A healthy body and mind are only possible with good nutrition. These expert tips will help you maintain a healthy diet while sticking to a budget.
Contrary to what you might have heard, healthy eating doesn’t need to cost a lot—a 2013 meta-analysis of 27 existing studies by researchers at the Harvard T.H. The Chan School of Public Health discovered that the healthiest diets cost only $1.50 per day more than those with poorer health.
Heather Adams, a Seattle-based writer and meditation teacher says that healthy food does not have to be more costly. “Fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods can be more filling than many processed foods.
Although $1.50 may not seem like a significant difference, it can add up for people facing food insecurity. Many low-income families still face difficulties in accessing healthy food. In June, a USDA study found that 88% of those who participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Aid Program (SNAP) had difficulty accessing healthy food. 62% of participants reported that the most common reason was the high cost of healthy foods.
Although greater access to nutritious food is the ultimate goal, there are ways you can reduce costs and still eat well on a tight budget.
Cook at home
Cooking at home is a great way to save money and eat healthier. You don’t have to go out and buy ready-made healthy food. Instead, you can get the ingredients from your local grocery store and prepare them yourself. You don’t need to cook whole meals or have limited time. A healthier and more cost-effective option is to make your salad dressings or granola.
These can be expensive when bought in bulk. However, making your own with fresh ingredients can help you save money and eat healthier options for your favorite convenience foods. Stephanie Harris-Uyidi is a Southern California-based chef who hosts The Posh Pescatarian. Make sure you have high-protein snack options that you can grab instead of chips.
Visit your local farmers’ market.
For fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, visit your local farmers’ market. It’s much cheaper to buy produce in the season than it is to buy it out of season. The best place for finding out what’s in season at your local farmers’ market is. Jamie Hickey, RD, is a registered dietician and certified trainer who says that supporting local farmers will save you about half the money at the grocery store.
Harris-Uyidi claims farmers’ markets are cost-friendly as farmers sell directly to consumers without the need for intermediaries like shipping agents, retailers, or other intermediaries. You get fresh, healthy fruits & veggies while supporting local farmers.
Another tip: Another tip? Make sure to use all your products and don’t waste any. Adams says that cabbage can make up to 10 meals, depending on how it is used. It will cost you between two and three dollars. Adams suggests being creative with your vegetables and creating new dishes using the same ones to avoid getting bored. Smoothies can be made from any fruits or vegetables you don’t use yet but are nearing spoiling.
Avoid buying food in large quantities and stick with store-brand products.
Buy food in bulk whenever possible, especially foods with a longer shelf-life or that can be frozen. You can save money and make fewer trips to the grocery store by buying your favorite healthy foods in bulk. Also, purchase generic or store-brand versions of healthy foods–like peanut butter, cereals, yogurt, granola–will be cheaper than name-brand versions. Harris-Uyidi says that stocking up on staples from supermarkets can help you save an average of 15% to 30%.
Get cashback and grocery store coupons.
Andrea Woroch, the budgeting expert, recommends using grocery store coupons and cashback apps (such as the Coupons.com App or Fetch Rewards) or credit cards that give you cash back for groceries. Grocery gift coupons, which can be found on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise, are another way of saving money on healthy food. You can trade-in your gift card for a gift certificate to your favorite grocery store the next time you receive a gift voucher to a store that you don’t usually shop at.
Prepare meals ahead
After a long day, cooking is often the last thing that you want to do. To avoid reaching for the takeout menu in these situations, set aside one day a week to meal prep. It doesn’t need to be complicated to prepare meals. Harris-Uyidi recommends that you have one source of protein per meal, one vegetable, and one whole-grain or nutritional-rich starch. It is easy to prepare healthy meals in bulk, which saves time and money.
Woroch says, “This will ensure that you have plenty leftovers that can be frozen and reheated on nights when you don’t feel like cooking,”
Get frozen produce in stock.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent way for budget-conscious consumers to eat well. Woroch says that frozen produce is 30% cheaper than fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables will last longer, and they are often already chopped and ready for use, so there is no need to rinse and cut. Frozen might be an option if you don’t use as much fresh produce or that it spoils quickly.
Adams says flash-frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh produce and lasts longer. Adams recommends buying the bulk of fresh fruits and vegetables when you find a good deal. You can freeze some of them yourself to extend their shelf life. This does not apply to canned food, which tends to contain higher fat, sugar, and salt.
Reduce your intake of meat and dairy
Explore plant-based or vegan options. “We noticed an immediate drop in our monthly grocery bill,” says Rebecca Brooks, financial coach and owner of R&D Financial Coaching, LLC in Tennessee, when she switched to a plant-based diet in 2016. Brooks claims it is easy to understand why. A pound of tofu costs $2.50 compared to $3.95 to buy beef or $3.29 for chicken. Try substituting at least one or two days per week to incorporate plant-based sources of protein into your diet–it will save you money and keep your diet healthier, too.