10 Ways to Eat Healthier Without Paying More

Healthy eating can cost you an extra $550 or more in annual food bills, according to one study. We’ve got 10 ways to help you spend less.

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.

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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?

  • New York Girl in Florida

    Really? Coupons for produce?! Where???????????

  • New York Girl in Florida

    Can anyone tell me where there are coupons for produce? I like to buy organic and never see coupons for organic produce or for ANY produce for that matter here in the Tampa Florida region.

    • Karen Jenkins

      Your best bet is downloadable store coupons from the individual stores. I get approximately six every week from Safeway. It seems like after you buy the item once you receive repeated offers for said items. This week I enjoyed an extra $1 a lb off on tomatoes. This includes organics

  • Georgia Wessling

    I wouldn’t eat tofu to save $420 a year. It is tasteless. I live alone and do not buy that much meat. When I do, it is usually at the meat counter where they label their “reduced” meats at $1-3 less a pound. I told the butcher when beef turns brown, they should charge more because it is then called “aged beef” and is very expensive. She said no one in our small town would believe her. I usually freeze it immediately and take a bunch out at once to thaw and put in the crockpot to cook. I also watch all the sales and buy fresh fruits and veggies on sale.

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