While it’s true that fast food and many other unhealthy convenience foods are dirt cheap, eating healthy does not have to mean breaking the bank. There are lots simple and easy things you can do to stay within your budget.
Tips for the Grocery Store
- Plan, plan, plan – Creating a menu of meals before going shopping helps save you money at the checkout. Shopping with a list in hand also helps prevent lots of impulse buys.
- Buy in bulk – Many grocery stores have bulk sections, where you can get whole foods like grains, beans, nuts, and seeds by the pound. These are often cheaper than buying food in the package.
- Buy seasonal and local – Seasonal and local produce is often times more affordable (not to mention tastier and better for the planet)
- Avoid pre-packaged, processed foods – They may save you a few minutes preparing dinner, but what you save in time you make up for in cost, not to mention they are loaded with additives, preservatives, and chemicals.
- Avoid pre-packaged produce – It’s pre-washed, pre-cut, and ready to use – but it costs much more per pound than the other produce – even those cute little baby carrots.
- Look for discount produce – Lots of grocery stores bag up produce that is not at its peak, but still perfectly good.
- Get generic – Oftentimes the generic and the name brand product are identical. Places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even Safeway carry their own brand of products that are often organic and much less than the name brand version (just don’t forget to read the ingredient labels).
- Shop at your local farmer’s market – Where you will find the freshest and healthiest food around. Many farmers sell “cosmetically challenged” produce at a discounted rate. Also, if you go towards the end of the day, you can sometimes get in on the bargains.
- Buy direct – The closer you buy to the source of your food, the cheaper it is. Visit localharvest.org to connect to farmers and other food producers in your area.
- Make decisions – Even if you aren’t living on food stamps, we all need help shopping on a budget. Have a list of non-negotiable items that you must have, and treat the rest like luxury items. Let yourself buy one or two “treats” (whatever that means to you).
Tips for the Kitchen
- Eat quality not quantity – America, as a nation is overfed and malnourished. Yes, the factory-farmed, antibiotic and hormone-laden meat may be half the price of the 100% grass-fed, free-range, organic meat, but a portion of meat, according to the American Dietetics Association is about the size of a deck of cards. The average American eats at least twice that. In sum, if you eat the recommended portion of meat, you can afford the more sustainable option. Your body and your planet will thank you. Read about the top 10 reasons to buy organic meat and dairy here.
- Rethink your plate – Eating healthy is not rocket science. An easy way to visualize it is with your plate: it should be half green or non-starchy vegetables, one quarter whole grains or other starches, and one quarter high quality protein. More information available here.
- Cook in big batches – Saves you time later in the week when you may not have the time or energy to put together dinner. If you loathe monotony, you can always freeze part of it.
- Get creative! Clean out the fridge weekly – According to a study by the University of Arizona, Americans waste 14 percent of their food purchases – an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products. To avoid tossing out food, have a weekly “Iron Chef” night – where you can come up with creative things to do with those lingering items.
- Grow your own! – Gardening is all the rage – even the Obamas are growing their own at the White House. Having your own garden is not only a great way to save money on food, but it is the freshest food you will find. Even if you only have a small space, there is so much you can do with containers and pots. To read about just how much you can save by gardening, click here. For inspirational tips on starting your own vegetable garden, click here and here.
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