A: You’re not alone. Many people face this challenge when setting out to clean up their diets.
Some healthy foods will be more expensive than traditional grocery items you’re used to, like organic produce over conventional. (Trendy, high-quality superfoods like goji berries and coconut oil can also make your receipt total more difficult to swallow.)
However, there are plenty of ways to simply adjust your purchasing choices to make eating healthy less expensive. Try these smart, budget healthy eating hacks for a diet that’s good for your bod and wallet.
1. Buy Frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies are often cheaper than fresh, especially when they’re out of season locally. Don’t worry, you won’t be sacrificing nutrients for a lower price tag. Foods are flash frozen at their peak ripeness, so they can actually be healthier than their fresh counterparts.
2. Cut the beef. It’s easy to spend a big chunk of change on meat. I recommend upping the quality of the meat you buy, but reducing the quantity. For example, buy grass-fed beef to enjoy once a week. Then, replace the protein you’re missing with lower cost items like (wild) canned salmon or tuna, beans, lentils, and eggs. You’ll be doing good by the environment with this swap, too.
3. Get smart about organic. If you’ve got the resources to buy all organic, go for it, but if not, use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists as guides. They break down which foods are most likely to be covered in pesticide residue (buy those organic) and which are the least contaminated (save your money and buy conventional here). Another under-the-radar trick: if you frequent a farmers market, ask farmers about their practices. Many will tell you they don’t use harmful chemicals but aren’t certified organic, and their prices may be lower. Plus, you’ll be supporting the local food economy.
4. Plan ahead. I know, easier said than done, but eating healthy is much less expensive when you prioritize meal prep. By planning in advance, you can make multiple meals that utilize the same fresh produce before it goes bad, or use leftovers to make affordable lunches. For example, making chicken and broccoli for dinner? Use three ounces of leftover chicken and broccoli and mix with canned chickpeas and frozen mixed veggies for a complete lunch the next day.
5. Don’t shop when you’re starving. Fill your belly with protein before heading to the supermarket. Shopping when you’re hungry may lead to impulse purchases, like buying “healthy” packaged snacks and bars that cost more than whole foods. Making a detailed shopping list (and sticking to it) can help with this, too.