10 Ways to Eat Healthier Without Paying More

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If you resolved to eat healthier in 2015, you’ve probably noticed it’s not just your waistline that’s getting thinner. Your wallet may be lighter, too.

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, it could cost you an extra $550 per year or more to eat healthy. However, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to living off Cheetos and Mountain Dew.

Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson talked to a fitness expert to find out how you can save at the grocery store when you are trying to eat healthy. Watch the video, and then keep reading for 10 ways to eat better for less.

1. Buy in season

Produce is one product category prone to massive markups. One way to avoid paying exorbitant prices is by buying in season. For example, that may mean berries in the early summer, followed by beans, corn and then squash in the fall. However, you can find specific information for your area by doing an Internet search for your state plus the words “seasonal produce.”

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2. Shop with a list

Before heading to the store with only a few vague ideas of what you need, take the time to create a menu plan and a shopping list. Having a plan can help you avoid impulse purchases that may be fattening as well as costly. A list can also help you avoid throwing your money in the trash when you end up with extra food that spoils. And that brings us to strategy No. 3.

3. Buy only what you’ll use

According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of American food goes to waste, and that means you might be throwing money away. Using a menu plan and a list is a good way to ensure you are only buying food you’ll use.

However, you can also save money by trying before you buy. Rather than spending a lot on a new product, try the smallest size first to make sure you like the item before buying more.

4. Do your own prep work

Precut fruits and veggies are convenient, but they cost more. If you’re trying to stretch a meager grocery budget, do all of your own prep work. If you’re short on time during the week, consider setting aside an hour on the weekend to do all the chopping and peeling at once for a week’s worth of meals. Learn how to properly store them so they don’t discolor or spoil.

5. Skip processed snacks

You might be craving a bag of chips and a soda pop, but you’ll be better off with a hard-boiled egg and some water. Processed foods are often loaded with simple carbs that can send your energy spiraling downward while leaving you hungry for more. Instead, look for high-protein snacks that will fill you up longer without the nasty side effects that come from sugar overload.

6. Buddy up to your store managers

Meats and produce often get marked down at least once a week. Ask your local department managers about markdown schedules so you can be there at the right time to get first dibs on the offerings. When you find a good deal on lean meat, don’t be afraid to stock up and put the extras in the freezer for future meals.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Cheryl

    Growing your own food is not “free.” If you truly want to grow food worth eating, you will purchase only non-GMO seeds, good rich soil, compost, and mulch to help cut down on water consumption. Even with strict conservation efforts, and using recycled newspaper, etc for mulch, it can still be a considerable outlay. Then there’s the extra money for pain relief – digging, bending, lifting – hurts.

  • Erin Callaway

    Cheryl is absolutely correct: growing your own food does not come free. Planning a garden, preparing your growing space, knowing how much to grow and how to grow it, and then getting all the stuff you need to put up your food after harvest costs a significant amount of money — whether you choose non-GMO/organic or not. I’m not saying don’t do it — but you are misleading people by suggesting they can expect to cut their food budget by growing their own. It is very easy to sink several hundred dollars into even a small garden.

  • Hally-Joe Zak

    Spending even an extra $550 is a bargain compared to paying thousands of dollars in medical bills for surgery and medication. Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food.

  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    Cheryl and Erin beat me to it… growing your own may be cheaper than supermarket prices, but it far from free… you have to buy the seeds and or seedlings, you have to buy fertilizer, you have to have proper soil (which you may be lucky enough to have without having to buy soil), and you need to invest a lot of time (which if you have the time to spare, I guess isn’t much of a sacrifice, but if you don’t have the time to spare, you just wasted a lot of money to watch plants die).
    Personally, I prefer growing my own food when possible, I have a lot of garden space and during the summer never have to buy tomatoes, strawberries, or apples, and am looking into expanding into more next year (I just moved into my current house last summer and didn’t have time for a full garden). I will say though, it’s not for everyone.

    • ModernMode

      Also be prepared to lose part of your crop to wildlife…squirrels, raccoons, possums, birds.

  • rockamama

    Although helpful, following the (no-brainer) tips in this article will not save you 50% on your grocery bill.

  • Terry

    I just received three cases of tomatoes for free and spent several days making home made salsa out of them. I now have enough salsa to last my family and friends for a year. I pick up produce when on sale and blanch it and freeze it for a later date or can it.

  • Dale

    The freezer is your friend – not just your freezer but their’s (stores) as well. I buy as many bags (or as large a bag) as I can easily store at home when they’re on sale and I have coupons for. I also buy frozen fish from Trader Joe’s – good stuff. As to fresh produce, I like seasonal but when I want those berries in the winter I go to my freezer. Mark downs on produce are a good source of cheap(er) fresh produce. I buy the ‘uglies’ that others will pass up because they’re usually sweeter and have more flavor. I preserve by the pint (just myself to cook for and maybe a few special occasions) so buying up the uglies saves me a lot and can turn into things like banana bread, pineapple coconut cake, fruit pancakes or waffles etc. That last is particularly effective at using up those on-their-last-legs fruits and veggies. I tend to buy dried peas and beans from big box stores like Walmart and buy their generic Great Value brand. With cheap “seasoning meats” like ham hocks, smoked turkey legs or smoked pork chops they make great soups and whole bean (or pea) meals. I also always have fresh potatoes and onions as they not only boost other meals but they are great vegetable sides or main dishes – baked onion anyone?