Reduce Cost, Not Quality: Eating Healthy on a Budget
Eating healthy and sticking to a budget do not have to mean two different things. Grocery shopping can be stressful when adjusting to fit a budget, but quality meals do not have to cost a fortune.
Here are a few tips help save money and provide a healthful balance of meal options:
1. Sign up for store loyalty cards. Some grocery stores offer discounts on products for using their loyalty card. It might seem like a few cents here and there, but it adds up quickly. Most grocery stores have smartphone applications customers can download where coupons, as well as the weekly circular can be found. Knowing which items are on sale prior to grocery shopping can additionally help plan recipes.
2. Make a grocery list and stick to it! The grocery store is filled with tempting items that perhaps you may not intend to buy. Most of the time, you walk in with the intention of buying only a few items and leave with a cartful of food that you may or may not need. This can easily drive up grocery costs. Having a list either on a smartphone or piece of paper will keep you on track and minimize excessive spending. You will also always remember everything you needed.
3. Brand names do not always mean better quality. Often times, we get caught up in familiar, “tried and true” brand name products. For some items, the brand name product is the same as the store brand product, just with a recognizable name. Taking a few minutes to compare ingredients between products can ensure you are getting the same quality product at a cheaper price. Store brands can offer the same quality and health benefits as similar name brand products.
4. Buy in bulk when possible. Buying in bulk can seem counterintuitive when sticking to a budget. Nonperishable, staple items that you find yourself buying each week might be cheaper to buy in larger quantities at a time. For example, buying a large bag of rice will be cheaper than buying a small box each week. As a bonus, you will always have staple foods on hand.
5. Meal Plan. Having a few recipes and meal ideas can reduce costs because you know what and how much you need. More often than not, recipes call for the same ingredients so you might already have those on hand. Being creative with ingredients already in the pantry or refrigerator can inspire new recipes and meal ideas, adding variety to meals.
6. You don’t always have to buy fresh. Not all healthy foods have to be fresh produce. Frozen and canned fruits, vegetables, and even some meats are cheaper alternatives to the fresh version without losing the healthful nutrient content. It's helpful to pay special attention to sodium content and added sugars when comparing frozen and canned foods. Try to stick to foods with 140mg of sodium or less per serving and limiting intake of foods high in added sugars.
Eating on a budget can add unwanted stress to your already busy life. Keeping these tips in mind the next time you are planning a trip to the grocery store will help you save money and time.
Written by: Christina Pelletier, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern