You’ve decided to eat healthy and make healthier food choices, but you’ve also now discovered that while choosing natural and wholesome foods is a wise lifestyle choice, it can prove to be very expensive. Well, the good news is that healthy eating doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg if you plan ahead. Here are a few suggestions to help you save money when shopping for your healthy groceries.
Before you head out to the store, remember that the companies that manufacture, package and display your food understand marketing very well. They have recently realized that you are now shopping for foods that are “gluten-free”, or “organic” or the latest and greatest “superfood”. Thanks to your ongoing effort to follow a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, many of these foods that are marketed as “healthy” choices, are not any healthier than the products next to them. Some are actually very “unhealthy” choices. Take the time to educate yourself, learn to read labels and make an effort to understand the listed ingredients. For example, there are OVER 60 different names for the sugar, all hidden in your food, and some even sound healthy. So, when you see those “healthy”, ” gluten-free” or “fat-free cookies”, watch closely because they may contain many of these hidden sugars and are probably not the healthiest choice.
Here are 7 suggestions that may help you make wiser choices and save some money while shopping:
- Never shop for groceries on an empty stomach. We’ve all done it, but you will buy more than you intended and you will buy foods that you crave or foods that you have purchased in the past out of habit. Shopping hungry will result in poor food choices.
- Make a list and follow it. Don’t let yourself be distracted by those unhealthy store specials in the brightly colored packages on the shelves at the end of the aisles. They are most often cookies, crackers, chips – sweet, sour or salty and other unhealthy junk foods.
- Use coupons. While harder to find, there are store coupons for healthy foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, organic products, spices, fresh eggs (free-range, grass-fed or cage-free), and lean proteins or your favorite milk substitutes like soy and almond. If you find something on sale that keeps well like spices or dried beans, stock up. Use your coupons while compiling your shopping list.
- Don’t forget your calculator and glasses. Grocery stores intentionally price products in ways that are intended to confuse you. Which is the better deal, 2 for $3 or 3 for $5? A calculator can also help you determine if the larger size of a product is actually a better deal – sometimes, it is not. And your glasses? Yes! if your sight is not that great, then arm yourself with a pair. While your food is required to be labeled with a list of ingredients and nutrition information, often the font sizes are too small to read. Possibly so that you can’t see clearly that the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup or some similar unhealthy or artificial ingredient.
- Learn the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen”. These useful lists are available online and identify which foods have the highest and lowest pesticide and chemical residues. Knowing which is which will allow you to make the best and healthiest choices in organic versus commercial, non-organic fruits and vegetables. Apples and peaches for example, are considered “dirty” and you should always look for organic options while commercial avocados and grapefruits have thicker skins and are said to be “clean” or contain little or no chemical residues and are generally safe.
- Eat by season. Availability of some of the healthiest choices including fruits, berries and your favorite vegetables vary by season. Take advantage of larger seasonal supplies and lower cost. You can also avoid paying premium prices for out of season fruits, berries and vegetables if you buy them frozen, make sure that the package contains only that ingredient and no others, frozen strawberries should have only one ingredient –
- Shop local. Find your local Farmer’s Market and buy locally grown fruits and vegetables and eggs if they are available. You will be buying your fresh and sustainable foods directly from the farmers who grow the crops and raise the chickens at lower costs, without the middleman.
Finally, do not forget that you can save a lot or money and get fresh organic produce (lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, beets, carrots, cucumber, basil, peas, radishes, spinach, and other leafy greens) by growing your own vegetables and herbs. Depending on your climate, you may be able to grow your own produce all year round. Even if you live in a colder region, you can still plant in the summer months or use small containers in your balconies if you have no space to plant.
Do you have any other tips to save money on healthy food items or to plan meals on a budget? Please use the comment section below to share.