Healthy Eating on a Budget

It’s a common myth that healthy foods come with a high price tag.  Here are tips on how to stock up on healthy foods without busting your budget.

Planning is Key!
Set aside an hour a week to write a shopping list before you head to the grocery store. Taking a list with you to the grocery store or farmer’s market will also help you avoid impulse purchases.  Also, steer clear of shopping while hungry. If you’re hungry, you’re more likely to over-spend!

Find the Best Deals
Sign up for a free membership card to get coupons and discounts stores where you frequently shop. Check your local newspaper or search online for coupons and promotions. Clipping coupons or printing them from websites can save you 10 to 15 percent on your grocery bill. Many coupons are meant to encourage consumers to try new products.  Make sure to read labels carefully when trying a new product.

Also, store brands are often (not always) 15 to 20 percent less expensive than their national brand counterparts and the quality of the food may match the national brand.

Bulk it Up!
Buying healthy foods in bulk almost always saves you money. Smart choices are family packs of meat, poultry and fish, larger bags of potatoes, and frozen vegetables. Also whole grain cereal, pastas and other grain products, dried beans and peas, dry-roasted or raw nuts are great bulk buys.

Buy Local, Buy in Season
Buying fruits and vegetables in season can lower the cost and add to the freshness! If you are not going to use them all right away, freezing and canning fresh produce can be a healthy option.  Not sure what’s in season when?  Check out what North Carolina has to offer each month.

Easy on Your Wallet all Year Round

Certain foods are typically low-cost all year round. Beans are a great inexpensive protein option. For veggies, try carrots, greens, or potatoes. Apples, bananas, oranges and pears tend to be less expensive options despite the season. For produce not in season, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (with little or no added salt or sugar) are a nutritious option.  Budget friendly proteins include tuna canned in water, eggs, and peanut butter. If possible, choose natural peanut butter instead of brands with added sugars and fats.

Back to the Basics
Convenience foods like frozen dinners, pre-cut vegetables, and instant rice, oatmeal, grits will cost you more than if you were to make them from scratch.  Take the time to prepare your own food and save.  Preparing your own meals also allows you to control fat, salt and other additives.

Love Those Leftovers!
Throwing your food away is throwing away your money. Instead of throwing your leftovers in the trash or letting your pup finish the rest, spice up your leftovers by using them in new ways. For example, leftover chicken over a fresh garden salad, stir fry or chicken chili.

Cut the Junk
Evaluate how much money you are spending on items such as soda cookies, crackers, prepackaged meals, processed foods, etc. Limit or completely cut out these unhealthy foods. Your wallet and your body will thank you.

Amy Bowen is a clinical dietitian at WakeMed Cary Hospital.  With questions for the dietitians, e-mail askadietitian@wakemed.org. For individual nutrition counseling, call WakeMed Cary Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Services at 919-350-2358.

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