One of the most common complaints we hear from people is that it’s too expensive to eat healthfully. This is factually false!
The truth: You’ll need to spend more time and effort to eat healthfully on a low budget. If you have time and are willing to cook, eating healthy can be cheaper than eating junk food. If you don’t have time, just think about the time spent watching TV, Facebook, and playing on your iPhone. Surely you can find time for health. Here’s our advice on shopping healthfully.
Tip #1 Prepare a shopping list and stick with it
Supermarkets are finely oiled marketing machines that rely on your impulse purchases to make a profit. If you come prepared with a list, there is a better chance to withstand the temptation
Tip #2 Predefine a junk food limit
You can’t buy only healthy foods, that’s understandable. Decide that you will buy only 3 junk food items per store visit. When you reach the checkout counter and see more than 3 unhealthy items in your cart, remove all but three.
Tip #3 Spend more time in the produce section
This is a no brainer. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a big part of your shopping expenditure. Despite a very large variety, most people stick to a very small number of favorites. Make a decision to buy a new produce item each week and find a recipe for it. There are many great ways to prepare relatively cheap vegetables and roots such as cabbage, cauliflower, and beets. Lastly, don’t be tempted with all the packaged stuff in the produce section such as salad dressing, pre-cut salads, croutons, etc…
Tip #4 Try frozen or canned fruits and vegetables
The price of fresh produce often fluctuates based on season and availability of locally harvested goods. Sometimes a pint of fresh strawberries will be just too expensive. This is an opportunity for frozen foods. Frozen vegetables and fruit are actually just as nutrient dense as their fresh counterparts.
Unlike fresh fruit, they are picked at peak ripeness. Then they are flash frozen, a process that retains almost all the nutrients, sometimes even more than a fresh fruit waiting for you on a supermarket shelf.
Tip #5 Buy bulk whole foods
The bulk section will give you the best bang for your buck. Items such as oats, brown rice, legumes, nuts, and seeds are cheaper than smaller, branded and bagged items. They usually don’t have any added ingredients that could make them less healthy (such as salt added to nuts).
Tip #6 If it doesn’t make it home, you’re not going to eat it
We’ve all had those moments. You’re craving something to eat, and you raid the pantry for a big bag of chips, or the freezer for a quart of ice cream. But what if they weren’t there? Not buying these junk foods, means you won’t be eating them. This simple, proven technique also saves you a lot of money.
Tip #7 Do not enter: the beverage aisle
A family of 4 can save $500 a year simply by switching from soft drinks to tap water. If you don’t like water, here’s a list of 10 easy tips to get you drinking more of it. Learn to love water!
Tip #8 Eat less meat
Nobody said we have to eat meat 3 times a day, or even every day. For some people, this may sound sacrilegious. Studies show that eating large amounts of red meat and / or processed meat increases the risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Instead, look at cheap and healthy sources of protein such as beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Also, serving of meat is only 3 ounces. That’s the size of a deck of cards. Try to think of meat as the topping, not the main part of a dish.
Tip #9 Learn just ONE recipe each week
You don’t need to be an expert chef or making anything fancy. If you choose just one recipe to prepare every week, within a year you will have a repertoire of 50 from which to choose. Do this the old fashioned way. Use a notebook or index cards to keep everything organized. Add the ingredients to your shopping list (see tip #1), and you’re on your way!
You may have noticed that we did not mention coupons at all. Sadly, most coupons are for the worst types of food available. If you do find coupons for healthy foods, by all means, go for it!
How do you stay healthy on a low budget?