You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat nutritionally. In fact, the opposite is true. Packaged, prepared, brand name, imported, out of season, and convenience foods will eat up your grocery budget in no time.
Here are some healthy food selection and shopping tips to get you well on your way to a healthier lifestyle no matter what your dietary needs are.
Grow your own food – plant a garden, not only is it a great way to provide your family with fresh, nutrient dense, good quality food but it’s a great way to get outside, exercise, unwind and de-stress. If you don’t have the space or ability to plant a full-size garden then grow some cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, and small peppers that can be grown in pots on your deck during the summer months.
Buy in season and buy locally – doing so will help to ensure that you are buying the freshest and best quality food items. It also allows you to be a more informed consumer; you are able to speak with the grower, ask questions and know what the growing methods/practices are. You will also find that the cost is lower or at least comparable to grocery store prices and you have the added benefit of knowing that you’ve helped out the environment by cutting down on transportation needs and fancy packaging.
Join a food co-op or an organic produce plan – source locally for food co-op opportunities and/or produce plans in your area. These are great ways to obtain good quality, fresh foods (often certified organic products) that are affordable and fit nicely into your family budget plan
Plan meals ahead, know what you have on hand and think about what you would like to cook
Make a food budget, and stick to it!
When you do purchase at your local food market/grocery store, adopt the following strategies to foster HEALTHIER NUTRITION ON A BUDGET:
Avoid “ready-to-eat” foods. Buying basic, whole food items will save you money and will be healthier for you and your family.
Read labels – be sure you’re getting the best nutrition for your food dollar.
Foods that have a Nutrition Facts label will also have an "ingredients" list. The ingredients are listed from "most" to "least" -- in other words, if sugar is the first ingredient, you know that the food is mostly sugar!
Shop wisely by using a shopping list, compare prices, and look at labels
Shop alone if you can, and be sure that you aren't hungry when you go - hungry shoppers find it hard to stick to the list!
Be flexible -- if you see an unadvertised special that is too good to pass up and is HEALTHY, change your plan -- add that food to your list.
Don’t spend too much time in the grocery store – you’re apt to spend more
Be aware that foods at eye-level in the grocery store tend to be more expensive
Stock up on sale items, as long as they are HEALTHY choices
Also adopt some of these strategies:
Buy the whole chicken and cut it up yourself, ensure that you are purchasing fresh, good quality meats from grain fed sources only
Eat more vegetarian meals – meat is very expensive and unless you’re buying free range, you should be questioning the quality.
Buy in bulk, avoid packaging – again read the labels provided for each item and choose wisely. Purchase from a well-known and frequented bulk foods store, this will ensure that the product you are purchasing has a regular turnover and is fresh
Cook more – eat out less; not only is this a money saver but it helps to ensure that you are eating healthy and have control over the ingredients and cooking methods
Cook/Prepare in quantity – invest in a slow cooker (Cost is approx. .50¢ to operate for 8 hours). Make meals ahead of time and freeze for those busy activity filled or after work evenings
Take your lunch to work/school; choose a fun lunch container and get creative! This will not only save you money but it also allows you to have more control over the food items/ingredients you are consuming and the preparation methods
Make your own coffee – choose organic whenever possible or better yet, drink green tea instead
Eat nutrient dense food – you’ll be less hungry. Choose good quality, wholesome food choices; incorporate more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, complete proteins and complex carbohydrates