Eating healthfully and spending wisely don’t always go hand in hand. As someone who is passionate about food and nutrition, my own all-organic grocery bill used to be over $600 every month, just for me! Yes, healthy eating can be an expensive endeavor … but it doesn’t have to be.
Recently, I took the advice of several nutritionists, articles, and my own intuition: I drastically lowered my carb intake. This was not an easy endeavor for someone who loves and has lived (but not thrived) on carbs. I began to approach my food intake with the common denominator touted by vegetarians, paleos, vegans, and general health enthusiasts: Diets should be based predominantly in the vegetable kingdom.
The results? Eating this way is much cheaper! I can now stick to the perimeter of the store, stay away from the processed stuff in the aisles, and still save money.
Here are nine strategies anyone can use to make this inexpensive, healthy diet work:
1. Eat mostly vegetables. Stock up on fresh organic produce, and incorporate healthy greens like kale, spinach, and chard. Vegetables are a huge part of a healthy diet, and they are also the best value in the market.
2. Make your vegetable and fruit selections as seasonal and as local as possible. I love Granny Smith apples, and I stock up on them when they are available from in-state sellers for $1.69 per pound. Over the summer, when my beloved apples are twice the cost and from a faraway land, I resist.
3. Utilize dry legumes (aka beans), which are in the vegetable kingdom, and an amazing value. Soak them overnight so they don't take as long to cook. Try a legume "bowl" for lunch (i.e., a burrito without the tortilla).
4. Supplement the vegetable and fruit base with organic grains, nuts, and seeds — along with organic meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, depending on your diet.
5. Drink water. (It’s free!) If you prefer spring water, it’s still vastly cheaper than any other beverage.
6. Be creative in finding ways to sneak plant food into your meals. Throw some spinach in your smoothie. Nut butters — especially freshly made in your high-powered blender — can go on just about anything. Instead of processed chips, dip radishes, cucumbers, and other vegetable chips in hummus. Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Snack on seeds, nuts, and dried fruits. Try making your own fresh walnut milk in the blender.
7. Find ways to keep it simple. Invest in kitchen tools that make cooking easier, like a good high-powered blender, a salad spinner, a tool to cut veggies into spiral pasta, and a pressure cooker. Build an arsenal of easy meal ideas, such as salads, vegetable smoothies, or simple broiled salmon. It really doesn't take longer to eat healthfully. Believe me: Although I love eating, I don't spend hours in the kitchen — more like minutes between emails.
8. Steer clear of the junk! What makes food bills expensive and our American diet so unhealthy is processed foods. Avoid cereal, chips, crackers, prepared meals (frozen dinners), canned food, junk food, and anything with sugar in it. If it didn't exist 100 years ago, don't eat it, and remember: organic junk is still junk.
9. Stay out of the trendy expensive natural markets, and instead track down a food co-op or cheaper market in your area. If you live in a rural area, ask your supermarket to carry organic produce. If you live where it's warm, grow your own greens, or get involved in a community garden.
These nine strategies helped cut my grocery bill by at least 30 percent, while staying even more true to my healthful, organic ideals. Here's to your health and spending less at the store!
Addie McHale is a member of the DailyWorth Connect Program. Read more about the program here.
The views expressed represent the opinion of Addie McHale, CFP®. The information is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute an offer, solicitation or recommendation to sell or an offer to buy securities, investment products or investment advisory services. All information, views, opinions and estimates are subject to change or correction without notice. Nothing contained herein constitutes financial, legal, tax, or other advice.