Some people say eating healthy is expensive but truly, it doesn’t have to be. When you think about the benefits of good nutrition to your overall long term health, it makes good sense to find and purchase healthy food options so you are able to eat healthy on a budget. Learn how easy it is to include more nutrition-packed food in your diet. Your body and your wallet will thank you!
It only takes 3 simple steps to eat healthy without spending lots of “dough”.
Step 1. Before shopping, create a simple plan or have an idea of meals you want to prepare for the week.
• Base your meals and snacks on your pre-determined budget.
• Use free websites, such as Pinterest, All Recipes, SmartLifeBites, for recipes.
• Try meal-stretching recipes, such as stews, casseroles, stir-fries and one-pot recipes.
• Use a list to determine what groceries you will need. There are free apps you can download on your phone to eliminate the need for a paper list.
• Scout coupon apps, the local paper and various websites for sales and coupons.
• Try shopping at discount or “dollar” stores. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save there.
• Sign up for your grocery store’s loyalty card. You’ll get immediate discounts and coupons in the mail or in your inbox.
• Use generic brands when possible. They can be just as good as brand names and are usually less expensive.
Step 2. Shop to get the most value out of your budget.
• Shop with a full stomach and take your time when shopping.
• Visit aisles of non-perishable food first and buy frozen and refrigerated items last. Quickly store them as soon as you get home to make the food last longer.
• Purchase only the items on your list. Don’t go to the aisle if there is nothing there on your list.
• Remember to bring your coupons to the store and use them along with current sales to increase your savings!
• Compare unit price, not the price per package. For example, compare the cost per ounce of two different brands of beans instead of how much the two brands of 14 ounce bag of beans cost per bag.
• Buy some items in bulk or family packs, which usually cost less, but only if you have room for storage and if you will be able to use the food before they spoil or expire.
• Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when in season.
• Don’t ignore frozen or freeze dried fruits and vegetables – they can be less expensive and may retain more nutrients than fresh versions. Just make sure you get frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sauces. Freeze dried fruits are pure, healthy and have a long shelf life.
• Buying pre-cut fruits, vegetables and meats can save time but usually cost more.
• Some food items can be purchased at a low cost year round such as beans, dairy, fruits, grains and certain vegetables like carrots.
Step 3. Prepare inexpensive meals ahead of time and use your freezer to store them.
• Take one day out of your week to cook a few make-ahead meals. Store them in gallon size freezer bags and stack them in your freezer. Thawing the frozen meals out will take less time in freezer bags than in deep containers. There are several websites featuring easy and quick make-ahead meals.
• Decrease cost of meals by eating meatless meals at least twice a week, featuring healthy homemade soup with beans and peas, or salads with hard-cooked eggs and cheese.
• “Recycle” cooked leftovers for another meal or two. For example, left over rotisserie chicken can be used in salads, stir fry or soups.
So you see, just taking a few minutes to plan your trip to the grocery store, spending a few extra minutes when shopping and maybe a few hours a week to cook make-ahead meals can in the long run save you time and of course, some “dough”!
Till next time…
Maria Tucker, MPH RD LDN CDE