Healthy foods can be more expensive, but eating well doesn't have to be. Read on for 10 tips to eat a healthy, nutritious diet while saving money, even while on a tight budget.
When I was an undergrad and grad student, I worked multiple jobs to try to make ends meet. I had to learn how to cut costs on foods while eating a healthful diet as I recognized the importance of eating well for my health condition (Type 1 Diabetes) as well as for mental clarity. Having always been budget-conscious, I still use many of the strategies I learned then. These experiences have been beneficial when sharing tips to cut food costs with my clients and patients. I have also learned more tips and tricks along the way through nutrition research as well as by listening to my clients and patients. Although eating well can be more expensive, it really does not have to be! Thankfully, there are many ways to save money and still allow yourself wholesome nutritious foods within your budget.
1. Plan Your Meals
Planning meals based on what foods and beverages you already have at home and making a grocery list of what else is needed allows you to be more budget-conscious when going to the grocery store. It may help you and your family to cut extraneous food costs for foods/drinks that are not needed. These meal planning websites help make cutting food costs easier by providing budget-friendly recipes and meal ideas: SNAP Recipes and Budget Bytes and FoodHero and MyPlate.
2. Stick to Your Grocery List
Grocery stores frequently market and advertise products throughout the store in an effort to allure you to purchase items you may not need. When creating a grocery list, consider creating your grocery list in order of how you walk through the grocery store, so you can quickly pick up each item you need without having to walk down additional aisles. The perimeter of the grocery store generally will have a greater amount of foods and beverages beneficial to health, although aisles are a great place to find nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, animal- and plant-protein sources, whole grains, nuts, and beans at a lower cost!
3. Don't Go to the Grocery Store Hungry
If you go to the grocery store hungry, you will be more likely to make an impulse purchase and to stray from your grocery list. Make sure to have a snack or meal before going to the store to feel comfortably full when you are there. If you frequently forget to do this, keep a low-sugar protein bar or small box of raisins in your bag or car to have something before you enter the store.
4. Incorporate More Meatless Meals
Animal proteins such as fish, seafood, poultry, beef, and pork are generally more expensive than plant-based proteins such as beans, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas), tofu, soy products. By reducing your and your family's animal-protein intake throughout the week, you can quickly and easily reduce food costs! Consider starting with a "Meatless Monday" and working your way up to two or three plant-based meals throughout the week. These plant-based proteins can be just as filling... and even more nutritious!
5. Choose a Mix of Fresh, Frozen, Canned, Dried Fruits and Vegetables
When shopping for fruits and vegetables, choosing seasonal produce is the best way to cut costs with fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables (without added sodium or sauces) as well as drained and rinsed canned fruits (in water or 100% fruit juice versus in syrup) and canned vegetables (low-sodium or no salt added preferred) are budget-friendly ways to incorporate produce into your meal plan. Dried fruit such as raisins and dried cranberries make easy-to-carry healthy snack choices.
6. Look at the Unit Price
Comparing unit prices is the best way to comparison shop when in the store to get the best deal on a food item. Price labels on grocery store products will generally include both a "retail price" (the price you pay for the item) and the "unit price". The unit price is the price of the product divided by the standard of measurement, generally listed in ounces or pounds. It allows for the price of two similar items that may have packages of different sizes to be easily compared. Look for this the next time you're in the store!
7. Buy Generic
Most grocery stores offer generic store-brand versions of canned and packaged items at a lower unit price. Oftentimes, these generic versions may be offered on-sale. As these products also have to follow quality standards held for other food manufacturers, the quality should not differ. Choosing generic over brand-named items is an easy way to cut food costs.
8. Buy in Bulk if Sensible
Buying in bulk may be a way to cut costs for certain items, especially if it is an item that you and your family frequently use. Grains and canned foods are frequently available in bulk. When buying in bulk, be sensible about choosing items that can be used and consumed in moderation.
9. Batch-Cook Items on Sale and Freeze
Batch-cooking is a style of food preparation that involves cooking more food less often. By putting the up-front effort in to cook items found on sale at the grocery store and freezing these items for future use, you can cut food costs and save time in the future.
10. Use Coupons or Rewards
Maximize your savings by signing up for your grocery store's loyalty program and clipping coupons for additional discounts. This can be done prior to planning your meals to provide meal ideas and allow for additional cost savings.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.