Thought you didn’t have room in your budget for healthy foods? Think again! Follow these nine easy tips to shop and eat healthy without breaking the bank.
1. Plan ahead: Plan your meals at least a week ahead of time, so you can easily create a detailed shopping list. With a plan in mind, you’ll be more likely to stick to the list without adding unnecessary or unhealthy items to your cart. (Bonus tip: Add staple foods such as pasta, beans, sauce and canned foods to your Set & Save order – you’ll save money and never run out!)
2. Fresh or frozen: Fruits and vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet. To make the most of your food budget, only buy fresh fruits and veggies that are in season and rely on frozen varieties for items out of season. If you want to buy organic, stick to the “dirtiest” fruits and veggies, which include celery, peaches, apples, berries, bell peppers, spinach/kale, potatoes and grapes.
3. Dry beans, rice and pasta: Dried beans and whole grain products are an economical way to add protein, fiber and flavor to your meals. These items can typically be found in bulk and have a long shelf life, making it easy to stock up when they’re on sale.
4. Read labels: Look for products with no added sweeteners, low or no sodium and load up on healthier staples, such as low-fat meats and dairy.
5. Look for value: Look for ways to save on healthy items by taking advantage of sales and buying generic store-brand items. (Bonus tip: For non-perishable items, skip the specialty grocery store altogether – Vitacost.com has thousands of healthy foods up to 50% off retail!)
6. Pack your lunch: Say goodbye to the drive-thru. Pack your own healthy lunch, with a balanced combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates. One delicious option is a fresh salad with veggies and lean meat (chicken, tuna or salmon), drizzled with oil and vinegar. If you’re not a salad fanatic, you can enjoy the same items wrapped in a wheat tortilla or between two slices of hearty whole-grain bread.
7. Make your own snacks: A dollar here, 50 cents there – those quick trips to the vending machine can add up over time. Avoid the 3 o’clock crash by bringing your own pre-portioned snacks, such as almonds, baby carrots, yogurt or an apple.
8. Cook in bulk: Utilize your oven or slow cooker to make large portions, which you can divvy up to use in lunches or freeze for later. Pack these meals with plenty of veggies, beans and whole grains that will fill you up without emptying your wallet.
9. Get creative: There’s no need to follow every recipe as it’s written. Make your own (healthy) substitutions and use leftovers or whatever ingredients you have in the house. Don’t be afraid to get creative; you might invent a new favorite meal!