent, habitual snacking sabotages your wallet and waistline. You're probably snacking out of boredom or stress, not genuine hunger. If you're famished between meals, keep a food journal and determine you're doing them correctly, and finally find a way to curb that office snacking.

On those rare occasions you need a snack, keep an emergency pack nearby with low-sugar impact staples like slow-roasted or dehydrated almonds and protein powder.

5. Learn the dirty dozen
Realistically, spending three times the money for organic versus conventional broccoli becomes hard to justify. That's why you want to know the Dirty Dozen, which you always want to buy organic.

On the other hand, the "Clean 15" are your least contaminated foods, AKA optimal when you're budget-minded and buying non-organic.

6. Brew your own
I put coffee shop purchases on a gift card, adding 50 dollars at a time, yet it always astounds me how quickly I deplete that amount.

Even drip-brew coffee or green tea (or Bulletproof coffee, anyone?) at those places cost way more than what you buy at home, plus they probably aren't organic. You're also more tempted to "value size" a muffin (AKA adult cupcake) or other high-sugar impact catastrophe with your milkshake, I mean, coffee drink.

Become your own barista, brew your own organic coffee or green tea, and save those coffee-store visits for special occasions.

7. Look at the bigger picture
We love the euphoric rush of getting a great bargain, yet you can always earn more money but you can't put a price on your health.

When you factor in environmental and other big-picture costs, spending a few extra bucks on locally grown, organic produce or grass-fed beef become long-term health investments that empowers future generations. Plus you can't put a dollar amount on a lean, healthy physique.

Budget-minded readers, I know you've got one in your repertoire that can help us all. What's your best tip to save money while boosting fat loss and overall health? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

This article originally appeared on RodaleWellness.com.