One of the most common barriers to healthy eating is the stigma that health foods are expensive. Specialty stores like Whole Foods aren’t helping this argument, though they are trying to slowly back out of it. But no matter where you shop, buying in bulk, planning meals and snacks, and knowing your best local options will keep your wallet happy.
Here’s how to keep the tab low, kitchen stocked and body healthy:
1. Keep it simple.
I’m a huge fan of the five-ingredient meal, give or take a few items. Recipes don’t have to be followed to a T—and aren’t even totally necessary to make a healthy meal. Rather, take a “Chopped”-style assessment of what you have on hand and know there’s always a way to throw it together. Most of my home-cooked meals simply consist of one or two vegetables sauteed, roasted or chopped up for a salad, one protein (eggs, fish, pumpkin seeds, etc.), and a starch of sorts. Having a few staple fruits and vegetables on hand at all times means you have what you need to make a meal or snack.
2. Shop fruits and vegetables seasonally.
Look for items on sale, as they’re likely what the store has in abundance and needs to get rid of before they spoil. There are many items available inexpensively all year, such as bananas, carrots, cucumbers and salad greens, while others are more expensive when they’re out of season.
3. Don’t shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables.
Frozen items can be just as healthy as their fresh counterparts. This is a great way to include fruits and vegetables out of their peak season because they’re harvested in-season and frozen when they’re ripe. Check ingredient lists and only buy pure fruits/vegetables, avoiding sugar or other unnecessary additives.
4. Buy in bulk.
Some grocery stores have buy-in-bulk bins for dry grains, legumes, and nuts, which is a great way to shop for everything in one place. But if that’s not the case, you can always buy from Amazon, where I order raw almonds, cashews and dried fruits monthly. More bulk options on Amazon are things like oils, snack bars (Larabars are another monthly order for me) and even spices.
5. Plan at least three meals each week.
Knowing what you plan to cook ahead of time is not only a great way to keep costs down, but also a good way to prevent mid-week trips to the store (which usually results in buying more than what’s needed). Depending on the week’s schedule, try to plan at least three meals that will leave leftovers for lunches, dinner and/or a snack.
6. Shop around.
Grocery chains run sale ads every week, yes, but there are plenty of stores not spending money on advertising and still providing good deals.
7. Know the staples that work for you.
Here are 9 items (in no particular order) that make it into my basket every week because they’re versatile in meals and snacks, healthy, and/or relatively inexpensive.
- Greens (spinach, kale, mixed salad greens, collards) on sale or frozen
- Canned wild-caught fish
- Red onions
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
—By Heather Caplan for Spright.