Cheap ways to eat healthy: Learn how to eat better without breaking the bank
There’s a common misconception that eating healthy costs major money. I’m here to prove that wrong. Let’s find cheap ways to eat healthy.
I’ll also share some steps you can take to incorporate healthy meals and snacks into your diet without breaking your budget.
Junk food wants to compete for your business
First, a primer.
Yes, junk food is cheap. This is because current food policies in the U.S. support the production of corn, sugar, soybeans, wheat, and dairy, among other things. This keeps production of these items high and the prices for the consumer low.
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Companies take advantage of this by creating all sorts of fun products and food-like things that now line grocery store shelves. Just think of some of your favorite foods and drinks – soda, candy, Doritos, Cheetos, chips, cheese crisps, crackers, bars, pizza, mac and cheese, cheese dip, cheese wedges, etc.
What do all of these have in common? They are based on at least one of the subsidized agricultural products listed above.
Fortunately, the items that a healthy diet should be based on – whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables – can be very affordable too.
Sometimes they may even cost less than your favorite processed food.
Compare the food you love with the food you need
Let’s compare the cost of some produce filled items to some packaged foods.
Take a common snack, chips.
You can eat 2 oz or 30 chips at an average cost of 58 cents. Or, you can snack on half of a cup of carrots with 2 oz of hummus for 55 cents.
You could also try a cup of apple slices with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for 60 cents. Both of these snacks have the same crunch factor as chips and are hydrating, fresh, and full of vitamins and minerals for the same price.
How about something more filling?
You could have a Stouffer’s Turkey and Stuffing TV dinner for about $3.99, depending on the store.
These are savory, salty, and also a whopping 1,320 mg of sodium.
You could make a filling chicken salad with 2 cups of romaine, one-fourth of a cup diced Roma tomatoes, one-fourth of a cup diced cucumbers, and 4 oz of chicken breast for just $1.45.
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This leaves you with some leeway to include your favorite salad dressing plus a few more toppings and still end up on top. Romaine, tomatoes, and cucumbers are packed with cancer-preventing fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamin K, something almost non-existent in the turkey TV dinner.
For dessert, you might reach for some cookies. 6 chocolate chips cookies will likely run you about 60 cents. Or, you could save money with a whole cup of cantaloupe at 39 cents, half of a cup of canned peaches at 29 cents, or 1 medium banana topped with 1 tablespoon of Nutella for 42 cents.
Obviously, these are just a few examples. Not every healthy meal is going to come out cheaper item for item but they can still be affordable.
Now, you can’t just waltz into your grocery store and start piling up your cart with food. You have to be smart about what you’re purchasing if you want to keep it cheap. Here are some tips to stretch the most out of each food dollar.Here is another 22 great tips of eating on a budget.
Before You Go:
- Don’t Go While Hungry
Shopping while hungry is a dangerous combination. Everything sounds good when you’re hungry and you’ll leave the store with a dozen extra items you didn’t plan on buying. If you know you’re going to the store after work, plan ahead so that you don’t enter the store hungry.
Make a Grocery List
Similar to above, making a grocery list will help you grab only the things that you need and not want. When I make a list, I order everything by the order I come across it in the store – produce, then bread and dry goods, meat and dairy, frozen, etc. This cuts down on time too, and we all know time is money.
Any time you can invest in meal planning will be rewarded handsomely in money savings. When you meal plan, include staples that can go a long way. For example, you can make a side of potatoes for dinner and then use the rest of them up at breakfast. Broccoli can be used as a crunchy snack, a side at dinner, or part of an egg and cheese omelet. Also, aim for meat to fill only a quarter of your plate or less. Smaller portions of meat are generally healthier and help you cut costs.
At The Store:
- Buy in Season
In season fruits and vegetables can be significantly cheaper due to their abundance. They’ll also taste better than out of season produce and keep you eating different fruits and vegetables regularly. Download the season chart.
Don’t Buy Anything Prepared
As tempting as it is, avoid the store prepared fruits and vegetables. Stores add a significant up charge on these items. When it comes to baby carrots and sliced mushrooms, picking the whole forms will save you more.
Look for Deals
If you see a particular piece of produce at a great deal, buy extra. You can freeze these items to use later. Sometimes grocery stores have a produce section for ugly and older produce – while still edible, these items are discounted heavily.
Include Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh since they’re usually frozen right after picking. Sometimes these are cheaper and will last longer than fresh, cutting down on food waste. Some canned items, such as tomatoes, are preferred by cooks when tomatoes aren’t in season. Canned beans can be used in a cinch to add protein and fiber to omelets, soups, salads, and homemade burrito bowls.
Buy in Bulk
No, I’m not telling you to go to your closest wholesale store. Some grocery stores have a bulk dry goods section that include items like beans, nuts, oats, rice, and other grains. Often times these items are an excellent value compared to the packaged versions. Always comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
With a little bit of planning it can be just as cheap, or even cheaper, to eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables.
The real barrier to eating healthy lies within you. If you have the motivation and priority to eat healthy while maintaining your budget, rest easy knowing it can be done.
Do you have any other tips to eating healthy on a budget?