When people tell me why they don’t eat healthy, I hear all sorts of reasons. They don’t like vegetables. They are fearful of a life of just munching on celery. Some say healthy food is tasteless. Others don’t want to say goodbye to their favorite junk food. But one of the most common reasons I hear for not switching to healthier food is: It’s too expensive. But eating healthy doesn’t have to be any of these things! Especially when it comes to breaking the bank. With just a few tips, you can make sure to keep your wallet in check and still bring home nutritious food for you and your family.
Eat Less Meat
Meat isn’t cheap. And if it’s red meat, it’s not recommended everyday. Studies from Harvard University found that reducing your consumption of red meat can reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent because you are taking in less saturated fat. Reducing your intake of red meat also can reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. If you are a meat and potatoes person, try to skip meat at least once per week. Check out the campaign from Meatless Mondays.
Skip the Processed Food
While processed food ranges in price from super cheap to a little pricey, when it comes down to what you’re actually getting, it’s all expensive. Even if you only pay a couple bucks for a bag of chips, those chips are not giving you the nutrients you need and won’t satisfy you. Instead, choose real food that will actually be good for you and fill you up with protein and fiber. Real food that comes from plants, animals, and trees—not food created in a manufacturing plant—is healthier and less expensive in the long run.
Prep Ingredients Yourself
Speaking of packaging, don’t buy healthy foods in pre-packaged baggies or containers. You are paying for all that packaging (i.e. convenience) when you could just do it yourself. Cut up veggies yourself when you get home and store in a little plastic baggie or try reusable containers. You can do the same for a handful of almonds or any other healthy snack you need on the go.
Grow Your Own or Go Local
Start a garden with your kids. You don’t have to grow everything, just select a few vegetables or fruits to grow. If doing-it-yourself isn’t your thing, visit your local farmer’s market where prices are typically lower than what you will find in your neighborhood store. Or join a co-op if your community has one. Co-ops support farmers near you and you can buy fruits and vegetables in bulk usually slightly above wholesale cost. (I’m not a green thumb but I have figured out how to grow my own herbs. Fresh mint, chives, basil…yum! It’s not hard to grow if I can do it!)
Buy in Bulk
Do you have a favorite bulk food store? Costco, Sam’s Club and more are all great locations to buy in bulk. Look for vegetables, fruits, nuts and canned beans. You will find lower prices than at regular supermarkets. When you buy fruit such as apples, pears or oranges, buy them in a big bag rather than individually, which can cost more. (I personally buy all my dried fruit and nuts at Trader Joe’s – great prices and I use them for my homemade apple cinnamon energy bars.)
Soda and fruit juice are expensive. They also aren’t good for you. Switch to water and you can save lots of money. Bottled water can add up too, and all that plastic isn’t great for the environment either. If you don’t like your tap water, try a Britta water filter. Sure you have the initial cost of the Britta, but water filters are about $8 each and can last up to three months. I’m also an ice tea lover. (I brew it by the pitcher in my ice tea maker and stick it in the fridge. I love peach ice tea in the summer—so refreshing and cheap to make.)
Buy Seasonally & Purchase Frozen
Select seasonal produce. Don’t buy strawberries in the middle of the winter for $6.99, wait until summer because fruits in season are more reasonably priced. And if you really want produce that’s out of season, pick up frozen fruits and veggies in the winter month to save a little on your grocery bill. Just be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it’s not filled with other additives.
Try Economical Recipes
Ever buy a cookbook and there are ingredients you can’t pronounce and have no idea where to find? Well, some of those ingredients can be expensive too. The recipes found in my cookbook, Choose This!, have affordable, easy-to-find ingredients and can be made for under $15 for four servings. The recipes are delicious, nutritious and best yet—affordable. I was so happy when my daughter called me and said “Mom, I got your cookbook in the mail and I love it…it has all my favorite things in it! My friends all want a copy too!”
Learn Which Items To Buy Organic
If buying organic produce is important to you, but the price tag just seems to high, there’s an easy solution. The Environmental Working Group comes out with a list every year called “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen” which highlights which items are most contaminated with pesticides and residues and which ones are mostly safe. For you, that means you probably don’t need to spend the extra cash on avocados or onions, but you may want to consider reaching for the organic strawberries and celery.
Oh and one more tip: don’t shop on an empty stomach! When you shop on an empty stomach, you are more likely to make impulse buys and your stomach will make the decisions for you—not your head. Go shopping after a meal instead.
Invest in your health and keep money in your wallet by incorporating these tips in your healthy eating plan.