I recently went to a restaurant in Denver where the Cobb salad was about $20, while the burger and fries were about $15. But Coloradans aren’t the only people experiencing food sticker shock. The price difference between more and less nutritious foods is evident almost everywhere you go, and the current state of the economy makes it up more and more expensive to go shopping in general, let alone eat healthy.
Nutrition plays a significant role in your physical and mental health as it can reduce the risk of heart disease, strengthen your immune system, build muscles, improve concentration and more. A healthy diet can look many different ways, and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional burger. The key is to eat a varied and complete diet, with lots of produce like fruits and vegetables – and these are some of the hardest food groups to get enough of if you’re short on time and money.
That said, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to maintain a healthier body and mind. The tips below will help you shop and eat smart so you can be healthy without spending an arm and a leg.
How to eat healthy on a budget
1. Plan meals where you expect leftovers
Plan your meals ahead of time so you can consolidate the number of items you need to shop for at the grocery store. Apps like Mealime or Paprika can help take some of the mental work out of meal planning.
The bigger meals you plan, the more leftovers you get, the more money you save (and the less of your hard-earned healthy food goes to waste). Leftovers can be used in different dishes or even kept in the freezer to eat at a later time. I like to save leftover taco meat for a taco salad or breakfast burrito the next day.
2. Make a shopping list and stick to it
Make a shopping list with prices in mind, so you know you’re staying within your budget. If you’re unsure about the price of an item, overstate or use a price comparison app to double-check, like Flipp or Grocery King. Give yourself about $20 more for flexibility in case you see some extra needs you might not have thought of.
Otherwise, it’s important to stick to your list. Before you know it, your extra items can turn out to be more expensive than you expect, pushing you over budget.
3. Buy canned or frozen products
Canned and frozen foods may not be as tasty as fresh ones picked up from your local farm, but they’re just as nutritious and far less expensive. You’ll get the same amount of vitamins and minerals as you would if they were fresh and they last longer in the freezer or canned. Try purchasing frozen or canned peas, corn, carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and fruit. Look for products with no added sugar or salt.
Frozen produce can often be used in the same recipes as fresh produce with a little tweaking. Canned goods, on the other hand, are already cooked, so it’s ideal for tossing into stews, soups, and casseroles.
4. Join grocery store loyalty clubs for discounts
Grocery stores offer discounts on certain products if you have a membership with them, such as Safeway, Kroger and Giant. It’s also free to join. You’ll need to provide information like phone number and email, but the savings are significant and substantial in the final total.
5. Take advantage of sales
Similarly, stock up on items you know you need when they’re on sale, like seltzer water and protein. This is especially true for items with a long shelf life and for foods that are suitable for the freezer.
6. Stick to generic store brands
We all know and love our name-brand brands, but store-brand items are priced significantly less than name-brand products like condiments, breads, yogurts, frozen vegetables, and more. For the most part, you can hardly taste the difference, and the savings can add up. For example, Consumer Reports calculated that you save about 62 to 72 percent per serving if you buy store-brand ketchup at Heinz.
7. Grow your own food
If you have a green thumb, growing your own food in a garden will save you a lot of money on produce. You also have the convenience of having your favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs in your garden. Not to mention the environmental impact, such as reducing fossil fuel emissions and plastic waste.
Easy-to-grow foods for beginners include onions, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs like basil or parsley. You can even grow food from your kitchen leftovers for free, like celery, lettuce, or shallots.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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