One of the questions I receive most when I post about healthy eating is how to buy nutrient-rich, unprocessed food on a budget. A good balanced diet that includes fresh produce, whole grains, and proteins low in saturated fat can seem financially intimidating if you don’t know what to look for when shopping. The trick is to avoid packaged foods that are loaded with ingredients you can barely pronounce and know when to buy the fresh foods that will give you energy, reduce weight gain and lead to overall better health. There are plenty of nutritious foods that cost less that $2.00, but I wanted to share my affordable eating tips to help get you on the right track to eating healthy on a budget.
Know Where to Buy
Whether you’re buying organic or simply trying to find affordable fresh foods, where you purchase from can make all the difference. Look to retailers such as Trader Joe’s, your local farmers market or Super Walmart to find below average prices for fresh veggies and packaged grains that you won’t find at your typical grocer. Walmart recently expanded their health food offerings thanks to a partnership with Wild Oats, which means that you can get great organic products for at least 30% less than comparable items. Search your area for the most affordable retailer and use them as your go-to resource for organics.
Shop in Season
You don’t need to eat the same produce year round. If you explore new recipes and only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, you will save money. Vegetables that are in season will cost less than when they aren’t, so learn what is freshest when and start planning. Also, don’t feel restricted to buy a specific type of produce. Just because kale is all the rage doesn’t mean you need to eat it to be healthy. If it’s more cost effective to buy spinach, select this green instead. Try to find produce that maintains the nutrients of your first choice and add it to your next salad or pasta dish.
Buy Frozen Produce
For out-of-season vegetables, or to incorporate a necessary ingredient in your favorite meal, think frozen. Frozen produce and meat is an excellent way to buy large quantities of healthy food that won’t go bad and can feed an entire family. You can use frozen fruit in smoothies or quickly heat up corn or broccoli as a quick side dish for your little one.
One of the biggest culprits of eating junk food is being hungry without a meal plan in mind. When I want something quick, the last thing I want to do is cook. That’s usually when most of us go for the unhealthiest foods. Instead, plan meals in advance, cook them and freeze them for a later date. You can make casseroles, soups or any number of these healthy freezable meals and when you’re hungry, pop them in the oven or microwave for a few minutes to enjoy.
Buy in Bulk
Stores offer excellent deals on many food staples. To get the best bang for your buck with these items, buy as much as you can when they are on sale. If your family routinely eats rice, you can purchase multiple bags and store for future meals. Think about purchasing fresh goods for large families at places such as Costco. or Sam’s Club. You’ll get twice as much at a quarter of the price per unit. Before you shop, learn how unit prices can make a big difference in your grocery budget.
Having all of the right foods is just one step in the journey of healthy eating, your mindset matters as well. Read my Think Your Way to Healthy Eating post to learn how to change your eating patterns for the better.