Through talking to clients and friends, I realize that one of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is the cost. In fact, the other day a friend lamented to me that his grocery bill tripled when he chose healthier options. And while some of the cost feels inevitable (compare the price of Ramen noodles to the price of just about anything), there are many ways to make eating healthy a budget-friendly venture. From buying frozen to re-thinking food variety down to where you choose to shop, read on for the best tips and tricks to save your wallet while still eating well.
First, make your freezer your new BFF.
Not only can you store meat in there for up to four months, but you can stock it full of fruits and veggies for just a fraction of the cost of fresh produce. Frozen fruits and veggies often get a bad rap, but the truth is that they contain more vitamins and minerals than their fresh counterparts! This is because those beloved blueberries and bell peppers were picked at the peak of their ripeness and flash-frozen. That steam-in-bag broccoli isn’t looking so bad now, is it?
Secondly, rethink how you vary your produce, meat, and grains.
Nutrition experts everywhere encourage food variety to get all needed vitamins and minerals, preserve gut health, and prevent boredom at meal times. However, most of us don’t have unlimited budgets – and fridge space – to accommodate a different fruit, veggie, meat, and grain at every single meal throughout the week. This is when rotating your purchases comes into play. If you buy blueberries, bananas, and grapes one week, buy strawberries, apples, and oranges the next. One week can be all about spinach as long as the next one focuses on kale. For protein, do your best to cycle through chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs each week with guest appearances from red meats and pork products.
Lastly, minimize the cost of eating healthy by changing up your go-to grocery stores.
You’ll find that some stores have better deals on meat, while others have amazing produce sections. In general, big retailers like Harris Teeter and Food Lion are best for meat, as they have the largest selection. (Some exceptions: Trader Joe’s $2.99 ground turkey and Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken.) For produce, milk, yogurt, and eggs, check out Aldi. Shop Trader Joe’s private label products for savings on snack foods, canned goods, coffee, frozen meals, and more. Trader Joe’s is especially cost-effective for specialty diet items, like gluten-free bread, dairy-free cheese, and vegan products.
Finally, remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated.
Protein bars, supplements, shakes, and other “health” foods will increase your grocery bill. By sticking to the basics – veggies, fruit, meat, whole grains, etc – you’ll minimize ingredients and maximize your grocery budget.