28 Jun Eating Healthy on a Budget
One of the most frequent complaints I hear is eating healthy is too expensive. It can appear that way at first glance – but I assure you, budget-wise healthy eating is possible with a bit of forward planning.
Here are my favorite hacks for eating healthy without breaking the bank:
1) Shop the perimeter. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but this is where the majority of whole foods are located. Generally, the inside aisles are full of the pre-packaged boxed foods that typically aren’t ideal for a healthy lifestyle. And, believe it or not – they’re usually more expensive per serving. Of course, there are some items you will need from the ‘inside’ aisles, but fill your cart with the majority of items from the perimeter.
2) Don’t choose pre-cut items. These items are great if you have limited time. However, they are more expensive than buying the whole fruit or vegetable. It takes extra time, but the extra cost may not be worth it. My rule of thumb, is to answer 2 questions: 1 – if I have to cut it up myself – will I actually do it, and 2 – how much extra time will it take to cut this up? For example, spiralizing vegetables is a timely process, but cutting up a cantaloupe takes less than 5 minutes. Asking these questions will help you determine if the convenience is worth the extra cost.
3) Shop multiple stores. Wholesale stores such as Costco or Sams Club have great bargains on certain foods, such as organic greens, frozen berries and extra virgin olive oil, but they may not have the best prices for staples such as toilet paper and paper towels. Check the weekly circulars to see where you can get your staple items at the best price or even order in bulk from online suppliers. Can you get more affordable veggies at the Farmers Market or Trader Joes? How about purchasing your grains and beans from the bulk aisle at Whole Foods? Shop around to find the best deals for what you need on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Once you establish a routine, this will be much less time consuming. For example, I go to Costco every week and supplement with Whole Foods, Trader Joes, the Farmers Market and Shoprite as needed.
4) Grow your own. Does it make you crazy when you purchase herbs for $4 and throw away half of them? Why not grow your own? Certain herbs and leafy greens can be grown simply in your backyard or on your window sill. Strat from seed or buy baby plants at your local grocery store or garden center. My favorites are parsley, basil, chives and oregano which I grow without too much effort, and I use to spice up numerous dishes from breakfast eggs to pesto to roast lamb. The other benefit of growing your own is that you know the herbs haven’t been sprayed with potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals.
5) Buy seasonal produce. Why not enjoy the local, seasonal fruits and vegetables? They are less expensive and more nutritious as they are often in the stores shortly after being picked. Check out the specials in conventional grocery stores – where you can often find berries, even organics, for a great price. Another option is a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you purchase a share or membership from a farmer and in turn receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. Here is a link to Dreyer Farms CSA in Cranford NJ which I have enjoyed for years.
6) Choose frozen. If you are making a smoothie or a stir-fry, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option. Most produce is picked at it’s peak and flash frozen which retains the nutrients. Since they are picked and packed in season, the cost is more affordable too.
Of course, some produce costs more than others. Strive to purchase less expensive produce to keep your grocery bill down each week. For example, leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, bananas and celery are often less expensive options. Balance these with seasonal berries, asparagus and Brussels sprouts and you’ll be amazed at how well you can eat healthy on a budget.
I’ve been trying to increase my intake of antioxidant rich green tea for its numerous health benefits. However, I don’t love the taste so I’ve been experimenting to make it more palatable. This recipe for cherry green tea pops definitely makes it much easier to ingest green tea and my kids love it too!
Here’s to enjoying lots of budget friendly seasonal produce and the joys of summer!
Yours in wellness,