One of the primary barriers to eating healthy is the added grocery expense. While nuts, fish, lean meats and fresh produce are often pricier than processed foods, the perceived cost difference is actually lower than you’d think. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has quantified that difference to be roughly $1.50 more per person per day.
Despite this relatively small increase in cost, the average American spends nearly $4,000on groceries every year. Increasing that budget even slightly may not seem feasible for some. To help fill up your home with good-for-you foods without blowing your budget, follow these healthy grocery shopping hacks.
Review Frozen Options.
March is National Frozen Food Month and there’s no better time to purchase healthy frozen options that also trim your grocery budget. Frozen fruits and veggies are an economical way to get your nutrients during any season. Since produce is flash-frozen at its peak ripeness and nutrient content, there’s no need to worry about lack of flavor or healthfulness. Opt for store brands over national brands for extra savings.
Prep Your Own Food.
Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is important to staying healthy. However, buying these foods pre-sliced, pre-chopped and otherwise prepackaged is unhealthy for your wallet. With a markup of up to 60% for convenience, you can save time and money by purchasing whole foods and setting aside 30 to 45 minutes to do your own chopping.
Know Which Organics to Skip.
Opting for organic helps you avoid harmful pesticides and fertilizers, but it comes with a price. Fruits and veggies with tough peels — including bananas, avocados, pineapple and other members of the Clean 15 list — have built-in protection, so buying them organic is actually a waste of money. Additionally, always look for the USDA Certified Organic label to ensure you get what you’re paying for.
Stack Savings on Savings.
A growing number of healthy brands and health food stores are using coupons to promote their food. Whole Foods shoppers can subscribe to The Whole Deal newsletter or print grocery coupons from websites like Coupon Sherpa. Applying these savings on top of grocery store sales can reduce your check-out cost significantly.
Get to Know Local Prices.
While I don’t recommend spending the day driving from store to store to get all your grocery shopping done, knowing where to buy certain items for the cheapest price can help you save more each month. For instance, I found that Sabra hummus is $2 cheaper at Target than my local grocery store and the best price for almond butter is at Trader Joes.
Cheaper Fish Options.
We’re supposed to eat fish at least twice per week for protein and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the American Heart Association. This advice comes with a cost, but you don’t have to buy fresh in order to reap the benefits. Canned tuna (in water) and frozen salmon are reasonable alternatives to what you can find in your butcher’s display. Otherwise, check local ethnic markets and buy only in-season fish to save.
Grow Your Own.
One of the best ways to save on fresh produce is to grow your own. Start small by planting a few favorite herbs like rosemary, sage or dill, or review this list of the 7 Easiest Vegetables to Grow for Beginners. Apartment dwellers don’t have to dismiss this tip, either; vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant and peppers can be grown in containers.
Bulk Shop Conservatively.
While warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer good deals on produce, eggs, greek yogurt and olive oil, you need to be conservative about what you buy. Overloading on fresh or perishable items can result in excess and ultimately wasted food, which cancels out the savings! Foods like canned vegetables, olive oil, canned tuna, quinoa, brown rice, frozen fruit and hummus are often better bulk buys.
Decode Food Dates.
Americans waste $165 billion a year on uneaten groceries according to the National Resources Defense Council. If you’re throwing away groceries that are past the date printed on the package, you may be tossing perfectly good food. The USDA does not regulate expiration dates, and some are simply suggestions. Many foods are safe to consume and taste just as good if eaten after the recommended “sell by” date.
About Andrea Woroch
Andrea is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Huffington Post, Forbes and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.