The Most Common Excuse for Poor Eating

“Eating healthy is too expensive!”

I hear it all the time.  “I would love to eat healthy, but it’s just too expensive.”  I beg to differ! While eating healthy certainly costs more than the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant, there are ways that you can keep your costs down and still eat fresh, wholesome foods.

If you want to save money and eat healthy, you’ll want to focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods, bulk grains and legumes, and simple, in-season and reasonably priced produce. And yes, you can do this on a budget!

Here are some easy tips to help you save money while eating healthy:

1. Before you shop, make a list, and stick to it! Shop weekly and cut out coupons.  Avoid coupons for processed foods.

2.  Don’t shop on an empty stomach! Eat a light meal or snack before heading out the door to fight off those impulse cravings to buy at the store.

3. Shop the perimeter of the store.  This will help you avoid the processed, pre-packaged foods. We often think that these foods are cheaper because of the convenience they offer, but in reality these foods cost more. If a food has been processed, transported, advertised, or packaged, it will contain extra costs which get passed on to you. The long term costs of eating a diet high in processed foods far out weigh the convenience. Remember “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away!” These convenience foods may save us time, but they certainly do not save us money!

4. Look for sales on fresh fruits and vegetables, but don’t buy more than you will eat in a week. The winter poses a challenge when balancing nutrient intake and cost. Bananas, apples, and pears are all good choices. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also good choices. Skip ones packed in sauces. And look for low-salt options. The ingredient list should only list the vegetable. Try freezing your own berries during the summer, when prices are low.

5. Buy LOCAL, IN-SEASON, produce. Shop your local farmer’s market for added savings. The farmer brings the produce to the market – no middle man, no advertising company, and NO PROCESSING. Prices sky rocket on out of season produce. But when you see grapefruit at half the normal price in February and local blueberries on sale in July, stock up! Go with standard colors of vegetables and fruits — green peppers, for example, are not as exotic as yellow, red, or orange, but are a fraction of the cost. Stick with whole fruits and vegetables, and cut them up yourself. Don’t buy the pre-cut stuff. And any leftovers can be put in a plastic bag and frozen for later use.

6. Make your own snacks. There’s been in explosion in single-serving snacks from chips to cookies to cereal. Many are available 100-calorie portions. While portion control is a great thing, you don’t need to pay for it. Buy some snack-size re-sealable plastic bags, and make your own single-serving packets. No need for multiple bags of snacks. Most processed snack foods are expensive and typically provide little if any nutritional punch. Fresh fruit makes a great snack!

7. Shop at bulk stores. Buying sale items in bulk will allow you to freeze and store for later use. You can also share the package with a friend, saving you money, especially on perishables.

While this may sound like a lot of work, your health is worth it! Make eating healthy a priority in your house! Visit MyPyramid.gov for helpful tips on healthy eating. MyPyramid offers personalized eating plans and interactive tools to help you plan/ assess your food choices based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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