Anyone who’s ever gleefully made their way through the produce section buying beautiful organic veggies and perfect-looking fruits just to be smacked in the face with a whopping bill at the checkout knows all too well how expensive healthy eating can be. If kale and avocados are supposed to make us immortal, why are they so expensive? What’s the point of living forever if we’ve already spent all our money on our immortality smoothies?
Yes, good fruits and vegetables tend to cost more than a twelve-pack of Mars bars, but there are smart ways to shop so that you don’t go broke every time you make a salad or a yogurt parfait. Here are a few tips to make your trip to the grocery store a productive experience for your body and your wallet.
It may feel like walking into a Whole Foods cleanses your soul and adds five years to your life, but that’s just their branding. You don’t need to drop three hundred dollars at WF to eat right. Shop around and find out which grocery store in your area has the best prices and shop there. Bonus points if they price-match so you can take advantage of all the sales in your area without spending a fortune on gas.
Anything that’s pre-cut, pre-packaged or processed in any way is more expensive than the original product. When you buy unprocessed (like vinegar/oil instead of salad dressings or plain yogurt instead of the fancy stuff) you can make it exactly how you like it and use less fat, sugar and sodium. So it’s cheaper and healthier to buy unprocessed. Win-win!
Buy in bulk
Most foods are way cheaper when you buy them in the bulk department instead of in packages. Rice, pasta, flour, oatmeal and other dried goods are all things that you can opt to buy in bulk. (It’s also cheaper to buy candy and chocolate there too, you know, if you need a little reward for all your healthy eating and smart shopping.)
Organic isn’t always necessary
It’s always cheaper to buy non-organic. If you’re super worried about pesticides though, use the ‘Dirty Dozen, Clean 15‘ rule. What is that, you ask? Basically, a report by the Environmental Working Group found which fruits and veggies had the most pesticides when grown conventionally (i.e. not organically). When buying produce from the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list–which includes apples, berries and greens–you should go organic. The ‘Clean 15’–which includes onions, avocados and melons–have little to no pesticides when grown traditionally (and don’t need to be organic to be safe).
Freezers aren’t just for ice
Your freezer is like a magical machine that can make your food last forever and save your bank account in the process. First of all, a lot of the time, it’s way cheaper to buy frozen fruits and vegetables–especially when you’re not going to eat all of them within a week. You can also freeze your own produce when you buy it if you think it might go bad before it’s all consumed.
Get accustomed to shopping the half-price meat or bakery section at the grocery store too. Usually, stores will put things that are nearing their expiry date on sale. If that’s the case, buy it up and freeze it immediately. Now you have totally edible food at half the price.
Buy in season
Obviously, produce that travels farther distances is more expensive. Buy apples and squash in the fall, clementines in the winter, broccoli and asparagus in the spring and berries in the summer. Everything is cheaper and fresher when it’s in season.
Make your greens last longer
If you’re a lover of those greens variety packs, you know that the bottom always ends up going slimy before you eat the whole package. It’s a tragedy to throw those lovely greens directly in the trash. Make them last longer by transferring them to a clear plastic bag and blowing it up with your own breath. The high carbon dioxide concentration in the bag will keep your greens from oxidizing and the bag itself will create a little balloon of protection. You just made a little bubble of salad perfection.
MYOM (Make your own meals)
The ultimate way to stay on budget and eat healthy is to make your own meals. The salad you make at home will cost infinitely less than the same thing at a restaurant (and will probably be healthier). If you’re committed to eating healthy and saving money, you’re going to have to spend some time in the kitchen. Hooray for cooking healthy meals!