6 Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget

A Whole Foods dietitian shares smart hacks for slashing your grocery bill.

March 1, 2017
cutting into money
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You want to eat better, but you’re worried about what it’ll do to your wallet.

So just how much does a healthy diet cost, anyway?

Good news: The answer may be “not that much.” Eating more healthfully costs about $1.50 more per day per person compared with less nutritious food habits, according to a 2013 Harvard study. As background, the scientists compared a diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish against one based on processed foods, processed meats, and refined grains.

That said, while $1.50 per day is not much if you have a little extra cash in your pocket, the difference over the course of a year adds up to $550 per person, which can be a burden to many people—especially if you multiply that cost by a few family members.

Lindsey Kane, M.S., R.D.N., is a San Francisco-based dietitian who logged some time as a healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market—one of the priciest stores around. Her guidance will help you eat well and save money at any supermarket.

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Pick Plants

Plant-based proteins—think peanut butter, beans, tofu—cost less than meat does. Try occasionally swapping them in for pricier proteins as the main focus of a meal. Never tried tofu? Here’s the best way to cook it.

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Bulk Up

The bulk bins at any supermarket are savings central. First of all, you’re not paying for fancy packaging. Secondly, you can buy exactly how much you need. Precise buying leads to minimal waste, which equals lower bills. Why spend cash on an extra ½ cup of walnuts that you’ll find a year later growing funk in the back of your pantry?

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Choose Frozen Over Fresh

Fruits and vegetables on ice are not only just as nutritious as fresh produce, they also stay edible much longer. Bonus: Because they’re often blanched before freezing, they require less cooking time than their fresh cousins. Use this recipe for fried rice with frozen vegetables.

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Seek Out Store Brands

They’re almost always cheaper than name brands, and they may fare better than you’d expect, taste-wise. Almost three-quarters of people say the quality of store brands have improved greatly in recent years, according to a 2014 Nielsen survey.

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"Friend" Your Store

“Like” or follow your supermarket of choice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. It’s the easiest new way to keep up-to-date on sales and other money-saving promotions.

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Leverage A List

Impulse buying is the fastest way to overspend. Take a few minutes before you head out to the store to write down what you need (or use an app like Out of Milk or Wunderlist) so you’re less likely to pick up pricey extras.