If you resolved to eat healthier foods in 2016, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not just your waistline that’s getting thinner. Your wallet may be lighter, too.
According to a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal, it could cost you an extra $550 per year or more to eat healthily.
However, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to living on Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Following are 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.
That may mean berries in the early summer, followed by beans, corn and 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.”
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.
3. Buy only what you will use
According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of American food goes to waste. 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.
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.
4. Do your own prep work
Precut fruits and vegetables 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 produce so that it doesn’t discolor or spoil.
5. Skip processed snacks
You might crave 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 the managers of these grocery store departments 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.
7. Eat less meat
Speaking of meat, it’s often the most expensive part of the meal. The magazine Eating Well estimates you could save $210 annually by replacing a pound of sirloin with a block of tofu once a week for the year.
Of course, you could save even more by using beans as your source of protein. If meatless options don’t sound appealing, look for casserole or salad recipes in which meat takes a supporting role, rather than a starring one.
8. Eat less in general
Another way to save money is to simply eat less, period. American waistlines indicate we have a portion-control problem in our country.
Suddenly dropping your family from 10-ounce servings of meat to the 2- to 3-ounce serving size suggested by the American Heart Association could lead to mutiny in your house. So, slowly back off on portion sizes.
You can also start serving a broth-based soup at the beginning of meals. One study found this tactic will reduce the amount of food people eat during the main course.