Eating healthy on a budget can seem complicated for many people. Rising prices, shopping unprepared, and grocery store layouts encourage many of us to fill our carts with quick meals loaded with sodium, sugar, preservatives and other additives that aren’t necessarily the most nutritional options for us. So, how do you shop for better food while on a budget? To answer that question, here are five practical ways you can save money at the grocery store that keep healthy eating habits at the top of your list.
1. Stay on the perimeter of the grocery store
Many of us tend to enter a grocery store and spend most of our time navigating the aisles at the center. We often shop there because that’s where we find convenient and more affordable options that are easy to make for when we’re busy, or just downright don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking. However, the heart of the grocery store is also where you find tempting processed junk foods or unhealthy choices loaded with fats, sugars, preservatives, and sodium. Instead, begin shopping around the perimeter to find healthier whole foods like grains, fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy products. Loading your cart with more vigorous food options like these at the start of your trip will prevent you from checking out with grocery bags full of products packed with innutritious additives and preservatives.
2. Take advantage of bulk bins
Shopping for products in bulk bins reduces waste and saves money. Depending on where you shop, this section is also where you’ll find most of what you’ll need to make a healthy meal at lower prices. You can also get things at the amount you want here. Most grocery stores also offer organic and non-GMO options in their bulk section too, making it a great area to find affordable clean ingredients. Popular bulk foods include:
- Organic and non-organic coffee and tea
- Whole grains like wild rice, cereal, quinoa, and oatmeal
- Dried fruits, beans, lentils and vegetables
- Herbs and spices
- Snacks like popcorn, chocolate covered nuts, dried fruit, and many other healthy options
3. Make a list to avoid unnecessary purchases
Bringing a healthy grocery list to the store is shown to reduce your food bill by 25-30%. Lists also save you time by giving you a plan that covers what you’ll buy and where you’ll purchase it, making the shopping experience less stressful overall. Additionally, they encourage healthy eating by keeping you centered on buying meals that are more beneficial to your well-being, which may help you avoid making unnecessary or unhealthy purchases at the checkout counter.
4. Shop for frozen fruits and vegetables
Studies show that freezing fruits and vegetables can preserve much of their nutrient value and that frozen and fresh options share similar nutritional profiles. Frozen options are also much more affordable and generally more convenient. Buying preserved produce also means longer shelf life, which translates to less food waste. Affordability, longevity, and convenience are all factors that encourage healthier eating and grocery store savings that makes buying chilled produce a smart move for many households. Oh, and as a bonus, you can also purchase frozen fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season at lower prices as well.
5. Meal plan and shop in large quantities
Thinking ahead and meal planning goes a long way for families outlining how they’ll shop for more nutritious meals at the grocery store. Purchasing more bulk foods and more significant amounts of non-perishable foods will also reduce the trips you make to the market and often saves money. Need to know where to start? Here are a few meal prep tips to take with you on your next grocery store outing that encourages healthy eating:
- Make a weekly meal plan with outlined ingredients
- Choose a few new recipes and add the ingredients to your shopping list
- Look for coupons on your favorite foods
- Find sales on organic or fresh ingredients
- Stick to your grocery list
Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget
We all live busy lives, trying to save where we can, so we understand the difficulties of finding affordable and nutritional options at the grocery store. If you have any other questions around how to purchase healthy food on a budget, or need nutritional advice on how to eat better, contact us or visit one of our Portland, Oregon primary care doctors.