If you think eating “healthy” is expensive, think again! On the contrary, if planned right, and with the proper knowledge and tools, you will actually save yourself a few dollars on this week’s grocery bill AND gain the benefits of eating wholesome foods.
So why do so many people think that it’s less expensive to go with convenience and pre-packaged food?
Well, the truth is, in our North American society, many people feel these “time-saving” foods are convenient and yes, they can be, but not without the downfall of ingesting unnecessary added preservatives, nitrates, sulfites, emulsifiers, food coloring, sodium and an array of unknown ingredients that the average consumer has never heard of before let alone can pronounce!
So, let me teach you how to make wise, cost effective and most importantly, healthy food choices the next time you go grocery shopping:
LAURA D’S TOP 12 COST SAVING TIPS TO EAT HEALTHY ON A BUDGET:
1. Purchase Items on Sale and Stock up (Space Permitting)
Is one of your healthy non-perishable staple food items on sale? If so, stock up on such items and save – it’s cheaper AND healthier than buying junk food and fast food! Look out for items such as low-sodium canned vegetables, tetra-packs of soy, rice or almond milk, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, olive oil, rice, beans, legumes and whole grain pastas, when they go on sale.
2. Go Green – Grow Your Own or Shop Locally
In Canada, a good portion of our 3 seasons are ideal for trying to grow your own fresh produce. The best part, doing so will help you save money. Whether you have a backyard or live in an apartment, pick a plot or use a garden container and start planting some seeds. Maybe you don’t have the space and that’s okay but, everyone has a little room for some fresh herb planters! Use small pots and place them on your patio or kitchen window ledge for use in your next culinary adventure.
3. Make a List Before you go Shopping and STICK TO IT!
Have you ever been guilty of impulse buying? Do you find your impulse to grab certain foods worse when you are hungry or you don’t really know what you want to buy or what you need at the grocery store? Of course you do, most of us do and that’s why it’s important to make a list and stick to it before you head out! In addition to that list, never go to the grocery store feeling hungry, you are only likely to purchase more than you need because you are hungry and that means more money spent on unnecessary things. Sticking to a list and shopping on a full stomach will help keep those extra dollars in your wallet.
4. Learn to Love Leftovers
When you buy in bulk or buy a little extra, why not make a little extra and have some leftovers for another day or try portioning out the leftovers and freezing them for another time? Not only will you save on your next grocery bill, you will also save on time, and time is money!
5. Raid your Pantry, Fridge and Freezer FIRST!
Check what food you may already have in your kitchen and get creative! It’s easy to pick up the phone and call your local pizza place or grab something on the go but guess what, that costs money and normally the choices you make at that time are not the healthiest! As well, before you think to yourself “I have nothing to eat at home” and hit the grocery store, see what you have in your fridge, freezer and pantry and you may be pleasantly surprised that you actually do have healthy food lying around and don’t need to go shopping after all which as a result
6. Drink Water, Water and More Water – IT’S FREE!
Not only is water good for your skin, aids in weight loss, removal of toxins, joint and muscle protection, guess what? IT’S FREE! So instead of grabbing that can of pop or juice loaded with extra sugar or that vegetable cocktail full of sodium, save yourself a few dollars a day and DIRNK MORE WATER! Try it with some fresh lemon and stevia for homemade lemonade, YUM!
7. Have 2 Vegetarian Meals Weekly
Meat, fish and poultry are more expensive that vegetarian protein sources such as beans, legumes, soy, eggs and dairy. If properly combined (ie: rice and lentils), you will benefit from the same amino acid profile that you would get from a piece of chicken but at half the cost if not more! So choose to eat vegetarian a few times a week and save, save, save money and on your saturated fats! - GET VEGETARIAN DIET PLAN
8. Stock your Pantry with Inexpensive and Nutritious Staples that are Kind to your Wallet
Try dried legumes such as lentils or split peas (great in soups), chickpeas (great in salads or for hummus), kidney beans (great in chili’s), soy beans, black-eyed peas, mung beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, etc. Lets’ not forget the nutritious grain family. Try brown rice (long grain, basmati, short grain), quinoa, teff, millet, rye, buckwheat, amaranth, barley, spelt, kamut, oats, whole wheat, etc… These are great to add and bulk up any meal inexpensively! Do you like pasta? Try whole grain pastas such as whole wheat, rice, kamut, spelt or buckwheat and get all the nutritious benefits.
9. Buy Fruits and Vegetables that are in Season:
Fruits: Assorted berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums),
Vegetables: green onions, chives, fresh herbs, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, asparagus, corn, broccoli, green leafy vegetables (spinach, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, etc.), leeks, onions, snap peas, etc.
Fruits: Apples, pears, plums, grapes, cranberries
Vegetables: Squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti, etc.), pumpkin, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, onion, potatoes, cabbage, turnip, beets, Brussel sprouts, etc…
Fruits: Citrus (imported fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, tangerines, clementines), cranberries, persimmons, dates.
Vegetables: many of the same vegetables found in the Fall (Squash: acorn, butternut, spaghetti, etc.), pumpkin, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, onion, potatoes, turnip, beets, etc…)
Fruits: Rhubarb, apricots, cherries, cantaloupe, figs, nectarines, papaya, pineapple
Vegetables: Asparagus, chicory, fiddleheads, new potatoes, spinach, spring onions, fennel, snap beans, garlic, okra, peas, Swiss chard, shallots
10. Buy Fruits and Vegetables By The Bag Instead Of By The Unit
Yes you will have extra but with proper meal planning, you will be sure to use up the ingredients and waste not! Try buying foods like onions, potatoes, oranges and apples by the bag and save!
11. Avoid “Convenience Food”
Avoid “Pre-Washed”, “Pre-Packaged”, and “Pre-Sliced or Diced” Fruits and Vegetables. Avoid individually packaged meals and treats – they are often more expensive and bottom line, you are paying for the packaging and further contributing to waste not to mention that some of these “meals” are loaded with unhealthy additives!
12. Purchase Reduced-to-Sell Produce
Many grocery stores have a “reduced to sell” shelf in the produce department. No they may not be shiny and perfectly shaped but if you plan on using them within a day or two, these reduced-to-sell fruits and vegetables are still very nutritious, and half the price!
Some popular staples often found in the discount rack include: over-ripe bananas, tomatoes, fresh herbs, cauliflower and broccoli that may have a few brown spots, bell peppers that may be a little wrinkled, melon that may have a small bruise on it, etc… or try sailing down the frozen food aisles and try frozen veggies and fruits – often less expensive than fresh as just as nutritious because they are frozen at their peak freshness!
Don’t forget day old whole grain breads, another great deal especially if you plan on using them in a toasted sandwich or warming them up in the oven!
By Laura Discepola, CNP, ROHP/RNCP, PTS