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Sharp Health News

7 tips for eating healthy on a budget

Sept. 6, 2022

Woman shopping for produce at the grocery store

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

Healthy eating can help you maintain or achieve a healthy weight, lower your risk of getting certain diseases, give you increased energy and lengthen your life. According to Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist with Sharp HealthCare, eating a healthy diet generally promotes optimal mental and physical well-being.

However, Hays recognizes eating healthy on a budget can be challenging. “Rising food costs are hitting our wallets hard,” she says. “And eating healthy may seem more out of reach than ever, especially because it's a generally accepted idea that it costs more to eat healthy, nutritious food.”

But with a bit of planning and flexibility, Hays says it is possible to keep the nutrition high and the costs low, even as grocery prices surge. She shares seven ways to eat healthy on a budget:

  1. Buy produce in-season.
    Purchasing produce that is currently available may require flexibility and prompt you to try new things. But the result is getting fruits and veggies at their peak flavor and at the lowest possible price.
     
  2. Rethink protein.
    Because staples such as meat and fish are having the biggest price increases, try replacing them with other protein sources, such as legumes, beans or tofu, one or two days per week. These plant-based proteins are all generally inexpensive, nutritious and easy to prepare. Most also have a long shelf life, so are less likely to quickly spoil.
     
  3. Plan your meals.
    When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential. Set aside 20 minutes each week to plan your upcoming meals. Make a list of what you need and scan your refrigerator and pantry to see what you already have before heading to the grocery store. There are usually foods hidden in the back of shelves that can be used. Regularly taking inventory of what you have on hand also helps you use foods before they spoil.
     
  4. Buy whole foods.
    There are certain foods that are much less expensive when in their unprocessed form. For example, a block of cheese costs less than shredded cheese and canned beans are cheaper than refried beans. Whole grains, such as brown rice and oats, cost less per serving than most processed cereals. And less processed foods are often sold in larger quantities, yielding more servings per package.
     
  5. Be a smart shopper.
    Shop during sales and keep your eye out for special promotions. Be diligent — check out local flyers, price match when possible and use coupons. Planning your meals around available discounts is another great way to take advantage of sales.
     
  6. Join a loyalty program.
    Most grocery store chains have their own apps where information about deals and coupons is featured. Join a loyalty or rewards program and take advantage of the digital coupons you can “clip” for extra savings.
     
  7. Limit trips.
    Avoid trips to several stores. Locate one store that has everything on your main grocery list. The less you travel from store to store, the less gas you use. You will also have fewer opportunities for impulse purchases. And remember: Never shop while hungry.

Healthy eating is pivotal to determining our overall health, Hays says. It’s important to do our best to eat a healthy, balanced diet despite rising food prices.

“Smart planning — and shopping — will never be as easy as going through the drive-through, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks,” she says. “And it gets easier with time.”

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