7 Affordable Health Food Hacks

Eating nutritiously doesn’t have to break the bank. 

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You want to eat healthy, but after picking up a few items, your budget is blown. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The average four-person American household spends anywhere between $560 and $1270 on food per month.

But according to research from Gallup and Sharecare, nutritious eating can really pay off. One report gave Active Living scores to communities based on four key components of an area’s environment. The communities with the highest scores had higher rates of healthy eating habits and produce consumption. Another report ranked some of the healthiest cities in the nation based on one simple question: “Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?” The top communities, like Naples, Florida, Barnstable Town, Massachusetts and Santa Cruz, California are making active strides to improve accessibility to healthy foods, reduce access to unhealthy fast food and educate their community about nutritious eating habits.

Even if you don’t live in one of these communities, there are tricks and tips available to help you eat healthy on a budget. From meal prep to picking seasonal produce, here are 7 hacks that will help you fuel up properly without breaking the bank.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

Find veggies and fruit in the freezer aisle

2 / 8 Find veggies and fruit in the freezer aisle

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits last longer than fresh produce so they don’t go to waste, and they’re more affordable. Canned and frozen produce items are taken to be packaged right after harvesting, so they’re ripe and their nutrients are well preserved.

Read food labels to avoid canned and frozen products with high calorie sauces or syrups, saturated fat, added sugar or added salt. Frozen berries, spinach and corn, as well as canned tomatoes and beans are good options to start with.  

Get your protein from more than just meat

3 / 8 Get your protein from more than just meat

The  meat in your grocery cart is packed with protein, but it may be adding more cost to your grocery bill and pounds to your waistline. Meat requires heftier feed and transportation expenses than other foods. And studies show that vegetarians and fish-eaters have a lower body mass index than those who eat meat.

Protein is the basic building block for every cell in the body, but eating meat isn’t the only way to get it. Instead of meat, opt for other healthy protein sources like eggs, tofu, nuts, beans, milk and yogurt once or twice a week, and see how much you save. Most adults should strive to get 75 grams of protein a day. Try these plant-based recipes today. 

Shop the season

4 / 8 Shop the season

When shopping for fresh produce, buying fruits and vegetables that are in season, or foods that grow during the current season and climate, is definitely the way to go. Seasonal produce costs less because it’s more likely to come from a local farm rather than one located farther away. And seasonal produce is liable to have more flavor and more nutrients like potassium, vitamin C and calcium. Fruits and veggies are picked when they are the freshest and distributed soon after, so you’ll reap their original health benefits. Your local farmer’s market is a fun and easy place to go for in-season produce. Click here to find out what’s in season.

Try the store brand

5 / 8 Try the store brand

On average, store brand grocery items cost 23% less than name brand items and most of the time, the two products are essentially the same. Like national brands, all store brand products undergo quality and safety checks before they make their way to grocery store shelves.

Whether it’s a cereal product or a canned vegetable, always compare store brand and name brand nutrition labels to make sure the quality and ingredient lists are comparable. If they are, choose the store brand option to help your wallet out big time. 

Meal prep can help you save, too

6 / 8 Meal prep can help you save, too

Meal prep will help you make better food choices and save you money. When meals are ready to go, you’re less likely to order take-out or swing through the drive through at the end of a long day.

Over the weekend, set aside a few hours to plan and prep your meals for the week ahead. Try assembling meal ingredients for things like soups and smoothies in plastic baggies or containers so you can throw them in the pot or blender in a pinch. Make daily snacks and lunches for the week all at once, and cook big batches of veggies that can accompany any main dish you have during the week. 

Buy in bulk

7 / 8 Buy in bulk

Public wholesale stores may seem intimidating, but for foods you eat regularly, they may be the best bet for saving money. But before you start loading up your cart at Costco, make sure you compare the bulk price per unit with what you normally buy.

It’s easy to get carried away when buying in bulk, but if you stick to pantry staples and foods with a longer shelf-life, you’ll save some cash and cut down how often you need to go to the grocery store. Bulk shop for items you’ll use up before they expire. Brown rice, oatmeal, natural honey, dried beans, vinegar and whole-wheat pasta are some of the healthy food items that can stay in your pantry for a while. 

Drink more water

8 / 8 Drink more water

Drinking more water can help you lose weight, promotes good brain function and helps keep your joints lubricated so you can move about easier. And if you bypass soda, coffee, juice and tea when grocery shopping, opting for good ‘ole H20 instead, you’ll save money, too.

Water is calorie free, while other beverages may be filled with sugar and empty calories. Add flavor to your water with slices of affordable fresh fruit like limes, berries and oranges. Here are 5 additional ways to drink more water.

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