Fitness Facts: 10 ways to eat healthy on a budget
By Liz Cook
Registered Dietitian, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be even more affordable than the traditional Western diet, which is full of processed, packaged and convenience foods. With a few small swaps, you can fuel your body without breaking the bank!
1. Cut food waste by planning ahead
We’ve all reached into the back of the fridge and pulled out some rotting veggies that we had great intentions for using but can’t be salvaged now.
Food waste is the perfect place to start when cutting costs at the grocery store. Instead of grabbing items in hopes of finding a place for them in your diet, plan ahead so you know how you will use the items you are buying.
Planning out at least some of your meals can help you both eat healthier and save money at the grocery store. Not sure where to start? I broke it down for you here.
2. Make a list and stick to it
When it comes to grocery shopping, going in with a list is the best way to control your spending. Most stores now offer a list-building feature either on an app or on their website.
Building your list ahead of time also will let you gauge the price of your grocery order before even setting foot in the store. This can help you see where you spend the bulk of your money and decide which items are worth their price.
If something in the store catches your eye, take a second to think about how and when you will use it and if it’s worth the price before mindlessly tossing it into your cart.
3. Shop the sales
.Most grocery retailers also will show their sales online, so you can build your list around them. Check out what is on sale and incorporate those items where you can. If something you love is on sale, stock up!
Opting for a store brand or generic item also might help save a little money without compromising on nutrition. Check out the ingredients and nutrition facts before swapping products, but most of the time they will be equal in terms of nutrition.
4. Don’t get caught up in the trendy, new products
We live in a world where there is a new “super food” every week. Cauliflower can be in pizza, gnocchi, crackers or really anything, and there is a gluten-free option for virtually everything.
While these things can be great options, they often are quite expensive. Instead of getting preoccupied with “healthier” packaged items with high price tags, stick to the much more affordable basics.
5. Buy in bulk
Most items are less expensive in larger quantities. Consider buying in bulk and stocking up on whole grains, dried beans, nuts, seeds and other nonperishables. Most of these products can be stored in airtight containers for months without spoiling.
6. Pick your protein wisely
When building you list, pay attention to the amount you spend on meat and other proteins. These items can add up quickly, so choosing a variety of options may help you save a few dollars.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, which makes them a great choice. Canned or dried beans are both inexpensive options as well and a great way to switch up your protein sources.
When purchasing meat, look for bulk, frozen meats or frozen “family size” packs that allow you to get the benefit of bulk pricing.
7. Frozen is just as healthy as fresh
When is comes to picking produce, opt for frozen options to save some money. Frozen fruits and veggies are picked and frozen at their peak level of ripeness, which also happens to be when they are the most nutrient-rich.
There is no real nutritional benefit to choosing fresh over frozen, so when you’re looking for cheaper and more convenient, choose frozen.
8. Shop seasonal, shop local
Purchasing local, seasonal items is generally less expensive, more nutritious and better for the environment. When you eat locally grown produce, the time and travel between harvest and consumption is reduced. Look for local farmers’ markets and CSAs for more options.
9. Buy organic where it counts, not by default
While the label “organic” makes everything sound healthier, that isn’t always the case. Organic processed foods are still processed foods.
Shop smart and buy organic when picking items that are known to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. To see a list of the best items to buy organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” here.
10. Don’t pay for convenience
The pre-washed, pre-cut veggies in the produce section make life easier and save you time in the kitchen, but you are absolutely paying for that convenience. Stick to whole produce items to save in that section.
Buying cheese in blocks and shredding it yourself instead of buying shredded cheese is another way to cut costs. Instant options such as microwavable instant rice, instant oatmeal, etc. also are usually marked up for convenience as well.
Even if you’re not ready to take on all 10 tricks, try to pick one or two to test out this week. Another big way to save money on food is to do more cooking and eating at home and eat away from home less often.
For some bonus tips to help make this easier, check out this article on Meal Prepping.