Put down the ramen and listen up: Eating healthy doesn't have to cost you a fortune. We get that making healthy choices is already tough to do (sugar addiction, anyone?), and adding in the high cost of organic veggies and the like can make eating healthy seem even less doable. That’s why we enlisted the help of National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Torey Jones Armul, MS, RDN, CSSD. Here, her top tips for eating healthy like a pro—all while keeping costs down.
Keep scrolling to see how good-for-you food doesn't have to cost a fortune.
You may be surprised to find that your morning cup of coffee and bagel may be costing you more than you thought. A venti coffee at Starbucks rings in at around $2.35; a bagel with spread around $3. That adds up to nearly $27 a week! In comparison, the energy-filled and healthier breakfast of a hard-boiled egg and a banana costs roughly 44 cents per day; fill your mug with 20 ounces of coffee you brewed yourself, and you'll save nearly $20 a week. (See more energizing, healthy breakfasts from celebrity nutritionist Christine Avanti here.)
And it's not just your morning cup of joe that's costing you major dollars. Jones Armul says that it's smart to make your own beverages like tea and flavored waters, because ready-to-drink versions get pricey. "Save money and experiment with different flavors by making your own iced tea, flavored waters, and coffee at home," she says.
"Beans, which are packed with healthy protein, fiber, iron, and other vitamins, are one of the cheapest and most underrated foods at the store," Jones Armul says. You can buy them canned, but Jones Armul says it's even less expensive to snag dried beans and soak them yourself (as a bonus, you can also cut down on your sodium intake this way).
If you look inside your freezer and all you see is a tray of ice (and maybe some ice cream for a little splurge now and then), you're not properly utilizing your freezer space. Jones Armul says to buy frozen fruits and veggies to cut down on food costs; these "can be thawed, cooked, or added to smoothies and recipes." (Here are some ideas.)
If you encounter a good sale at the grocery store on healthy food like whole-wheat bread, chicken, fish, and fresh produce, says Jones Armul, pick up extra and stash it in the freezer.
It's Economics 101: Buying produce that's in season will cut back on costs, because the abundance of supply helps drive down cost, says Jones Armul. Your cheat sheet: Pick up potatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens like kale and spinach during the fall and winter; in the spring and summer, look for peas, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, and melons.
While Jones Armul says that buying organic produce is not a priority for her, she tells clients who prefer organic to look at the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists to decide when the extra cost is worth it.
The Environmental Working Group publishes these lists each year, after testing fruits and veggies for pesticides. The "Dirty Dozen" is the produce that tested highest for pesticides; the "Clean 15" is the produce that has the lowest amount of pesticide load. If you can't afford to eat all organic and want to be exposed to as few pesticides as possible, it's a good idea to pick up organic versions of the "Dirty Dozen" and choose non-organic produce from the "Clean 15" list. The full lists can be found here.
"The old adage is true: Never shop hungry," says Jones Armul. "Hungry shoppers tend to deviate from their grocery list, and one research study linked hungry shopping with buying 23 percent more junk food." As if we need to make it harder for ourselves to resist that tub of Ben & Jerry's! Try snacking on one of these healthy recipes before hitting up the grocery aisles.
Do you have any other tricks for eating healthy while on a budget? Share your tips in the comments below!