Affordable healthy food? What's that? It's one of the most common reasons people use for buying unhealthy foods over more nutritious options: the healthy foods are too expensive! Keeping the grocery budget reasonable while stocking up on healthy food might seem impossible, but it's actually much easier than you think if you employ just a few smart strategies.
First, let's look at the facts: Contrary to popular belief, healthy food often costs less than unhealthy options, according to a USDA study. The research compared the prices of different foods using three different price metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), and the price of an average portion ($/average portion). With the exception of the price of food energy, the study found healthy foods cost less than unhealthy options, probably because junky foods are often high in calories!
While intriguing, it can be difficult to see reality when at the grocery store and a bag of apples costs more than two bags of chips. To eat healthier and keep your grocery bill down, though, consider these strategies that I use when shopping for my family:
1. Stock up on grains Whole grains are cheap, filling and wonderfully healthy. Make them a part of every meal. Lean on oatmeal for breakfast and incorporate whole-grain rice and pasta into other meals.
2. Buy meats in bulk and freeze them Meat, poultry and fish are some of the most expensive of the healthy foods. I buy in bulk or stock up when they're on sale. Then I divide and freeze them, which allows me to preserve meats for months.
3. Look for protein alternatives You don't always need meat to complete a meal. Buy low-cost protein alternatives like beans and eggs and get creative with cooking. Adopt meatless Monday in the new year!
4. Shop local Buy fruit and vegetables from local fruit stands or famer's markets. Not only are you supporting local farms, but you are likely getting more for your money and real, organic health food.
Buying in bulk can sometimes seem more costly up front but will save you a lot of money in the long run; less shopping trips, less last minute temptations at the store, and less gas in the car! These tips may seem obvious but will help you save a lot of time and money when shopping for healthy food.