Eat healthily on a budget with these tips.
The rumors are true. Your grocery bill is indeed higher when you buy healthy foods. Filling your grocery cart with processed foods, junk, and foods made with refined grains will put a smaller dent in your bank account. At least until you add up the doctors’ bills for all the chronic health conditions you develop down the road.
A recent study done by Harvard School of Public Health found that you’ll spend an average of $1.50 more per day per person when you eat a healthy diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains compared to eating an unhealthy diet of prepackaged foods. That’s $550 more per year per person or $2,200 for a family of four—a sizeable chunk of cash for anyone on a tight budget.
Since eating healthy can be pricy, if you’re trying to stick to a budget, it’s important to find ways to save money. With a little careful planning and some grocery shopping smarts, you can still eat healthily without breaking the bank. Here’s how.
Step 1: Make a List
How many times have you shopped for groceries only to load your cart with a bunch of random food that looked good in the moment? Yes, those strawberries looked delicious and were on sale, but there’s no way you’ll eat them all before they go bad. You may have had good intentions, but you don’t want your healthy, expensive food spoiling. Before shopping, make a grocery list. Plan out the week’s meals, check your cabinets and refrigerator for what you have, and write down the foods you need. As you walk up and down the isles, only put items in your cart that are on your list. Eat a meal before shopping to curb your likelihood to buy extras.
Step 2: Compare Prices
First, compare prices at different grocery stores in your area. You may be paying more for shiny floors, a bigger selection, and free bagging, but if you’re looking to save money, shop around, check store advertisements, and ask friends for their opinions.
While at the store, look for generic options. They often taste just as good for less money. Some may even be made by the big-name companies! The most expensive items are generally at eye level, so scan up and down the shelves for better deals. When comparing prices, look at the price per ounce. You may save money by purchasing larger quantities, so if you eat a lot of a certain item, that can come in handy.
Step 3: Buy Whole Foods
Many foods are cheaper when in their least processed form. That means your grocery bill will be smaller when you buy a container of whole oats instead of individual packages of single oatmeal servings, a block of cheese instead of shredded, or whole produce rather than sliced or diced.
Step 4: Eat Less Meat
Meat is often the most expensive item on your grocery bill. While protein is an important part of your diet, there are less expensive ways to get it than meat. Plan at least two meals a week that don’t include meat. Beans, lentils, eggs, and canned fish contain quality protein at a fraction of the cost of red meat and fresh fish.
Step 5: Buy In-Season or Go Frozen
Prices of produce fluctuate throughout the year, depending on the season in which they’re harvested. In-season produce that’s grown locally is cheaper than out-of-season fruits and vegetables that have to be shipped from distant locations. When you want something that’s out-of-season, you’ll save money by picking it up in the freezer section. As an added perk, frozen, out-of-season foods are mighty nutritious, since they were frozen right after being picked.
No Time? No Problem
Many grocery stores now offer curbside pick-up. Order your food online and they’ll even load it in your car. By ordering your food online, you can compare prices and may not be as tempted to buy unhealthy foods you don’t need.
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