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Healthy Eating on a Budget: 10 Tips

When you go to the grocery store and walk down the “health foods” aisle, you may be a little thrown off by some of the outrageously high prices of some products. You may see specialty food items that include health claims like keto, gluten-free, organic, vegan, etc. So naturally, yes, many people have the perception that eating healthy is expensive. However, I think that is 100% untrue!

A lot of factors contribute to the idea that healthy eating is expensive. For one, where you shop can influence the cost of your food. There are so many places to grocery shop nowadays, even Target has fresh produce. Now, of course, if you shop at specialty food stores or the amazing Whole Foods (which I love but definitely don’t shop there regularly if I want to stay in budget), you may be spending a pretty penny. Another contributing factor, what you buy and when you buy it. Do you grab the keto-friendly snack bites at the check-out counter while waiting in line? Or do you buy a pint of fresh blueberries when they are not on sale or in season? I could go on and on. Here are 10 tips to help lower that weekly grocery bill while still focusing on eating whole foods and a well-balanced diet.

1. Buy on sale. My favorite part about Tuesday nights is when the Sprouts weekly ad comes out (not at all ashamed). I always buy things on sale whenever I can. I actually prefer to build my meals around foods that are on sale. For one thing, often when produce is on sale, it’s in season. But, I also pretty much buy my meat/fish/poultry, eggs, milk (almond milk usually) and shelf stable items on sale. I can’t stress enough to buy your meat/fish/poultry on sale. You would be surprised how much money you will save sticking to it. I would say a nice London Broil steak is about $6/lb at normal pricing. Sale pricing I have seen at sprouts is as little as $2.99! That is 50% off steak! Not bad.

2. Shop seasonally. Produce that is in season is usually on sale. It tastes better in season and you’re also supporting local farmers. The berries are sweeter and the tomatoes are juicer. Example, raspberries in season, maybe $2/pint depending where you shop, but not in season, more like a whopping $3.99/pint. Nuff said.

3. Opt for frozen fruits or vegetables. If you didn’t know already, frozen fruits and vegetables are usually picked at the peak of ripeness and then flash frozen to retain the maximal amount of nutrients. So don’t feel like you're getting jipped when you go frozen. If you have a certain recipe that calls for an out of season fruit or veg, this is always a good option. Also, look out for coupons! There are always coupons for frozen stuff, especially if you use the grocery store apps.

4. Shop at different places for different items. I know this one is a little tedious, especially if you’re a busy parent but it really can save you a lot of money. For example, Costco, who doesn’t love Costco? Great place for buying pantry staples and even produce that you eat often. But maybe for things that you know you won’t eat a lot of or finish it all before it goes bad (like a massive bag of spinach or carrots), maybe just a local supermarket. You will pay less and not feel bad about throwing out wasted food. My FAVORITE place, Sprouts. I could spend hours in Sprouts. I buy pretty much all of my produce and meat/fish/poultry there because I find it is cheaper than Ralph’s or Vons. However, when I’m low on coffee, oils, baking staples, I’ll go to Ralph’s because for some reason those tend to be cheaper there.

5. Buy in bulk. Preferably, buy in bulk when on SALE and freeze:), big money saver. But don’t forget the bulk bins! A favorite aisle of mine in my dear Sprouts is the bulk bin aisle, or aisles I should say seeing as they have several. Things like, popcorn, lentils, beans, rice, nuts/seeds, are cheaper per ounce when you buy in bulk rather than pre-packaged.

6. Make your own. Those keto-friendly snack bites that are $6 for an 8-oz package, guarantee you can make your own for the same price and double the amount. Yes, it may be a little extra work, but it’s cheaper and you know exactly what ingredients you are putting into your body. Other things to make on your own, chicken stock (just boil some chicken in water with a few bay leaves and an onion), tomato sauce, almond butter, popcorn, granola bars, just to name a few.

7. Meatless Mondays. This one is pretty simple, just sub out some beans or tofu for your meat/fish/poultry and it can save a few bucks.

8. Just say, No! When you’re in the check-out line and scanning the aisle for gum/snacks/Chapstick, just say no. Do you really need it? Those items in the check-out aisle are called impulse items. They are strategically placed there to get consumers to purchase additional things while waiting in line. In health food stores, these items tend to be especially highly priced. I’ve seen a little snack bag of Goldfish in that line for $2 and then I thought, “Wait a minute, I could just buy a whole box for $4!” Rip off.

9. Go with the store brand. I know there are certain things that you prefer are a certain brand, for example, if you’re getting peanut butter and you have ALWAYS gotten Jiffy, then by all means, get it. But for a lot of items, the store brand will do just fine. The one thing I recommend before buying a brand name produce vs. a store brand product is to look at the ingredients. If they are comparable, the store brand is going to save you money and more often than not, will taste the same. I always save a few bucks on my canned items like beans and tomatoes by choosing the store brand (no added salt, of course).

10. Organic only when necessary. It is a fact, organic food is more expensive than conventional, it is what it is. The whole organic vs. conventional debate is too much to get into at the moment. Personally, I don’t generally buy organic, but there are a few things that I will get organic from time to time. However, if you’re a person who is concerned about pesticides and the environment but don’t have the budget for buying organic everything, only buy when necessary. The Dirty Dozen is a good place to start (things that are recommended you buy organic). Here is the link if you're interested.

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