Eating healthy can seem expensive, especially if we feel obligated to buy items like pricey fresh produce and expensive organic foods. However, with a bit of planning, smart shopping, and some savvy tips shared in this article, healthy eating doesn’t need to break the bank! Here are 11 tips to help you accomplish just that.
As a Registered Dietitian, I don’t want my clients to see their budget as an obstacle to healthy eating, especially since there are so many inexpensive healthy foods out there (I’m looking at you dried chickpeas)! Summarized below are some great tips, to help you troubleshoot and save some dough on healthy food.
Plan Meals in Advance.
One of the most effective techniques to save money on healthy foods is planning. Planning might seem like a really trivial tip, but planning out your food budget and your meals weekly is one of the more effective means of saving money on healthy foods.
To put this into action, start by choosing one or two dishes you want to prepare each week (e.g., one on Sunday and one on Wednesday) and make large portions of each dish so that they last for a few days and two to three healthy snacks you can pair with these dishes (e.g., vegetables like sugar snaps, mini carrots, and celery with cream cheese dip, whole grain crackers, cheese cubes, fruit, dried mango or blueberries).
Choose Meals Based on Flyer Specials
With many weekly grocery flyers online, it is easier than ever to plan your weekly meals around weekly deals. If you find the ingredients to one of your favourite healthy meals on sale (e.g., zucchini, eggplant, etc), plan your meals around those ingredients to save a few dollars.
Stick to Your List
“How did this litre of milk cost $45.00!?” We’ve all done it. You go to the grocery store wanting one thing, but come out with a million others. Marketers do a great job at manipulating our shopping decisions at the grocery store, so great we don’t even realize it. To stay focused and on a budget, plan your grocery list ahead of time and stick to it. Simple and effective.
Skip the Name Brands.
The nutrients and health benefits of brand name products are usually similar to those of the no-name or less expensive alternatives. Making a habit of choosing the less expensive option allows for significant savings in the long run.
Skip Organic/Non-GMO Foods.
Organic and non-genetically modified (non- GMO) foods are typically expensive products which have a “health halo”, meaning that they are foods that are commonly considered to be healthier than they actually are. In reality, there is very little difference between the nutritional value and safety of organic/ non-GMO foods. Often this is this is crafty marketing using scare tactics to get us to purchase something four times the price. If money is no object, fine, but don’t miss a mortgage payment because you feel you should buy these foods.
Frozen versions of healthy foods, such as fruits or vegetables, are often cheaper and contain many of the same, if not more beneficial nutrients fresh foods have. Save a few dollars by opting for the frozen version of foods where possible. For instance, if you plan on making a yogurt parfait, opt or frozen berries instead of fresh berries. If you are making a soup or stew, opt for frozen vegetables.
Don’t Worry About Trendy Health Foods.
Kale is trendy but if it’s more expensive than spinach, get the spinach. Quinoa is great but much more expensive than brown rice. No one food makes or breaks your healthy diet, so don’t feel obligated to stick with trends.
Shop in Season.
Given their abundance, in-season foods are often cheaper. Hence, incorporating in-season ingredients into your meals is another effective money saver. In Ontario, the following foods are in season during the following times:
– Spring: Asparagus, Rhubarb
– Summer: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Beets, Plums, Strawberries, Cherries, Melons
– Fall: Squash, Beans, Corn, Grapes, Pears
– Winter: Cabbage, Potatoes, Carrots, Apples
For more information about foods in season in Ontario, check out: http://ontariofarmfresh.com/consumers/whats-in-season/
Buy in Bulk… If It’s Cheaper.
It’s usually cheaper to buy foods in bulk, but not always. Check the price per 100g of products to compare the cost of bulk products to regular-sized products. This is a sure fire way to tell if you are getting a deal.
Stretch Homemade Meals
Use inexpensive and healthy staple foods to increase the size of your healthy meals and make them last longer. For instance, consider adding a bit more brown rice to a pilaf or more broth to a soup.
Instead of chucking out leftovers no one seems to want, use leftovers as ingredients for another healthy meal. For instance:
– If you have leftover chicken pieces or bones, boil the leftovers to make a chicken broth for a hearty soup or stew.
– The best part of making soups is that you can throw almost any vegetables in them. If you have leftover celery, carrots, or spinach, throw them into some broth (like that chicken stock from earlier!). If soup is not your jam, consider making a stir-fry or add rice to the vegetables and make a pilaf.
– Stale bread: Top stale bread with some olive oil and seasoning, heat it up in the oven, and enjoy a crunchy snack.
The Bottom Line:
To sum it up, healthy eating doesn’t need to be expensive. In order to save on healthy foods the most important thing to remember is to get organized, shop smart, and be savvy.
Happy saving and happy eating!
What are some of the ways you like to save on healthy groceries?
Did these tips leave you with an idea of how you could make a positive change to your grocery spending habits?
Thanks to student volunteer Nawal Omran for contributing to this article.