• Like any successful endeavor, having a smart plan is the first step. While these tips may seem simple, they're easier said than done, and this step is often overlooked.
• Make a list and stick to it. Avoid shopping while you're hungry--you're more likely to make unhealthy choices if the sound of your stomach growling is louder than that little voice inside your head telling you to walk away from the donuts section.
• Plan a week's worth of meals based on what items will be on sale at the grocery store that week.
• Purchase generic brands, which are usually cheaper than name brands.
• Compare unit prices of healthy ingredients--often you can buy items in bulk for a cheaper price.
• Clip coupons for healthy items or print them online, but avoid purchasing junk food simply because you have a coupon for it.
• For produce that lasts longer (potatoes, apples, oranges) buy the bagged form rather than several individual pieces. Bagged apples are cheap, delicious, have a long shelf life and can be used in a variety of recipes.
• Avoid pre-cut fruits and vegetables, which generally cost twice that of their whole counterparts. Items like carrots and apples don't take much time to wash and chop, but if this step is already done for you, it's going to cost you more money.
• Embrace canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. These forms are just as nutritious, if not more so, than their fresh counterparts because they're picked and frozen or canned at their peak freshness, locking in beneficial nutrients. Plus, they're usually much more affordable than fresh produce. However, if you shop at local farmers' markets, you can get reasonably priced fresh produce that is full of nutrients because it was likely picked that day.
• Choose lean proteins that are always cheap. Sure, salmon fillets and boneless, skinless chicken breasts are excellent sources of lean protein, but they're not always budget-friendly. Instead, incorporate cheaper lean proteins, including canned salmon and tuna, or dried or canned beans, peas, or lentils.
Preparing Healthy, Affordable Meals
• Try to utilize staple ingredients over several meals. Items like brown rice and whole-grain pastas are inexpensive and can be cooked in large batches and then used in several meals. Cook up a pot of whole-wheat pasta and use some for spaghetti for dinner, some for a cold pasta salad (with lots of veggies, of course!) the next day, or toss some into a vegetable soup.
• Chop up fruits and vegetables, place them in individual baggies, and store them in the front part of your fridge. Having these healthy snacks easily available will ensure your snacks are nutritious and help you cut food waste from produce that isn't used and has to be thrown out when it goes bad.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed 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.