Many people assume that eating healthy will cost an arm and a leg. Carelessly buying organic fruits and vegetables can rack up your grocery bill, however, there are plenty of ways to make more financially wise decisions when shopping for healthy food. Here are seven tips from registered dieticians that will let you eat the wholesome foods that you love without causing you to go bankrupt.
1. Eat Produce in Season
You may see produce in your grocery store and automatically think that it must be in season. This is not true. Grocery stores may still stock out of season produce and then increase the price.
"Pick your produce in season for your region. Local produce at peak season costs less because there is ample supply without the cost and damage caused by traveling long distances," said Maggie Moon, MS, RD, author of The Mind Diet. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will taste better and be fresher too.
2. Buy Frozen Produce
The freezer section of the grocery store has a lot more to offer than frozen waffles and ice cream. One way to save a lot of money on fruit and vegetables is to buy them frozen.
"When overbuying fresh foods busts your grocery budget and leads to food waste, I recommend looking at frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen raspberries are picked at peak ripeness and processed right away to lock in and protect nutrients," said Moon. Frozen berries are perfect to blend into a smoothie. "They can also be added right into pancake and muffin mixes (whole grain, of course)," Moon said.
3. Avoid Certain Brands
Many name brand food items charge more than generic brands for the exact same product. The products can have nearly the same ingredients and still have a few dollar price difference.
"There are retailers that are known for carrying lower-cost produce that is still great quality. My favorites are Trader Joe's and Whole Foods 365. It makes bargain shopping easier," said Moon. This also applies to over-the-counter medications, health care items, and beauty products.
4. Avoid Packaged Junk Foods
"Skip the packaged chips, cookies, and crackers. This is a great health tip, but it's a must do for anyone on a budget, too," said Moon. "The cost of these overly processed packaged treats adds up. Plus, these kinds of foods can make it harder to meet nutritional needs within another kind of budget: your daily calorie budget," she said.
Opt for healthier alternatives like Smart for Life's nutritional cookies. These affordable cookies will help satisfy your cravings while providing a great amount of protein and fiber to keep your hunger and weight under control. Smart for Life Cookies also don't contain any of those nasty ingredients you will find in other cookies in the snack aisle.
5. Go to the Bulk Bin
A small bag of trail mix will cost you about eight dollars. Save some bucks and buy the ingredients in bulk to make it at home. "To still save a buck or two, I like to purchase dried pulses, like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and the like. Not only can you get more for your dollar, but you can also prep a big batch ahead of time in your Instant Pot and portion them so they are just as easy as a canned pulse to pull out for a quick-fix meal midweek," said Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT.
6. Buy Your Groceries on Wednesdays
Surprisingly, you can actually save some money by shopping in the middle of the week. "Another tip I love is to shop on Wednesday! Not only is this the day of the week that most stores begin their new weekly ad, but many also actually still honor the week priors sales too," said Shaw. It also won't be as busy as shopping on the weekend either.
7. Shop and Meal Plan
If you plan out your meals ahead of time, you can save a lot of money when you go grocery shopping. Find the recipes you want to make and then make a list of the ingredients you need to buy. By sticking to the list, you won't go home with a ton of unnecessary items.
Shaw says to also purchase ingredients that can be used for more than one meal. "Can that quinoa be served for breakfast and a lunch or dinner meal? Yes, yes it can! Using different spices and cooking techniques can help vary the flavor profile so you get an exciting and delicious meal every time," said Shaw. Shaw pointed out that potatoes are another food that can be used in multiple ways. "These take less than five minutes to make in the microwave, contain important nutrients like potassium and vitamin A if you go for the sweet potato variety, and most importantly, are budget-friendly," said Shaw.