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10 Money Saving Tips for Healthy Eating

“I would eat healthy if I could afford it.” It’s common, albeit self-defeating, reasoning. While it’s true that eating healthily doesn’t come “cheap,” poor health isn’t exactly inexpensive either.  A Healthy Way of Life begins with the importance of mindset. That means making a commitment to seeing – and striving for – what’s possible. This said, the possible happens in the practical – the day to day choices we make and changes we embrace. The spectrum of eating, for example, is vast and extensive, ranging from extremely unhealthy with very little nutrient intake to optimally nourishing with nothing artificially processed and everything whole-food based. Currently, you are somewhere on that spectrum. Think about where you would like to be instead. Let yourself be ambitious. Finances are one of the basic resources that inevitably influence our health journey. With some creative thinking and new shopping practices, however, they don’t have to impose as significant a limitation as we might imagine. Read on to see which of these tips you can start incorporating today to set you on the path to healthier living.

Think, plan, THEN shop.

I can tell you from experience (and I’m sure many of you can relate) that when you aimlessly wander in the grocery store without a game-plan, the likelihood of purchasing numerous unneeded food items is pretty high. It amazes me how quickly a bag of this, a jar of that and so on can quickly add $20 to the total. Take 10 minutes out of a day to plan. Look at your calendar for events to plan around and brainstorm ideas for healthy meals and snacks. Check the cupboards to assess what you have versus what you’ll need. You’ll now have a list to give discipline and direction to your shopping expedition and help you steer clear of any extra items. It sounds so simple, but (as with so many things in a healthy lifestyle) consistency is the key.

Cut the crud.

Try this: peek inside your cabinets, refrigerator and pantry. Gather all of your junk food, soda, prepackaged meals and non-necessities. These are the foods that send your energy levels on a rollercoaster ride all day long, leaving you feeling fatigued and unmotivated. Now evaluate how much money you spent on all of those foods that are hindering your health and weight loss. Calculate the quality meats and fresh vegetables you could’ve purchased with those dollars. By limiting and/or eliminating the unnecessary items and investing in the nourishing ones, your new and improved energized self will thank you!

Shop from the outside in!

After grabbing your grocery cart, walk the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where healthy eating starts! The food along the perimeter of nearly all grocery stores should constitute almost all of your grocery shopping needs. This is where fruits, vegetables, the deli, diary/dairy-alternatives, and nuts and seeds are placed. Ideally, the only foods we should have to obtain from the middle aisles include dried herbs and seasonings, nut butters, and frozen produce. By filling up your cart with these items first, it will leave you less room in your cart (and your budget) for processed foods loaded with sugar, artificial flavors and colors. Spare your health the sabotage and your wallet the waste!

Become a coupon-cutter.

I can vividly remember going to the grocery store with my mom when I was young and the plastic baggy of coupons we brought. We would easily save $10 on a cart of groceries just with the contents of that baggy. It’s even easier these days with Internet websites that give you coupons as well as smart phone apps and store emails that offer current discounts at your fingertips! Amp up your savings by planning your meals based on what is on sale that week!

Cook one new thing each week.

It’s common in our society to blame bad eating on “not knowing how to cook.” Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “What have I done to learn how to cook?” Much like your exercise plan, your nutrition plan needs to be proactive. You would be amazed by how much you can do with one pan on a stove, one baking dish in the oven, or one glass bowl in the microwave! Experiment with cheaper cuts of meat (organic/pastured might be possible and are more important here because of the higher fat content in most of these cuts). Borrow a cook book from a friend or the library, check out ideas online, or ask a co-worker or family member for an easy recipe. Live and learn! After many of my clients adopted this habit, they discovered some of their favorite cheaper meals.

Check out the frozen section.

There are many different ways we can buy foods: fresh, pre-packaged, canned, dried, and frozen. When it comes to nutrient-dense “healthy” food, oftentimes frozen can be a great option! Typically cheaper than fresh produce, some frozen foods that still offer numerous health benefits yet save on change include berries (e.g. raspberries, strawberries, blackberries), vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, etc.), and meats. Frozen foods won’t go bad as fast as fresh, and are very easy to prepare. Try adding frozen mixed berries to a morning smoothie or microwaving a bag of frozen vegetables for lunch at work! Even better, buy fresh produce during the peak seasons and freeze your own!

Do your own pre-packing.

One of the ways that food companies get the best of your pocket book is offering pre-packaged, convenient items. Sure, a packet of instant oatmeal is a fast and easy breakfast as is an all-in-one lunch for your kids; however, these individual convenience packs come with a high per unit cost (with often little nutritional bang for the buck). For a smarter, healthier, more cost-effective option, I have my clients swap out individual pre-packaged items for larger quantities of healthier fare and do their own packing in storage ware or baggies. Reusable storage ware (ideally glass – or stainless steel for dry goods) is a staple for my meals and snacks and has significantly cut down on my shopping expenses. Full-fat Greek yogurt, fresh berries and chopped nuts in a glass storage bowl is one of my favorite snacks for work!

Buy in bulk—if it’s a healthy bargain.

Many food items that are great additions to a meal are cheaper if you purchase them in larger quantities. Various nuts are usually less expensive if you get the ones from the bulk bin section of the grocery store and can control the quantity you wish to purchase. Spices are another option that you can sometimes buy from the bulk area, and adding these to your meals will take your healthy cooking to a whole new level! I have switched to experimenting with different spices rather than salt, and I’ll never go back. Cinnamon instead of sugar, garlic powder instead of salt, and chili powder for added zest are great staple spices. To boot, they offer numerous health benefits as well. Dried beans, grains like rice and quinoa, dried fruit, and coffee or tea are other items to also consider buying in bulk. Also, consider buying vegetable or meat shares from area farms. Oftentimes, direct-to-consumer arrangements like these make organic and/or pastured foods financially feasible.

Acquire the “first in, first out” method.

Many people consider how to save money while shopping and then fail to follow through once the shopping is done and the food is home. When you open your refrigerator and pantry, what do you see? If you’re anything like me, when life gets hectic, it shows in my chaotic refrigerator. The “first in, first out” concept means strategically placing the items you need/want to use up first at the front of your cupboards and refrigerator shelves (and the newer items to use later toward the back). As your staple items such as milk, eggs and produce are used and you buy replacements, place the new item in back of the old. This ensures that you grab the current things before opening new. In the end, you save money and waste.

Store sensibly.

“Healthy food is so expensive, and I usually end up throwing quite a bit away” is another complaint I often hear from clients. You can easily change this! If you’re conscientious about how you store your food items, you’ll be amazed at how much longer they last. Good rules of thumb generally include not storing your fruits with your vegetables, keeping oils and fats in cool, dark areas minimally exposed to air, and untying all bunches to allow produce to breathe. Other useful tips include: ensuring your refrigerator and freezer are set at the appropriate temperatures, putting all things frozen in airtight containers to prevent “freezer burn,” and minimizing plastic storage as much as possible to decrease exposure to potential toxins. Extend the shelf-life of your food and extend your savings!

Which of these ideas have you incorporated into your healthy shopping routine? What others would you add? Be sure to share your personal questions or best strategies for making the most of your grocery dollar! Thanks for reading today, everyone.

Written by Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Program Manager of Life Time WeightLoss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader

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