“One of the biggest consumer complaints about eating healthy is the cost,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Healthy foods at the grocery store like fresh produce, lean meats, organic foods, greek yogurt, almond milk and such are more expensive than boxed, frozen and fried foods.”
“What’s more, fast food from Burger King and Taco Bell are more affordable than say a salad from Whole Foods. However, there are plenty of ways to eat healthy without blowing your money.”
To help you navigate the grocery store aisles like a coupon-cutting champ, she offers the following money-saving tips for healthy eaters on a budget.
Woroch says it’s not necessary to buy all organic produce if you’re worried about pesticides. “Some items have built-in protection from external applications and need not be purchased organic,” she said. “Bananas, avocados, pineapple and other members of the ‘Clean 13’ list can be bought in the regular produce section.”
“Frozen fruits and veggies are an economical way to get your nutrients during any season,” Woroch said. “Since produce is flash-frozen at its peak ripeness and nutrient content, there's no need to worry about lack of flavor or healthfulness.” She says you can save even more by opting for store brands over national brands.
“People often associate coupons with unhealthy food, but there are plenty of deals on healthy options,” Woroch said. “Plus, you don’t have to clip coupons from the Sunday circular either.” She recommends looking for coupons using websites like Coupon Sherpa where you can enter your zip code to find savings at nearby grocery stores. “Whole Foods shoppers can subscribe to The Whole Deal newsletter or view it online for the latest coupons,” Woroch added.
Woroch says you don't have to shop exclusively at grocery stores for healthy food. “Stores like World Market offer healthy choices like quinoa, olive oil, and brown rice, which you can purchase for less during sale time or with a coupon,” she explained. “Plus, you can join their free Explorer loyalty program and earn points every time you shop to score additional discounts.” She also noted that she’s previously found healthy snacks on sale at stores like Marshalls and HomeGoods, so don’t dismiss options that might seem outside of the box.
According to Woroch, buying pre-packaged and pre-cut salads, fruits, and veggies is “unhealthy for your wallet.” “Buy products in whole form for 40 percent savings and take a few minutes to chop at home,” she said.
According to the American Heart Association, for adequate intake of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy diet should include fish at least twice a week, Woroch pointed out. “This advice comes with a cost, but you don't have to buy fresh in order to reap the benefits,” she said. “Canned tuna—in water—and frozen salmon are reasonable alternatives to what you can find in your butcher's display.”
Buying in bulk from club stores like Costco or Sam’s Club can help you stretch your healthy eating budget even further, but Woroch recommends that you keep a few things in mind when shopping for wholesale food items. “Be careful that you don’t overdo it on perishable items,” she said. “If you buy more than you and your family can consume before the items go bad you may end up throwing some food in the trash. A good rule of thumb when it comes to fresh food, stick with just a couple of ingredients or make sure you can freeze it for later consumption.” Otherwise, she added, you can find big savings by buying items like canned vegetables, olive oil, canned tuna in water, quinoa, brown rice, frozen veggies, and hummus in bulk. “Warehouse stores are also a great place to pick up kitchen gadgets like the NutriBullet for making healthy smoothies for less,” Woroch said.
Woroch says you’ll save anywhere from 30 to 60 percent when you buy the generic store brand for staple foods like oatmeal, cereal, canned veggies, and frozen vegetables. “Most brand names cost more because of the pretty packaging but often taste the same,” she explained. “Review ingredients side by side to feel confident you’re getting the same quality with the off brand.”
You don’t have to become a full-time vegetarian, but planning a few meatless meals each week can help you save some. “Fill up on veggies, salad, fruit, and whole grains,” Woroch said. “Even sweet potatoes are superfoods that will fill you up for much less than chicken. Lean meat is healthy but it’s also the most expensive portion of your dinner. Tofu is a great substitute that costs a lot less, too.”
Woroch says not only can making your own dressings and marinades help you save money, but it also gives you control over what ingredients they’re made with, which means you can eat even healthier. “A healthy salad dressing can be as simple as red wine vinegar with olive oil and your favorite seasoning or lemon, pepper and olive oil,” she said.