Think eating healthy is expensive? It doesn’t have to be! Here are five simple ways to save money on a nutrient-dense diet:
1) Do your research. Learn about the nutrient density of foods, as well as when they are freshest, and prioritize your investments in food accordingly (check out what Dr. Joel Fuhman has to say, here). Loose carrots and leafy greens are generally more nutrient-dense than the pre-packaged kind, and also a lot cheaper. Packaged veggies take longer to prepare and transport for sale, which means they have been out of the earth for more days than those that are transported in bulk. They also have higher packaging costs, and that expense is passed on to the consumer at the store.
2) Buy flash frozen organic fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce can be just as healthy, and sometimes healthier, than fresh foods. It is also often easier to find non-GMO produce in the freezer section, than in the produce aisle. Certain foods, such as corn and soy beans, are healthier and cheaper, when purchased frozen. There can be significant differences in prices at different stores, so pay attention to where you get the most bang for your buck.
3) Buy in bulk. Create your own trail mixes and snacks in the bulk foods section at your local farmers markets and health food stores. You can also save money by buying packaged items in bulk. Did you know that Whole Foods offers a discount on items that are purchased by the case, and they will let you mix and match similar items? Consider stocking up on a variety of canned soups, fruits and vegetables (we love their canned sweet potatoes and butternut squash), and other naturally preserved foods. Amazon.com also offers savings on packaged items that are purchased by the case.
4) Shop more frequently, and buy only what you need. Shorter, more frequent trips to the store can save money in the long run. I have found that if I stock up on preserved items once a month, and make quick trips for fresh produce twice a week, I end up spending the same amount of time shopping, and a lot less on produce that goes bad before we can enjoy it.
5) Simplify your menus. One-dish meals, such as stir fry and mexican salads, can be just as satisfying and less costly than a protein and two sides. They can also save a lot of time in preparation. Avoid pre-cut veggies at the store, and use a food processor to save time instead. Your produce will be more nutritious, and much tastier, when it is served closer to the earth. If you do feel the need to serve three or four items for dinner, stick to simply roasted vegetables (toss with a high heat oil and sea salt, and roast at 400 for 10-15 minutes), fresh salads, hearty soups, and rice and bean dishes. They are richer in nutrients, simpler to prepare than complicated recipes, and less expensive than animal products.
It’s also important to remember that, even if your grocery bills stay the same, or increase slightly, most people ultimately save money on over the counter medications, doctor visits, and prescriptions, the more they improve the nutrient density of their diet. In my experience, the more we increase the nutrient density of our diet, the fewer medical issues we experience, and the happier and healthier we become.