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.
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.
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.