Honestly eating healthy is not as expensive as we think. In 2013 Harvard published a study in the British Medical Journal showed that the healthiest diet only cost $1.50 more a day then the unhealthiest. For a year, $1.50/day more for eating a healthy diet would increase food costs for one person by about $550 per year. When I read the amount I thought that difference was nothing, however for families living on a tight budget or the poverty line that can be significant. But, when you think about the cost of diet-related chronic disease $1.50 is nothing.
I had an opportunity to speak at Purse Empowerment's Summer Savings Brunch, a few years, the topic was, "How to Buy Healthy and Organic Foods on Budget." Thought it would be great to create a blog post to share some of the tips I use and share with my clients. Here are 12 tips to help you stay on track in your Healthy Eating goals.
- Everything Does Not Have to Be Organic: So let me start with this if you can buy everything organic please do. Past studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables have 20-40% higher amounts of antioxidants. Why should we care about antioxidants? Antioxidants protect cells from aging and damage that leads to cells becoming cancerous. Also, we still have yet to understand how the pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics are impacting our systems. Some are suggesting that the overuse of antibiotics in animals has caused the loss of effectiveness of these drugs in human medicine. Can we say SUPERBUG? Let's not go into the possible implications of the use of hormones and pesticides. Now for those of us who cannot afford at this time or can find everything you want organic. You can get away with buying some conventional food. Thanks to Environmental Workers Group (EWG) we have the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. Every year EWG puts out a list of 15 foods that are pretty clean when it comes to pesticides and 12 pretty dirty foods...hence the name the dirty dozen. If you can not purchase everything organic just make sure you buy the fruits and vegetables listed on the dirty dozen organic.
- Purchase Fresh Local Produce: When fruit is in season it is in great abundance. Which means the grocery stores or farmers want to get rid of it as quickly as possible so it will not spoil. As buyers that means great prices...five oranges for one dollar, a mango for under a dollar, you get my drift. When foods are not in season and they are being brought in from different countries we are paying more because of the shipping cost and also the risk of it spoiling before it hits the stands. Find out what is in season and purchase those fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
- Grow Your Food: Growing your food can be a great way to save. After the initial investment of seeds or plants.
- Have a Meal Plan and Shopping List: I am guilty of going to the grocery store with no game plan and leaving with things that make me happy (can we say vegan chocolate chip cookies) but falling short when it comes to the meals for the week. The best way to combat this is the create a meal plan or find one online. Then create a shopping list based on what you plan to make that week. When you go in with a plan you will leave the store with what you need and what you want. Which means your food will not spoil in the fridge because you bought it on a whim.
- Make Your Own Food aka COOK: Although convenient eating out can add up. If we took those same dollars we used to purchase a meal at a restaurant and used it to buy the ingredients instead you would get twice if not four times the amount of food. I always use kale chips as an example. The average bag costs about $5 and you are getting maybe 3oz if you are lucky. You can use that same five bucks to make 10x the amount of kale chips. By preparing your food weekly you could save upwards of $50/week which is $200 for the month. Don't forget to pack your lunch.
- Buy In Bulk or Wholesale: It is great to stack up on your staples like grains and legumes. Go to your local Costco or Sam's and see how much to save. You can get items like agave as well at a great price.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season: Due to the abundance of what is in season the prices are typically lower than when it is not in season. Catch the sale and if you have excess freeze it so you can use it in the future.
- Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: Frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to save a few books. Typically the fruits and vegetables are frozen at its peak making it very nutritious. You can use them for your smoothies, stews, and soups. It also allows you to have access to fruits and vegetables when they are not in season.
- Grab generic brands: Same thing lower price! Most supermarkets have their line of products that are comparable to major brands. The biggest difference, of course, is the price. I do suggest reading the ingredients to make sure it is still quality food.
- Stock up on Sales: So I have to be honest and say that healthier products are not on sale as frequently but when they are taking advantage of it. Keep in mind you want to buy the things you will use and not just purchasing an item or two that you may never use.
- Use Coupons: I know most of the coupons are for junk food but if you dig a little deeper you will be amazed what you can find. As an Amazon Prime member, I receive special deals at whole foods in addition to getting an extra 10% on all sales items. I currently use an app called IBOTTA and I have been able to save a lot of money on items I normally purchase. Use this link to join and you automatically will get $3.
- Buy dried goods: I love to purchase my legumes dried. One bag of dried beans can make 3 to 4 cans that you would have purchased. Also, the cans leach aluminum into your food and add to your heavy metal load.
- Don't shop hungry: You know what happens when this happens all the above goes out the door. Make sure you go shopping satisfied and not Hangry.
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Below is my podcast on healthy eating tips to reclaim your kitchen. Check it out! Let me know what ways you eat healthy on a budget.