A healthful diet need not be expensive
As a registered dietitian, one of the main complaints I've heard from clients of all social classes has been “eating healthy is just so expensive.” Much to my frustration, it can seem very expensive to the average consumer when walking through the organic section at the grocery store. But the good news is, healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some tips to help battle food costs and still eat a healthful diet.
Eat at home. Eating out is very expensive in comparison to the large amount of food you can make at home for one quarter of the price. Aim to eat at home at least four days of the week. Pack your lunches for work. I like to pack mine the night before, so the morning runs smoothly.
Master the art of meal prepping. When you have a plan and have foods already prepared, you’re less likely to spend on foods you don’t need or eat out at restaurants. Take a few hours Sunday evening to plan your meals and snacks for the week, gather groceries and prepare a few meals ahead of time. Divide your meals into single-serving containers for convenience. Freeze one single serving of leftovers each time you make a dish. By doing this, you will be stocking your freezer with readily available meals when there is a Sunday that you are too busy to meal prep.
Stick to your grocery list. We’ve all done it — we visit the store and see a box of fresh baked cookies that we don’t need, but they Smell. So. Good. When you plan your trip to the grocery store, make a list of everything you will need and stick to it. Eat a snack before visiting so you don’t make decisions based on hunger. Cut out grocery items you don’t need (sodas, chips, cookies, etc.). You will be surprised how much money you save.
Eat less meat. Studies have shown that Americans eat entirely too much protein every day. Did you know that a serving of meat is merely the size of a deck of cards? And that a large percentage of your protein needs can be met with plant foods? Cut back on the amount of meat you’re consuming, and your grocery bill will decrease significantly. Meat can be a pricey addition to groceries. Substitute some of the meat in your diet with beans, nuts and seeds. Beans are very inexpensive, loaded with protein and fiber, and are very versatile.
Stock up on inexpensive staples. There are many reasonably priced healthy basics at the grocery store. Consider these choices: beans, lentils, oats, yogurt, milk, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, popcorn (not from the bag), corn, bananas, kiwi, apples, pears, oranges, canned tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, broccoli and spinach, to name a few. Base your meals around inexpensive, healthy staples, and use your more expensive items in smaller amounts.
Focus on homemade. Boxed dinners and pre-prepared meals can often contain entirely too much sodium and are highly processed. They also tend to be more expensive than their homemade counterparts. Try to choose homemade options when possible. It may take a little longer to prepare, but your body and your bank account will thank you.
Buy seasonal. There is a reason why bananas are always so reasonable – they are in season year-round! Produce prices will fluctuate depending on the season, and that’s because fruits and vegetables are more readily available when they are in season. Do your research on seasonal vegetables and embrace every season and the foods that accompany them.
Other ways to cut your costs on healthy foods include couponing, using rebate apps (Ibotta, Checkout 51), and shopping for items on sale. The key is to find what works for you. You may find that even just one of these small changes can significantly change your health and food costs.
Abigail Scallan is an assistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.