often been said that eating healthy is too expensive. This is simply not true.
With a few strategies, you can save money while also avoiding extra pounds.
Frozen fruits & veggies
produce is an excellent, affordable way to adhere to the new MyPlate, which
emphasizes a plate that is half-full of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and
veggies are frozen during the peak of their ripeness--almost immediately after
they are harvested--locking in vital nutrients and flavor. Frozen produce is
cheap (often as low as $1 per bag) and very convenient. Steam veggies in the
microwave or add frozen fruit to smoothies or cereal.
Look for weekly specials & coupons
Plan a week's worth of meals and shop for ingredients based on what foods are marked down at your local grocery store that week. Also, clip coupons from newspapers or print them directly off of the Internet.
Shop at farmers' markets
Not only will you
find a wide variety of locally-grown fruits, vegetables and grain foods, you
may also find local meats, dairy products, and eggs. Foods at farmers' markets
are often cheaper, less processed, more flavorful, and
environmentally-friendly. You could also check if there is a community-supported
agriculture (CSA) near you--these programs allow you to receive a weekly
portion of a local farm's fresh fruits and vegetables.
Plant a garden
If you have the time
and space, try your hand at gardening. The start-up cost is minimal and can easily
be offset with the amount of produce you'll get after your first harvest. Many
cities now have community gardens, where you can use the space for free.
Buy in bulk
Shop the bulk food section and save money on staple foods that you use often and have a long shelf-life, including pasta, grains, flour, nuts, and dried fruit. You can choose the exact amount you'll need (less waste = more money in your pocket) and the unit price is usually cheaper because there is less packaging.
Not only are beans
extremely wallet-friendly, they are also a nutrient powerhouse. Beans are a
delicious, meatless source of protein with one cup packing as much as 16 grams
of hunger-fighting protein. They're also loaded with fiber, iron, folate,
calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Both dried and canned beans are extremely
economical and surprisingly versatile. Dried beans are the cheapest but do
require a little more time and preparation since they have to be soaked
overnight. Canned beans work well for people who are strapped for time or value
usually cost more, and store-brand/generic foods are essentially identical to
their pricier name-brand counterparts.
Buy less meat
Meat can be costly
and high in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Aim to make
meat more of a "flavor-enhancer" in your dishes, and make seasonal fruits and
vegetables the stars of your plate. You can still enjoy small portions meat,
but opt for lean cuts and cook them with little/no added fat to keep your
waistline trim and your wallet fat.
Also keep in mind some basic tips. Make a grocery list and stick to it. Never shop hungry. Consume a variety of foods in proper portions. Eat more slowly and stop when you're full. These tips, unlike the fluctuating economy, never falter.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.