Before I understood what healthy eating looked like, I spent a lot of money on foods in packages with a long shelf life. But they were low in fat and calories! Understanding that healthy, clean eating is about eating real, whole food has given me more energy, focus, and helped me to manage my weight.
Healthy eating is a long-term investment in your health, and a good one- but some people worry about the price tag. Chips, cookies, or lattes here and there add up and are not often considered in our weekly grocery budgets. As you start to eat cleaner and healthier, you will notice that your overall food spending is actually decreasing.
Try one or two tips this week and explore more as you become a savvier, healthier shopper.
1) Buy produce in-season
You likely notice that prices fluctuate with the seasons, so adjust your diet accordingly. The prices in stores reflect the seasons helping us to make smarter choices about where to invest. As a bonus, local, seasonal produce is picked at peak ripeness (since they don’t have to travel far and ripen on the road) meaning they are most nutrient-dense and delicious!
2) Plan your meals
Create a calendar for the meals you will eat throughout the week. This will also double as your shopping list. Planning will also help you reduce food waste since you will know how much of each item you need before you buy and will ensure you are buying and eating just what you need.
3) Freeze leftovers
Make meals in larger batches. Don’t like to eat the same thing every day? Then freeze a few extra meals in small containers so you can thaw for a new meal next week!
Stock up on what’s in season while the prices are low, and freeze fruits for winter smoothies or desserts, or veggies for stews and sides in their off-season. Berries and peeled fruit are great for freezing, as are most vegetables like carrots and broccoli.
How to: Simply blanch the vegetables in boiling water. Remove to cool completely in ice water. Freeze vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet for a few hours, then pack tightly in a freezer bag for up to a year.
4) Grow your own!
Even if you don’t have time to build a complete garden, planting some herbs in your kitchen- like basil, parsley or cilantro, or tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in containers on your porch can be a great way to have an ongoing supply of fresh, organic ingredients! Many local farmers markets sell seedlings or herbs to get you started. The local farmers are also great at answering questions and offering growing tips.
5) Stick to your shopping list
Do not be tempted by sales that might lead you to buy something you don’t actually need. However, look for possible substitutes for what’s on your list: if peaches are on sale this week, go for those instead of your bag of apples. If you buy both when you didn’t plan for both, you might end up throwing extras away.
6) Shop frequently
Instead of buying all of your produce for the next week or two, shop for fresh ingredients a few times a week. This can prevent foods from going bad if they are in your fridge too long. Stock up on dry goods once a month (quinoa, oats, oils, etc.) and buy fresh fruits, veggies, and meats every few days.
7) Learn to Cook
Eating out often can really add up. Work lunches can easily run $7-$12 a day when you’re not making your own. Dinner out adds up to even more- not to mention the added salt, sugar, and fat that goes into these meals. When cooking at home you’re less likely to add too much of these ingredients, and you can save money by making lunch options in larger batches to grab quick, healthy meals.
8) Buy in Bulk
Head to the bulk section of your grocery store to buy just the quantities you need of the items you want. There you help to reduce waste, and you don’t have to pay for the packaging.
Packaged granola bars and sugary cereals cost a lot per serving. Oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit- when combined yourself into a breakfast dish or snack bar- can be quite inexpensive- especially when you make a large batch. The bulk section is a great place to experiment with do-it-yourself options.
10) Finish it!
According to USDA, nearly 40% of the American food supply is wasted each year. Maximize your budget by limiting food waste. Try any of the nine tips above to limit the environmental impact of food waste while saving money and getting healthy!
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