Tekamah mom Chris Buchholz lost 145 pounds, and she did it without breaking her budget.
Chris said she has always struggled with her weight as food was a source of comfort and celebration in her family.
“I’ve always been big,” Chris said. “I remember wearing a size 22 when I was in sixth grade.”
Past attempts to lose weight involved special diets and high-priced foods.
But in 2016, the Tekemah mom decided to go back to the basics so she could keep up with her 7-year-old son. No gimmicks, no expensive diet plans or supplements.
She prepared her meals in advance and focused on eating healthier, low-calorie foods that cost less than $30 a week. By mid-2016, she had shed 145 pounds. The weight was mainly lost through healthier eating as Chris said she struggles to find exercise that she enjoys.
“Everyone says losing weight is so expensive,” Chris said. But, she proved that wrong.
Her meals consisted mainly of chicken, flavored different each week (Italian seasoning, Mexican flavoring, onions and garlic, etc.) If she could find a good deal on shrimp or other meats, she purchased those, instead.
A typical price breakdown for her week-day meals would include:
$10 – five pounds of chicken breasts
$3 – for Greek yogurt
$2 – box of protein bars
$3.60 – three bags of broccoli steamers
$3.60 – six pounds of sweet potatoes
$2.00 – one box of instant oatmeal
$1.40 – two dozen eggs
$1.80 – one package of hummus
50 cents – one bag of baby carrots
“It was a challenge for myself to see how healthy I could eat for a little bit of money,” Chris said. “Once you find healthier foods that work for you, it’s easier.”
Since she commutes 30 minutes to work in Blair, Chris prepared her meals on Sundays. She cooked frozen chicken breasts, sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, carefully weighing her food and making portions for the week. She then partitioned the food into individual plastic bags and placed them in the refrigerator in a cake pan, where she could easily grab food and snacks each day.
“I found the advance meal prep made it really easy,” she said. “I didn’t have to think about what I was going to eat during the week because it was already ready. I found when I don’t make meals ahead of time, I tend to obsess about food.”
Here’s a few of Chris’s other tips for eating healthy on a budget:
Plan meals for each day of the week and shop based on that list.
Compare prices and shop at stores that do ad matching. Once a month, Chris travels to Omaha to shop at Aldi where she can stock up on sweet potatoes and protein bars ($1.99 for five bars). She sometimes finds eggs there for little as 30 cents a dozen!
Look for items about to go on clearance. Chris said she looks for sales and meats that are just going on clearance. She will cook the meat right away to prevent spoiling and then freeze it.
Don’t rely on coupons. Chris said she rarely uses coupons because they are mainly for processed foods. Instead, she pays careful attention to the price per ounce for foods and buys in bulk when there is a sale.
Ad matching and buying at the right time is especially helpful on fruits and vegetables. Chris buys bananas when they are fully ripe and almost ready to brown. That’s when the price is reduced. Then, she freezes the bananas individually and uses them in smoothies throughout the week.
Always keep eggs on hand. Eggs are cheap and are full of protein. Chris fries eggs in coconut oil for a healthy breakfast and keeps hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator for emergency snacking.
Although she gained back some of the weight in the last few months of 2016, she is looking forward to continuing to focus on her weight-loss goals in 2017. And, that means going back to her plan of preparing meals in advance and eating healthy.
Chris said one of the best free apps she has found to help track calories and nutrition is My Fitness Pal. Users also enter in exercise completed, and it factors that into the daily calorie count. Although the app can be time consuming the first few weeks, Chris said it gets easier and is a huge help for her.
Sample of Chris’ Daily Menu:
Breakfast – 2 boiled eggs
Snacks (10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.) – oatmeal, boiled egg, baby carrots and hummus, protein bar
Lunch – 4 ounces chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes
Supper – 4 ounces chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes
This adds up to 1,079 calories which leaves 500 calories for condiments, drinks, etc.