Grocery prices across the country have soared to a 40-year high and many of us are feeling the pinch. Though it can be a challenge to eat well on a budget, it’s also important to focus on maintaining a balanced, nutrient-rich diet even when times are tough. If your cupboards and fridge are full of mostly good-for-you foods, everyone in the family is likely to eat better. A better diet can lower grocery bills, too. While ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods can save time, they can cost more.
But can you eat healthy and not break the bank? Yes, you can, just start with your grocery shopping list.
Build your core grocery list. Write out a shopping list of items you purchase regularly, but try to stick to nutritious, inexpensive and versatile items. Choose individual ingredients, which can be made into many different things, rather than ready-made food items. To avoid impulse purchases, you should make a plan for what you want to cook that week and what you need to buy.
Use generic or store brands which can be several cents to several dollars cheaper than name-brand.
Buy fruits and vegetables whole instead of washed, cut and packaged. Stay away from the prepared food section of the store because you pay a premium for salads and other dishes that are already made for you.
Stock up. When items you regularly buy go on sale, stock up. If the item has a long shelf life or if you have room to freeze it, buy several. Invest in a Food Saver. Many foods including fruits, vegetables and meats can be frozen if prepared properly.
Grow your own. Grow the vegetables, fruits, and herbs you use regularly. If you own a freezer and know how to can and preserve, you can take advantage of this method to make sauces, preserves, soups, etc.
Use coupons. Due to advancements in technology such as mobile coupons, social media, and QR codes, coupons are easier than ever to obtain. However, the best coupons still come in the inserts in the local Sunday paper.
Buy less meat. There has been a dramatic increase in the price of meat, poultry and eggs. If you’re spending more on meat than on other food categories there’s a simple way to trim your bill, buy less. Cutting down on your meat consumption can be as simple as implementing a few meatless days a week, using less meat in your recipes or substituting with cheaper ingredients. If you’re not interested in cutting down on your meat consumption but still want to save money, build your meal plan around what meat items are on sale that week.
But which healthy foods can you stock up on to get the best nutritional bang for your buck:
- Beans. Whether canned or dried, beans are an excellent, low-cost pantry staple. They’re filled and loaded with protein and minerals, like iron and zinc.
- Whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries and farro, are inexpensive pantry staples that are easy to prepare and build a meal around.
- Oats are an affordable source of protein, minerals and belly-filling fiber. Pair oat dishes with a rich source of vitamin C, such as strawberries, to maximize the absorption of iron from the oats.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables let you save money without missing out on essential nutrients as they retain all of the same nutritional properties as fresh.
- Potatoes. With the skin on, one medium potato provides 30% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, along with carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium.
- Canned tomatoes are a cheap nutritional addition to your shopping list. Packed with vitamin C and fiber, they are also an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which can help lower the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and macular degeneration.
- Nuts are an affordable, bulk bin staple that fill you up with healthy fats, protein, and minerals.
Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with your grocery shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge are full of mostly good-for-you foods, everyone in the family is likely to eat better. People think eating healthfully costs a lot of money, but it can be affordable with some planning.
West Tennessee Healthcare wants to help you navigate you and your family’s health needs. Find a family medicine or primary care provider here.