Nutrition Q&A: Cutting the Cost of Healthy EatingBudgeting for healthy, whole, minimally processed food comes down to planning, knowing where you must spend, and knowing where you can save. For instance, the organic eggs mentioned above can be seven times the price of non-organic eggs, but a regular egg is not much different than an organic egg when it comes to nutritional value.
5/7/21 – Nutrition Q&A
Question from Veronica
Eating healthy is so expensive. Do you have any tips on eating healthy on a budget?
Most of us have observed the dramatic rise in food prices over recent years as we look around at the grocery store. I have paid nearly $6 for a dozen organic eggs recently here in Vermont. Throughout the United States, the cost for a dozen eggs currently ranges from as little as $0.97 for non-organic eggs to $7.00 for organic eggs.
Healthy foods, including perishables such as fresh meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts, and seeds, are far more expensive than processed foods. However, that doesn’t mean that we need to spend more on food to eat healthily. Budgeting for healthy, whole, minimally processed food comes down to planning, knowing where you must spend, and knowing where you can save. For instance, the organic eggs mentioned above can be seven times the price of non-organic eggs, but a regular egg is not much different than an organic egg when it comes to nutritional value. Generally speaking, buying non-organic options of whole foods will save lots of money. Consumer Reports cited the cost of organic foods as 47% more than their non-organic counterparts. There are some cases, though, where the extra money is worth it. If your budget allows it, dairy and then meat would be at the top of the preferred organic foods list. (Much more on this topic in an upcoming Q&A.)
The other major ways to save on healthy foods are:
- Plan ahead by making a grocery list and buy only what you need. Reducing waste is the best way to save money. Challenge yourself to not throw away any food at the end of the week.
- Purchase frozen vegetables if you have a problem consuming fresh vegetables before they spoil. Frozen vegetables are less expensive, can be stored for long periods of time, and are flash-frozen at maximum ripeness, which means that they maintain the highest nutrient quality.
- Buy in bulk and then separate into smaller containers when you get home. For example, a 5lb bag of dry rice only costs about three times that of a single serving convenience bag of cooked rice, but it can produce as many as four servings per pound. This also applies to things like oatmeal. Buy the large container of oats and not the individual instant packets!
- Stay away from pre-cut fruits and veggies. You are paying for the packaging and the convenience. Do the work at home instead.
- Keep a list of foods you like to have in the house at all times so you can stock up on them if you see them on sale.
- Buy the generic or the store brand packaged goods. Read the nutrition label and compare the store brand to your favorite. You will often find they are exactly the same. I do this with organic dressings, beans, canned tomatoes, and rice.
- Be flexible with your selections. This includes buying produce that is in season as well as different cuts or types of meat when they are available (or less expensive) in the store.