Healthy eating on a budget


So I’ve been trying to eat healthier, but I’m finding that it’s been pretty expensive to do so far. Do you have any tips on how I can eat right, but on a budget?

I’m glad to see that you’ve made moves to eat healthier and are adhering to your healthy resolutions. And while many people may think that eating healthy means a hefty, expensive grocery bill, that’s not always the case.

In fact, it costs less than $2 more per day per person to eat healthier, according to a 2013 study by the Harvard University School of Public Health. The study found that by swapping out some less expensive, and less healthy foods, for fresher and more nutritious ones added up to only about $1.50 more per day.

Getting the most nutrition and value for your money at the grocery store starts with planning before you head out to the store. For example, plan your meals and snacks for the week and then check your pantry to see what foods you already have. Then make a list of what you need to purchase, advises the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And then, stick to the list when shopping.

It’s also important to make an informed choice as to which grocery store you are planning to shop. Take a look at the grocery ads to see which store may have the items on your list on sale or offered at a discount.

Once at the store, compare the prices of different brands and different sizes of the same brand to see which item has a lower unit price, which is typically located on the shelf directly below the product, advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Other money saving tips from USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

– Shop for foods that are in season, which are typically less expensive. But, you should buy small amounts of fresh foods at a time, as some fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last long. This helps you avoid having to throw away spoiled produce.

– Try canned or frozen produce. For canned items, choose fruit canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.

– Buy in bulk. Smart choices are family packs of chicken, steak, or fish and larger bags of potatoes and frozen vegetables.

– Make your own healthy snacks. Convenience costs money, so many snacks usually cost more when sold individually. Buy large tubs of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese and divide them into one-cup containers. For trail mix, combine nuts, dried fruit and whole grain pretzels or cereal; store small portions in airtight containers.

– Air-popped popcorn, and whole fresh fruits and vegetables in season also tend to cost less compared to prepackaged or pre-cut items.

– Certain foods are typically low-cost options year round. For vegetables, carrots, greens, or potatoes are good options. As for fruits, apples and bananas are good choices.

– Try weekly meal prep. Prepare a large batch of your favorite recipes. Freeze portions in individual containers to eat throughout the week and you won’t have to spend money on take-out meals.

If you do chose to go out to eat, look for coupons, “2 for 1” deals, early bird specials or even going out to lunch instead of dinner, all of which can provide savings. And order water with your meal, which is not only free, but a healthy option. (Author: Turner, T. (2018). Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.)

Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator with Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.

By Pat Brinkman

OSU Extension

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