Eating fresh, healthy foods is one of the best things you can do your body. Not only can you lose weight, you can help prolong your life. Unfortunately, eating healthy comes with a higher price tag.
Fresh fruits and veggies will cost more than packaged convenience food, and organic is going to be more expensive than its non-organic twin. Before you get discouraged, here are 15 tips that can help you still eat healthy for less.
1. Cut Out the Meat
Meat; especially organic, free-range, hormone-free meat; will be the most costly part of your healthy diet. Try cutting back on the amount of meat you consume. Instead of cooking with it each night, substitute with other non-animal types of protein. Beans and legumes are a good source of protein, as is tofu. If you have recipes that call for ground hamburger, cut the amount in half and substitute the remainder with beans.
2. Buy Canned Fish
Adding fish to your diet is a good way to get healthy fat and protein. Instead of buying fresh fish all the time, opt for canned. Tuna, salmon and sardines can provide a good amount of protein without breaking your grocery budget.
3. Eat More Whole Grains
Whole grains are an inexpensive way to add more bulk to your meals. Brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, oats and bulgur are examples of whole grains that are full of nutrients and are less costly than eating tons of meat. Most of these can be found in bulk bins are your local health food store. Which brings us to the forth tip.
4. Buy in Bulk (A)
We already mentioned buying your grains from the bulk bins, but you can also find pastas, dried soup mixes, dried fruit, nuts and various flours in the bulk bins. Another way to buy in bulk is to shop at warehouse and super stores like Costco. You can find good deals on meat, eggs, milk and fresh produce. When buying fresh, however, pay attention to the quantity of the items you buy. If your family isn’t able to finish it all before it goes bad, then you are better off not purchasing those items in bulk.
5. Shop Farmer’s Markets
Buying local not only saves you money on produce, but you can get the freshest assortment because they normally don’t have to travel far to get there. Ask the local farmers how they grow their produce – many times the farmers do not spray their food with pesticides, but don’t carry the “certified” label simply because it costs too much to obtain it.
6. Invest in a Community Agriculture Program or Co-op
If you have a community-supported agriculture program in your area, you can stand to save even more on fruits and veggies. These programs allow to you get fresh food but the boxful. The only caveat to them is you don’t always get to choose what produce you get in your box.
7. Eat Products That Are In-season
Seasonal food is fresher and tastes better. You may not get the most varied pick of produce, but fruits and vegetables that are in-season will always be considerably cheaper than those that aren’t.
8. Buy Frozen
If you need to buy out-of-season produce, look for the ones in the frozen aisle. It will cost less than buying the fresh counterpart and you don’t have to worry about it rotting and having to throw any out.
9. Grow It Yourself
If you have the space, start your own garden! What better way to get the freshest, organic food? If you don’t have a dirt patch, you can build your own box garden that can easily house a few selective in-season vegetables.
10. Be Selective When Buying Organic
If you are on a tight budget, you can stick to buying only certain fruits and vegetables organically. The “dirty dozen” as they are often called, are the 12 fruits and veggies that are found to have the highest levels of pesticides. If you can’t buy everything organic, at least go organic when purchasing these foods: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.
11. Use Pesticide Washes for the Rest
When you can’t buy organic or the non-organic option is on sale, don’t worry. You can clean the produce using pesticide washes to ensure that the produce is free of chemicals. Want to save even more? Soak your produce in a mix of water and white vinegar to remove the chemicals. Pesticides are made to be water-resistant so that they stay put when plants are watered. Using plain water to wash your produce isn’t enough.
12. Buy in Bulk (B)
When seasonal produce is on sale, buy as much as you can possibly store. You can freeze, dry or can the extra to be used another time. For vegetables like beans, corn, peas and spinach, quickly blanch them before freezing to ensure their quality later on.
13. Cook from Scratch
Avoid buying packaged items and make ingredients yourself. You can make whole wheat bread and pizza crusts at home. Spaghetti sauce can be made as well, and you get the added benefit of being able to control the sodium content. Buy blocks of cheese and shred your own, buy heads of lettuce and chop it up. While the savings may seem little for each item, added up it can amount to a lot.
14. Look for Generic
Many stores now carry their own line of products, and most are comparable with name brand. Always check for a cheaper version of the item you need to buy. However, if you have a coupon for the name brand item that may actually come out cheaper than the generic version. Be sure to factor in all coupons and discounts before deciding which version to buy.
15. Check Unit Prices
Learn to pay attention to the tag on the shelf. It should have the selling price, but also the price per unit. It will tell you how much an item costs per ounce or pound. Use this number to compare price points among different brands and also among different sizes.
Changing your diet to a more health conscious one is a wonderful thing to do for yourself. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the best thing for your wallet. Using these 15 tips, you can still eat healthy and organic without breaking your monthly grocery budget.