Eat Well for Less
Contrary to popular belief, a healthy diet doesn’t have to be expensive. With a smarter shopping strategy and the right tools, you can dine on delicious, nutritious dishes without breaking the bank. Here’s how.
By Mary Beth Wallace
1. Create a meal plan.
Take the guesswork out of mealtime with a weekly plan. When done right, meal planning ensures you’ll have healthy, budget-friendly meals on the table every night, even with a busy schedule! Build your meals around what you already have in your pantry or freezer, supplementing with what’s on sale at the grocery store.
2. Stick to your grocery list.
A box of cereal here, a chocolate bar there … before you know it, you’re checking out the entirety of aisle four! Avoiding impulse buys can be a challenge, but if you have a plan in place, you’ll be less likely to overspend. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping on a full stomach, and instead of roaming the aisles, only walk to the areas where there’s an item on your list.
3. Check unit prices.
For packaged items like nut butters, air-popped popcorn, and energy bars, make a practice of checking the unit price to determine which brand is the best value. Most grocery stores will post the unit price along with the store’s price; simply find the small stickers along the shelves. You’ll notice that store brands often cost less than their name-brand counterparts – and they aren’t that different when it comes to quality and ingredients.
4. Shop the sales.
This means using coupons, apps, and sales ads for the grocery stores you frequent. Always scour your store’s sales ad for fresh produce; if apples are on sale, and blueberries aren’t, then you’ll be adding apple slices to your oatmeal this week!
5. Rethink your protein.
Protein-packed foods like eggs, beans and lentils, peanut butter, and cottage cheese will keep you satisfied at a fraction of the cost of meat. When you do buy meat, look for the cheaper cuts like bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, ground turkey, and bone-in pork chops.
6. Buy frozen.
Your freezer is one of your best budget-friendly tools. Stock it with a variety of frozen fruits and vegetables – from broccoli and cauliflower to mango and peaches – and you’ll always have nutritious produce on hand. Not only will you eat more fruits and veggies, but you’ll also avoid throwing away fresh produce that’s past its prime.
7. Buy canned food too!
Canned foods often get a bad rap, but there’s no need to fear this economical option. Canned salmon and sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids; just be sure to look for wild-caught, sustainably harvested fish. Other healthy canned items include beans, diced or whole tomatoes, and vegetable broth.
8. Know when to buy organic.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that organic is always the best choice, but that’s not actually the case. As a general rule, buy organic fruits and vegetables if you’ll eat the skin, like apples, strawberries, and bell peppers. On the other hand, you can skip organic foods that you peel – like bananas and avocados – as they have low levels of detectable pesticides.
9. Eat your leftovers.
They may be far from glamorous, but it’s time to embrace leftovers. Cooking larger meals like soups, casseroles, and pasta saves you time and money, and you’ll have plenty left over for lunches throughout the week. With fully cooked meals at the ready, you’ll be less likely to order out when mid-day hunger strikes.
10. Ditch expensive drinks.
This one’s easy. Purchasing beverages like fruit juices, soda, and sports drinks weekly can really add up, but these products do little to promote satiety. Stick to water, and you’re sure to notice a dip in your grocery bill. And if you have to have your daily juice, try diluting it with water. You’ll save money and cut out sugar at the same time! HS