These days everyone is looking for ways to save money and cutting food costs is no
exception. Many people have the misconception that fast food is the cheapest and
healthy food is downright expensive. But the truth is, anyone can save money and eat
healthy at the same time. It just takes a little preparation, some fresh thinking, and
you’re on your way to an affordable healthy diet. Here are my top 7 tips for eating
healthy while saving money:
1. Buy whole grains. Bags of brown rice, quinoa, or any other whole grains cost you a
couple dollars and will stretch to make dozens of meals without spoiling before you can
use them. Try cooking whole grains plain and storing them in the refrigerator. You can
add plain grains to fruit and nuts for a quick breakfast, or add fresh or frozen vegetables,
a protein, and fresh herbs and spices for affordable lunches or dinners throughout the
week. Whole grains are also among the foods that lower cholesterol.
2. Buy canned or dried beans. Beans are a perfect healthy substitute for meat. An
extensive study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 found
that “redirecting your food dollars from meat to beans…could save some serious
cash and improve your diet at the same time.” As with whole grains, beans are very
inexpensive and can easily be added to salads, soups, or paired with whole grains to
make complete meals that won’t break your budget.
3. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies in the freezer section are frozen
within hours of being picked at their peak freshness and nutritional content. But the
best part is they are often much cheaper than the “fresh” items. You can buy frozen
produce in bulk, save a few dollars, and pull them out of the freezer whenever you
get around to it. Try using frozen fruits in smoothies, cereal, or in desserts. Try adding
frozen veggies to make stir-fry meals, stews, soups, lasagna, etc.
4. Buy whole meats (such as whole chickens or shrimps with the tail left on). I generally
advise reducing your meat intake to save you money and trips to the doctor. But if/
when you do eat meat, try purchasing a whole chicken, for example. The more time
your grocery store or market spends on preparing your food, the more dollars you’re
going to pay as the customer. If you buy a whole chicken, it’s easier to justify spending
the money on organic/free-range/antibiotic-free/hormone-free meat. Cutting up the
meat yourself takes time and effort but it can equate to BIG savings for your family
meals. You can always freeze the leftover portions to use at a later date.
5. Learn to love bulk foods. Look for bulk bins at your local grocery store. You can stock
up on foods like whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts and avoid paying for the expensive
packaging that’s included in the price of the boxed items on the regular shelves. Bulk
foods are typically some of the healthiest, whole food options as well. Staying in the
bulk food section helps you avoid over-processed foods laden with chemicals and
6. Visit your local farmer’s market. Food from local producers is often cheaper because
the prices don’t include big shipping costs that you see at the large grocery chains. Local produce is also in-season, so it’s plentiful and priced to sell that day. Try to educate
yourself on the prices for your favorite produce at the supermarket so you can compare
costs when you’re browsing at the farmer’s market.
7. Try vegetarian dishes on your favorite restaurant menu. When you do go out to eat,
check out the vegetarian fare offered on the menu. Not only are they typically lower in
calories, they are often the most inexpensive items on the menu.
Remember that eating healthy helps your body stay strong, improves your quality
of life, and prevents trips to the doctor and costly prescription medications. That’s a
mouthful of savings.
Laurel Moll is a writer, blogger, and certified holistic health counselor/health coach living
in New York, NY. Her blog, Laurel on Health Food shares healthy recipes and offers tips
and personal feedback on healthy eating strategies.