10 Ways to Eat Better for Less

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If you resolved to eat healthier in 2014, 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.”

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

Pre-cut 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.

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 protein. If meatless options don’t sound appealing, look for casserole or salad recipes in which meat takes a supporting, rather than a starring, role.

8. Eat less in general

Another way to save money is to simply eat less, period. As evidenced by many of our waistlines, we seem to have a portion control problem in our country. However, think twice before quickly dropping your family from 10-ounce servings of meat to the 2- to 3-ounce serving size suggested by the American Heart Association. Making such a drastic change could lead to a mutiny in your house. Instead, slowly back off on portion sizes.

You could also start serving a broth-based soup at the beginning of meals, a tactic proven to reduce the amount of food people eat during the main course.

9. Use coupons

You may be thinking coupons are only for highly processed food, but there are a surprisingly large number of coupons available for healthy foods including produce. For example, regional grocery chain Meijer often has dozens of produce coupons available through mPerks, its mobile coupon app.

10. Grow your own food

Finally, you can’t beat free. For the price of seeds or seedlings, you can have a summer full of fresh produce at your fingertips. If your thumb isn’t green or if green space is in short supply around your house, try planting some fresh herbs in small windowsill containers. Herbs are often an integral part of healthy recipes, but supermarket prices can add up in a hurry.

How do you save money while eating healthy? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • 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.