Eating healthy can be expensive. In fact, a compilation of 27 studies from 10 countries discovered that food for a healthier diet costs a person about $1.50 more per day on average.
Eat Healthy For Cheap
I’m passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and about saving money. Here are my tips to do both.
Keep your pantry stocked with the basics: spices, oil and vinegar, canned fruits and vegetables, canned tuna and seafood, coffee, tea, pasta, lentils, beans, rice, nuts, seeds and the items your family normally eats. Buy these items when they are on sale, and buy in bulk.
It helps to keep track of what you have on hand so you don’t overbuy. Make sure you go through your pantry when making your grocery list and add to the list only those items you actually need.
Tip: Keep a list of items pinned on the pantry door. Check items off and add items as you use and buy groceries.
Make Coffee and Tea at Home
Are you aware of how much your regular stop through the coffee drive-thru is costing you? Let’s say your typical coffee order is about $3. If you make this purchase five days a week, you’re spending $15 per week on coffee alone. That adds up to $780 a year!
Instead, make your coffee or tea at home. It is cost-effective to invest in a coffee or latte maker because it will save a lot of money over time. You can also buy coffee and tea in bulk to save even more.
Also, beverages you make at home will allow you to control what you are putting in them. You can eliminate products that may be loaded with fat, sugar, sodium or other unhealthy ingredients.
Skip the Soda, Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks
Not only is soda expensive, it is extremely unhealthy. Consider replacing soda with water.
You can spice up your water with lemon or lime wedges. Same with sports drinks. Most are not healthy and full of sugar and other additives. Energy drinks are notoriously unhealthy and even dangerous. Avoid them altogether.
Buy Organic Foods on Sale
Organic produce and meat may be a bit more expensive, but the health benefits are worth it.
If possible, grow your own fruits and vegetables. You don’t need a large garden to grow fresh produce: Just a large flower bed can work. You can also grow fruits and vegetables in a container on your porch or patio. Or try starting a small herb garden. (This can even be done inside!)
I like to shop at local farmer’s markets. I find that organic food costs less money at a farmer’s market compared to a grocery store. If you don’t live near a farmer’s market, grocery stores do have sales on organic food (watch the weekly ads).
Eat Less Meat
You might also consider eating less meat. Think about replacing several meat meals a week with alternatives such as beans, lentils, jack fruit or mushrooms.
Meat is not necessarily unhealthy; just be very choosy when purchasing it. Choose lean cuts of meat, and consider chicken and turkey more often than red meat.
Make a Grocery List
Remember that list you were keeping on your pantry door? Use it to make your grocery list. And then stick to your shopping list when you get to the store.
And never go to the grocery store hungry. If you do, you’ll be more tempted to buy impulse items and make unhealthy food choices.
Use Coupons and Discounts
Watch the weekly newspaper and store flyers for coupons and sales. You can also contact manufacturers through their websites and ask for coupons for products you use often. Some grocery stores even offer double coupons on certain days of the week.
See if the grocery stores where you shop often have any kind of discount or loyalty programs. There are often “discount days” for seniors and/or veterans. Also, shop online for some items and compare prices. Sometimes you can find groceries for less online and get free delivery.
Shop Sale Items
Check the sales at the supermarket. Produce is marked down often. Use your store’s weekly ads and wait to buy the items you use often when they go on sale. Stock up, but make sure you can actually use the items before they expire.
Try a Generic or Store Brand
Don’t be afraid to buy generic or store-brand items. Most of the time these are just as good as name brands. If you hate it, you never have to buy it again!
Use What You Purchase
The United States is the global leader in food waste. The average family throws away $1,600 of produce every year.
Many people throw away food when it hits its expiration date. If you’re not going to use that item before the expiration date, consider freezing it. You may be surprised at what types of food can be frozen. Some foods must be cooked before freezing and some can be frozen as they are.
Stock the Freezer
Grocery stores and local markets regularly have meat and dairy items on sale. Buy and freeze these items when they go on sale. Many fruits and vegetables can also be frozen. So can breads, dairy products and other foods.
Prepare Meals for the Week
Spend one day each week preparing meals for the rest of the week. This really can help you save both time and money.
If you have your meals planned and prepped for the week, you’re less likely to order take-out or fast food. And you’ll probably end up spending less time in the kitchen.
Avoid Convenience Items
Try to avoid buying convenience items. Many staple foods such as cheese, meats, fruits and vegetables and other items cost more if you buy them already cut or shredded. Instead, buy a block of cheese and grate it or slice it yourself. Cut your own fruits and vegetables.
Instead of buying skinless boneless chicken breasts buy the whole chicken and section it at home.
Freeze and Cook in Bulk
This is one of my personal favorites: Cook in bulk and freeze your leftovers. It saves a lot of time and reduces food waste.
If I make stew, chili, or a casserole, I make enough for several meals and then freeze them. You can also pack them for your work lunch or kids’ school lunches.
I like to cut my ground meat portions in half and use vegetables, beans, rice, mushrooms and other items to replace half of the meat. This saves money since you are buying less meat and it’s also a healthy way to reduce the amount of meat in your diet.
Brown-Bag Instead of Buying
Pack your kid’s lunch as opposed to buying the school lunch. Most school lunches are highly processed and not the healthiest choice — and they can be expensive.
If there are certain days of the week your child would like to buy lunch at school, you’ll still save by having him brown-bag it on other days.
You might consider a savings jar or savings account: Teach your kids that they can save their school lunch money for something else they want. That will give them an incentive to pack instead of buying and also teach them the value of saving.
And when you are cooking, get the kids involved. They’ll be more inclined to eat healthy foods if they are part of the preparation process. And you’ll be teaching them a valuable life skill!
Pack your own lunch for work. Going out to lunch can cost $5-10 a day or even more. Multiply that by the week and then by the year, and the cost can be shocking.
Imagine instead saving all of that money in your savings or investment account. And you will also save in the long run on your health care costs. Take-out and fast food are almost always full of fat, sugar and salt and sometimes offer little nutritional value.
Make Healthy Snacks Easily Accessible
Have healthy snacks prepared and ready to go. If you don’t buy chips and soda for your kids, they will not have access to it, at least at home. Get them in the habit of eating healthy when they are young, and that will become their norm.
Cut up fruits and vegetables, make healthy dips for them. Other healthy snack ideas: applesauce, cottage cheese, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, sliced cheese and raisins.
Try a Homemade Pizza Night
Almost everyone likes pizza, but take-out pizza is expensive and if you add in the tip and delivery charge, the cost can really add up. Instead, make your own pizza at home. (I do this weekly!)
Pizza crust can be so easy to make. I use whole grain or sprouted flour, olive or coconut oil, water, yeast and spices. Then top with your favorite vegetables. Get creative: You can experiment with different healthy pizza sauces and use a variety of toppings.
As you can see there are many ways you can eat healthy while not spending a lot of money — and in many cases, you can even save money.