7 Tips For Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy sounds like a great goal — that is, until you walk into a Whole Foods and leave with a pile of debt. As we become more health conscious, it seems the price of healthy foods just rises, making it harder to afford good food. It’s easy for people to get scared away from healthy eating when juice bars charge $10 a pop and kale salads costs more than a cheeseburger.

A 2009 survey found 53 percent of people say they buy unhealthy foods because of cost constraints. That’s not hard to understand, as the price of organic produce could make anyone run in fear to the nearest fast food restaurant.

Luckily there are some changes you can make that will help you eat well, without breaking the bank. All it takes is a little planning when it comes to your groceries, knowing the best places to shop, and being willing to prepare the majority of your meals at home. Healthy eating can be very affordable, and it will end up saving you money on healthcare in the long run!

We spoke to Certified Nutritionist Karen Cohen to come up with a list of our favorite tips for eating healthy on a budget.

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Buy frozen fruits and vegetables

Frozen vegetables are often picked and stored at their freshest, so you get the same, if not better, nutritional value than fresh produce, but at a lower cost. Freezing fruits and vegetables also lets you use them over a longer period of time, so you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t finish them all at once.

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Shop the perimeter of the grocery store

Skip prepared and convenience foods by shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store. Buy whole lettuce instead of bagged, and make your own salads and sandwiches instead of purchasing pre-made, Cohen says. This way, you can use the ingredients you purchase in multiple dishes. Shopping the perimeter of the store also helps you avoid the prepackaged junk in the middle, as the outer aisles are filled with more whole foods and fresh produce.

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Buy certain items in bulk

Dried foods such as rice, pasta, beans, dried fruits, and nuts can be purchase discounted in bulk, and they make for great meal staples. Since they are dried, they also can be kept over a long period of time.

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Know when you need to buy organic

Avocados, bananas, melons and other foods for which you don’t eat the peel don’t need to be organic, as no pesticides make contact with the part of the fruit you are eating. Foods such as onions and asparagus also don’t need to be organic, as they aren’t threatened by pests, so they aren’t sprayed with pesticides.

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Use more plant protein instead of meat

Make beans, legumes, and eggs your meal’s protein, which are less expensive and just as nutritional. Canned beans can cost as low as $1 per can, and they provide you with plenty of nutrients, including protein and carbohydrates, to keep you full.

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Look for sales and coupons

Check your store weekly circulars for good deals and coupons, and try to buy these items while they are discounted. Use manufacturer’s coupons and match coupons with sale promotions, Cohen says. She also suggests finding the most budget-friendly stores in your area by going to three different stores and comparing receipts at the end. Find out which total is the cheapest for when you are grocery shopping in a hurry.

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Look for meats near their expiration date

Check out the quick-sale area of your grocery store for meats that are close to expiring. They are usually discounted 25 to 50 percent, and if used within a few days, are still perfectly useful. Pay attention to expiration dates and ask for a discount, even at the deli counter, Cohen says.

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