How to eat healthy without breaking the bank

By now, everyone knows that eating healthier foods is better for you than eating junk food.  What people are just starting to realize is how expensive eating healthier can be.  Nutritional guidelines for the U.S. have recently been updated to include recommendations for even more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and Vitamin D.  But scientists reported in the Health Affairs journal last week that following these recommendations could result in your grocery bill being close to $400 more each year.  So how do you have a healthier diet without taking a trip to the poorhouse in the process?  Read on for some handy tips on eating healthy for less.

  • Pick nutritional overachievers.  For instance, bananas are not just an excellent source of potassium–they’re also high in dietary fiber.  That’s two benefits for the price of one!  Beans do double-duty, too, as they’re a good source of dietary fiber and often contain lots of calcium, too.
  • The freezer is your friend.  Fresh produce can spoil easily.  Don’t buy more than you and your family can eat before it goes bad.  If you like to stock up on food, buy frozen fruits and veggies that will keep for longer.  If you do buy fresh produce and know you can’t eat it all, package it up and freeze it right away, making sure to label it with the date.
  • If you’re buying fresh produce, check into whether you have a farmer’s market or produce stand nearby–often, fruits and veggies from these types of places are cheaper.
  • Consider buying in bulk.  Often, buying in bulk can be cheaper than buying individual items.  Choose healthy items with a long shelf life, like bottled water, oatmeal, canned beans, peanut or almond butter, etc.  Many warehouse markets that sell food in bulk charge a membership fee, but if you buy nonperishable staples there often, the membership will pay for itself in savings.
  • Go generic.  Why buy brand-name foods when your local grocery store makes the same food, but under their store brand?  Store brands are often cheaper than the bigger brand names, and product quality is generally about the same.
  • Get carded.  If you don’t have a savings or loyalty card for your local grocery store, go to the store’s customer service counter and sign up for one.  These cards are generally free, and swiping them each time you’re at the register can result in savings.
  • Cut it out.  Scour your grocery store’s circular for coupons.  If your favorite grocery store doesn’t have a circular, go online and see if they have coupons on their website that you can download and/or print out.
  • “Like” stuff.  Consider “liking” the Facebook pages of your favorite food brands and/or grocery stores.  Often, companies offer exclusive coupons or savings to people who “like” them on Facebook.
  • Get growing.  Consider creating a vegetable garden for your backyard.  No backyard?  You could try growing herbs in little pots.  Seeds are inexpensive to buy, and maintaining a garden and/or potted herbs can be a fun family activity.

Now there’s no excuse for eating inexpensive and nutritionally bankrupt foods from your local fast food joint–as you can see, there are many ways to eat well while cutting costs.  Your health will thank you–and so will your piggy bank!

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