This amazing guest post was written by Jeriann Watkins Ireland, a writer, and wellness enthusiast. We encourage you to check out more from Jeriann at her website.
Eating healthy is important, but it often seems inaccessible if you’re on a budget. But with how important nutrition is for everything from heart health to weight management, it’s important to eat healthy foods even when your wallet is light. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, but you wouldn’t know it from the food industry’s marketing tactics. The more foods are touted for their health benefits, the more expensive they tend to be. But when you look past the trends that the food industry creates and pay attention to actual nutritional value, you’ll see that eating healthy isn’t as inaccessible as it sometimes seems, especially with evolving e-commerce options like Amazon Fresh.
Eating Healthy on a Budget: Money Saving Grocery Shopping Tips
Saving money at the grocery store mostly comes down to strategy. Avoiding grocery store psychology tricks and sticking to a grocery list is a great way to avoid impulse buys (and junk food often is an impulse buy), but there are lots of other ways to avoid foods that are bad for both your budget and your health. Some of these are:
Shop the Perimeter- Almost all grocery stores are set up so that the fresher foods are around the perimeter of the store. Produce, delis, bakeries, and bulk foods are along the outside edges of the grocery store, while most packaged goods are in the middle aisles. I only traverse into the middle aisles for specific needs like baking ingredients and cooking oils.
Buy Bulk– It’s almost always a better deal to buy in bulk. For non-perishables, I always opt for the biggest available size, as it’s usually cheaper for the amount you’re getting. Always check the “per unit” price though, because sometimes stores like to throw you for a loop! If your grocery store has a bulk section, you’ll find that prices are often even lower! Seasonings, grains, and even snacks are a lot cheaper by weight than when prepackaged. It’s also healthier for the environment since you’re saving on all that packaging!
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Be Aware of Spoilage Dates- Dry goods don’t spoil quickly and thus are great to buy in bulk and use for a long amount of time. When buying fruits and vegetables, be aware of how long you have before they go bad- otherwise, you’ll end up not only wasting the money you spent on the food you throw out but going through your non-perishables more quickly!
Shop for Maximum Flavor- The more flavor your individual ingredients have, the fewer ingredients you need to buy. Shopping for foods you enjoy by themselves can save a ton of money.
Learn What is Healthy and Affordable- Knowledge is power. Sites like Pinterest make it a lot easier (and fun!) to find affordable, healthy recipes. Once you have a working knowledge of what food is healthy and affordable, you’ll be able to know when to take advantage of sales and when deals aren’t as good (or good for you) as they seem. In that vein, below is a list of healthy, affordable foods to look for in your grocery store.
Fruits and vegetables vary by season and location, but here are what I find to be some of the cheapest fresh produce in general:
- Bell Peppers– Usually green bell peppers are the cheapest, and red, yellow, and orange switch places. Bell peppers are great to dip in hummus as a snack. When using in dishes, I almost always only use part of one, meaning one purchased item can last multiple meals! Red Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C.
- Jalapeños– Jalapeños are often less than a dollar a pound and being relatively light, that dollar can buy you a lot. Jalapeños add a lot of flavor to dishes and can be stuffed with any number of affordable ingredients to be eaten as a side.
- Garlic– Garlic is cheap and has tons of health benefits, from fighting colds to helping combat ear infections. This is a purchase that keeps on giving, as you can plant a clove of garlic and it will grow more! Just be sure to plant garlic in indoor containers, as certain varieties are invasive in certain areas.
- Lemons– Between the juice and the zest, lemons can be used to add flavor in a variety of ways.
- Limes– Like lemons, both the zest and the juice can be added to dishes, and most of the time, limes cost mere pennies each. They’re also great to use in homemade salsas and guacamole, which are tons healthier than pre-made versions.
- Onions– Onions average .67/lb nationally and are great for building flavor in soups, stir-fries, and casseroles. Their versatility makes them a great choice for using one item for multiple dishes.
- Cabbage– As a cruciferous vegetable, cabbage has countless health benefits. It’s an amazing source of fiber, helps treat stomach ulcers, and red cabbage contains antioxidants. Nationally, it averages only .62/lb.
- Sweet potatoes- With loads of vitamin C and little need for added flavor, sweet potatoes are an affordable, healthy choice and are great for making filling, satisfying meals.
- Carrots– Carrots contain loads of vitamins, as well as beta-carotene and fiber. Beta-carotene is beneficial for eyesight, the immune system, and healthy skin. With a national average of .77/lb, carrots are an affordable snack, great for pairing with homemade hummus.
When trying to save money on produce, it’s always best to buy in season, and from local producers or even start your own garden when possible. But not everyone has the time or resources to do so.If you’re hankering for a specific out of season produce, check the frozen food section. It’s probably cheaper, and freezing is the healthiest form of preservation as it requires no additives, and the packaging protects the product from light and air.
- Spices– Spices are often cheaper to buy in bulk, and buying in the bulk section allows you to get the amount you need, rather than having to buy a larger container of a spice you’re only using for one recipe.
- Flour– Baking ingredients like flour and sugar are often processed in a large factory that handles all brands sold in the area. So there is no reason at all to buy a certain brand of flour. Buying in bulk allows you to save per ounce, and get as much as you need at one time!
- Grains– Healthy whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, barley, and millet contain a lot of nutrients. Since they have a long shelf life, buying in bulk is the best way to get the most for your money.
- Sesame Seeds– little plastic containers of sesame seeds are expensive! Buy sesame seeds for pennies, then blend it up with oil to make homemade tahini! Tahini is great in sauces and is the most expensive ingredient used to make hummus. Making it yourself with sesame seeds bought in the bulk section will make eating healthy much more affordable!
- Dry Beans– Beans are the least expensive source of protein. Buying lots in bulk encourages you to eat them more often. Throw pinto beans in the crockpot with water, onions, peppers and some seasonings and at the end of the day mash them up into refried beans to make your own healthy burritos!
- Dry Snack Mixes– Nuts, trail mixes, and dried fruits and veggies can all be bought in the bulk section. Check the ingredients, but most of the time you’ll find there are less additives than in the packaged alternatives.
- Popcorn Kernels– popcorn is a low-calorie snack, but between butter, salt, and the harmful effects of the microwave, it’s best to skip the bags and buy unpopped kernels in bulk. Cook them in your favorite cooking oil and add your own low sodium seasonings for a custom, healthy snack!
- Yogurt– The probiotics in yogurt are vital for strengthening your immune system. Of course, stick with yogurts without added sugars- the less processed the better. If you buy a big tub, you have a week’s worth of cost-effective, healthy breakfasts and snacks!
- Cottage Cheese– If you’re not lactose intolerant, cottage cheese is a great source of calcium and other nutrients. Add an avocado and there’s an energizing, filling breakfast!
- Eggs– Eggs aren’t dairy, but they’re sold in the dairy section. High in protein, eggs make a great breakfast or snack. I prepare eight hard-boiled eggs every Sunday and snack on them throughout the week.
With everything at the grocery store, you’ll want to check labels and make sure that products meet your standards for being healthily and sustainably raised. Buying straight from producers often results in better quality, but it’s not always affordable. The above tips can help you navigate the grocery store for the healthiest foods at the lowest prices.
- National Price Averages: http://www.mymoneyblog.com/cheapest-vegetables.html
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