How to Lose Weight on a Skinny Budget

I stared down at the scale in disbelief. In the dim light, even with my glasses on, I wondered if my eyes might be failing me. More than two full years after my daughter was born, I was still 30, yes 30 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, and I had all the yucky, achy, tired, no-good-feeling symptoms to go along with it.

In the busy two years since her birth, I had tried to get back to a healthy weight. Three diets later, I had all but given up.

I stayed disciplined to each one of the popular diets I tried, but none of them worked for me.

One diet I never even tried once I realized it would double my grocery bill!

As arduous as it is for me to admit this struggle on such a public forum, I know I’m not alone.

“More than 2 in 3 [American] adults are considered to be overweight or obese….overweight and obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems such as…nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, some types of cancer…and stroke .” –National Institutes for Health

I wasn’t going to wait around for one of these devastating diseases to pop up before making a change. I knew I had to do something different. For myself, but most of all for my family.

Well, I finally unlocked the secret. It’s a simple, frugal non-diety diet. (Because as we know all to well, most diets don’t work.)

It may seem like it costs a fortune to eat a healthy diet, but you can save money on healthy, real food. These are the ridiculously simple, frugal tweaks to my diet and lifestyle that are helping me lose my 2-year-old baby weight, even on a tight budget! I’m so excited to share them with you!

How to Start a Diet on a Budget: Weeks 1 through 3

It’s easy to get excited about the promises for weight loss and greater health of any new diet and want to jump right in. If you take the time to gradually transition your diet and lifestyle instead, you’ll set both your diet and your budget up for much greater success! Here’s how…

1. Don’t do drugs.

Sugar and caffeine that is.

Sugar has been touted as the most addictive substances known to man, even several times more addictive than cocaine.

I didn’t have to look much farther than my own experience to see how easy it is for one sweet treat to creep into our diets as a regular habit.

The first and hardest step is to cut back on caffeine and to quit sugar cold turkey.

This includes even sugar substitutes, which have been linked to greater weight gain than sugar and other yucky side effects. This is one place where moderation wasn’t an option for me.

As for caffeine, it’s been shown to make it harder for people with diabetes to regulate blood sugar, which leads to weight gain. I switched my coffee for green tea, with no small amount of daily grumbling.

2. Eat More.

You might be happy to hear one of the best hacks for losing weight is to eat more often.

You might want to try eating two or three snacks between meals at the same time every day.

I’ve been eating more than ever before while staying around the same total number of calories.

This way I’m not ravenous when it comes time for meals. This has been the most difficult part of the diet to keep.

I’ve struggled to delay meeting the constant requests of my two little ones at times to do this small act of self-care. But, we’re all reaping the rewards of a happier, healthier mommy.

Some diets recommend a solid three meals a day with no snacks, so you’ll have to feel it out for yourself to find what works best for you.

I will note, eating more frequently is one of the common habits of people who lose weight and keep it off.

These are the 15 steps I took to start a diet on a budget and lose weight at last!

3. Eat Even More.

Be sure you’re eating the recommended 25 grams of fiber a day for women. (Most Americans eat only 15 grams!)

I simply include four servings of vegetables and one or two servings of fruit each day, along with a couple servings of nuts, and one or two whole grains or legumes.

This alone helps you feel more full, so there’s no need to count calories or measure portions. When you fill up on these healthy foods first, there’s not much room to crave unhealthy foods.

4. Plan to Eat

At the same time you do these preliminary diet changes, create a one- or two-week meal plan, keeping in mind any healthy changes you plan to make to your diet after this initial phase.

This is crucial, so when it’s time to eat, you’ll have a plan and you’ll be much more inclined to grab something healthy.

A meal plan also helps you save money on healthy groceries because you’ll be much more likely to use up all of the healthy foods you bring home.

I found it super helpful to start with a pre-made, real food meal plan, include frugal real food recipes, and then tweak it for my specific needs.

These are the 15 steps I took to start a diet on a budget and lose weight at last!

5. Compare Prices.

Now is a great time to compare prices on some of the new foods you might want to add to your diet.

A few of the new foods I added included a wider variety of dark leafy greens and nuts. I also bought a bigger range of legumes and gluten-free grains for variety.

6. Stock the Pantry.

Taking a full three weeks to stock up on new healthy foods allows you to take advantage of big savings with bulk buys while spreading out the impact on your budget over time.

Just one word of warning. Be sure you don’t buy a large quantity of something you’re not sure you’ll use.

We all start out with good intentions.

Like last January when I decided I needed to eat liver once a week, and bought 20 pounds of it from Azure Standard for a “deal.”


That resolution slithered out of sight by February, and most the liver is in the bottom of my chest freezer, thickly coated with freezer burn.

These are the 15 steps I took to start a diet on a budget and lose weight at last!

How to Start a Diet on a Budget

To set yourself up for success: meal plan, do price comparisons, and stock your pantry with bulk buys over the course of a few weeks. Planning for the changes ahead will help you succeed with your weight loss and keep your grocery budget in check.

In week one, as I lay clinging to the couch, head pounding, suffering the effects of sugar withdrawal, I wondered if it was worth it.

Three weeks later, though I had only lost two pounds, I felt amazing!

Then the preparation started to pay off. In weeks four through six, I added 9 more easy, budget friendly habits to boost my weight loss even more.

As I write this in week 7, I’m at a new low, with a total of 10 pounds lost. The true measure of the success of this diet, though, is the growing feeling of health, energy and confidence. Many of my other annoying symptoms like sugar and carb cravings, constant hunger pangs, nausea, and mood swings are long gone.

I still have a long way to go, but I’m confident that by sticking to these simple (and budget friendly) methods, I won’t see those extra pounds staring back at me on the scale by the time my little girl turns 3.