We hear over and over again that “it’s too expensive to eat healthy.” The truth is that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, fresh, healthy foods can often be less expensive than packaged convenience foods.
Eating healthy has numerous benefits including lowering the risk of chronic diseases, increasing energy and productivity, and enhancing the quality of life. When you add in the extra costs associated with treating illnesses, long-term chronic disease and increased insurance costs, the added cost of healthy food seems like a bargain! But it is hard for many people to compare costs today with potential savings tomorrow.
So, how can you eat healthy on a budget today? Here’s a great comic that we recently saw. It offers one way, but it’s not the way we suggest:
Here are some tips that you can really use to get more from your food dollars:
First, consider store brands. The packaging is not as fancy, but you should be buying for the ingredients, not the packaging anyway. Learn to read the labels. You may be surprised to find that most of the time the ingredients are identical. A number of years ago, when store brands became a popular alternative, they were seen as being of lower quality, but not any more!
We used to think that name brands were better. After all, their marketing said they were! So, several years ago we decided to test some store brands and were pleasantly surprised. Now, for many healthy staples like tomato sauce, frozen vegetables, honey and many others, store brands are usually our first choice.
Second, start shopping in your own freezer and the pantry. It is amazing what gets “pushed to the back of the shelf.” Starting in your own freezer and pantry will help you save money by cooking at home instead of eating out. It will also ensure that you are rotating items for freshness. This is actually how we got so familiar with many of the online recipe sites – we had something in the cupboard or freezer and wanted to find a new way to cook it.
This strategy provides you with great variety and lets you eat healthier on a budget – a win-win for the whole family. Deciding on which new recipe to try is a great way to get the family involved in the decision process – if they choose it, they will eat it!
Third, follow the advice of the The American Dietetic Association. Here is their advice for buying healthy food on a budget:
- Plan menus in advance, and write out a shopping list.
- Clip coupons and sign up for a rewards card at your grocery store.
- Buy foods cheaper in bulk, buy on sale and buy less-expensive store brands when you can.
- Check the per-unit price to spot a better deal (bigger does not always mean less per ounce).
- Start by circling the perimeter of the store for the fresh foods, then hit the middle aisles.
- Shop for fruits and vegetables that are in season, and look for locally produced foods.
- Prioritize your menu to use up foods that will expire quickly, and remember to store foods promptly in the refrigerator and freezer.
Remember that knowledge and action set the stage for great health! What action are you going to take today?