If you have healthy lifestyle resolutions and are sick of how expensive it seems to make your resolution a reality I’m right there with you. Whether the motivation for your lifestyle change is weight loss related or if it’s motivated by a desire to feel better and be healthier, the cost of eating healthy can seem daunting. Like why isn’t eating healthy affordable right?
I remember when I first started doing most of my grocery shopping at a Whole Foods Store. I learned just how expensive shopping for healthy food could be when you don’t do it strategically because I spent so much in the first few weeks and I started to rethink my choice of shopping there.
Their produce and meat selection was amazing, but the grocery bill was killing me and my husband started to give me the side eye. So I started shopping smarter to cut our food bill down.
So I decided to put together my favorite strategies for bringing down the cost of eating healthy to help you improve your health and keep your wallet from screaming Uncle.
Let’s get into the strategies:
#1 Enjoy non-meat protein sources
Meat is by far the most expensive item on any healthy eaters shopping list. It’s one of the best sources of protein out there and eating protein can help keep you fuller longer, which will help you immensely in your weight management efforts. But while meats like beef, fish, chicken, pork, lamb, and all the other animals we eat are fantastic sources of proteins there are other sources that will still make a difference towards your healthier lifestyle and weight loss goals while keeping most of your cash in your wallet.
Foods like eggs, beans, and lentils are great sources of protein and are not as expensive as the other sources I mentioned earlier. Beans and lentils are plant sources of protein that are also high in fiber and are non-perishable. The high fiber content of these plant-based proteins makes them fantastic for weight management because fiber slows down your digestion so that food stays in your stomach longer and you don’t eat as much overall. And the fact that they’re non-perishable means you can buy them in bulk.
Which brings me to my next strategy…
#2 Buy non-perishables in bulk when you can
Non-perishable foods like canned goods, canned proteins, beans, lentils, and nuts are fantastic foods to buy in bulk and save money where possible. I use this strategy for staples like olive and coconut oils, canned fish, canned tomatoes, beans, lentils, and nuts. To preserve freshness, I break down larger packages into smaller airtight containers to prevent them from going stale because I’m opening and closing them frequently and letting air in.
Another reason this strategy works is that most stores and markets charge you less for larger containers, and they sometimes run promotions on specific items that you can take advantage of.
#3 Be disciplined around specialty items
Fruits and vegetables are another potentially big-ticket item that can hit your food budget if you’re not careful. After a couple of weeks of really high food bills, I went back to my receipts to see if I could find what the culprit was. It didn’t take long to realize that I was getting a lot of specialty produce like sunchokes and honey tangerines. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting a bit, but I was getting three to four new fruits and vegetables on top of what I normally bought.
As soon as I spotted this, I decided to limit myself to one new thing per week. This way I didn’t feel pressure to eat it so as not to waste it, and I didn’t spend too much at the store up front. You can decide to do what I did and limit yourself to one additional item to try for two, but the bottom line is to be disciplined.
#4 Buy fruits and vegetables in season
Another way the fruit and vegetable portion of your food bill can rise astronomically is if you buy out of season produce. When they’re not in season, they’re more expensive because of the storage costs or the shipping costs involved in getting them from a part of the world where they’re currently in season.
Eating seasonal produce has the added benefit of having the most nutrition for your money, This is because the nutrients in your food deplete as storage time increases. So food is more nutritious closer to when it was harvested. Click the links to find out what’s in season in the USA, U.K., and Nigeria.
#5 Buy frozen fruits and vegetables when you can
Buying frozen is the next best thing to buying fruits and vegetables in season. Manufacturers usually freeze fruit and vegetables as soon as is practical after harvesting. This means that your nutrients are locked in. So you don’t have to worry about losing nutrients in transit like you would with the fruit and vegetables that are in the store.
Frozen fruit and vegetables have the added advantage of being cheaper than the fresh version. And you can store it in the freezer for a really long time, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage as much.
The only downside is that sometimes, the fresh fruits and vegetables really do taste better, so enjoy fresh from time to time.
#6 Buy local fruits and vegetables as much as you can
One other thing that can make food more expensive is if it was imported or if it had to travel far to get to you. And while you can’t always get local, but you can definitely try. Some stores help you out here by labeling local produce. This helps because you can then compare prices between the local version and the alternative.
It’s up to you to get versed on what’s available in your area if your stores don’t label local vs imported. But this strategy can really make a difference in making eating healthy affordable.
#7 Get your good carbohydrates from starchy vegetables
This strategy is tailored to my Nigerian peeps, but it can apply regardless of where you live. To make your diet as healthy as possible, you should be getting your carbohydrates from whole grains, starchy vegetables and from fruits and vegetables to a lesser extent. But if brown rice, quinoa, and other sources of whole grains are imported, that could raise your food bill significantly.
I used this strategy when I worked as an expat in Lagos. Because I couldn’t get brown rice at the hotel I was staying, I focused on getting my carbohydrates from:
- and peas and corn.
I ate whole wheat bread when I could get my hands on it. And I ate white rice and white bread on occasion. This strategy along with eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats helped me stay in shape while traveling and can help you too if you deal with similar challenges.
#8 Buy store brand and locally made packaged goods
This is one last strategy that help me stay on track with my food budget at home. Plus it helps me stay healthy without spending all my money on food while vacationing. Most times, the locally produced packaged foods are just as good as the name brand options. I mean things like:
- Good Morning Oats in Nigeria
- and 365 (Whole Foods) or Great Value (Walmart) in the USA
When using this strategy, read the nutrition labels to compare ingredients and nutrients – particularly saturated fat, fiber, and sugar. I do this to make sure I’m not losing out on any benefits (lower saturated fat, higher fiber, or lower sugar) that I may be getting from the name-brand version.
#9 Plan your meals
Planning your meals can be the difference maker for how much you spend at the store. Meal planning helps you make sure that you have the right amount of food to feed the mouths that you’re responsible for and no more. I remember when I used to go to the store with meal ideas and no consideration for the number of servings I needed, I ended up with more food than I needed.
These days, I start my meal planning by figuring out how many meals I need to prepare each week and how many people I’m feeding. This helps me make sure that I’m not over-buying ingredients and wasting food and money at the end of the week.
I’ve provided 9 of the many strategies that I use to keep my eating costs low while enjoying a healthy diet, a healthy wallet, and a healthy body. Your action is to select the ones that make sense for you and put them into action to help you eat healthier and enjoy the same benefits and more.
And if you’re feeling up to it, leave a comment and share the strategy that you’re going to try this week.
Photo via: Yegide Matthews