There is a stigma that eating healthy foods results in spending a lot of money. This does not always have to be the case. Instead, we have to be wiser grocery shoppers, have open minds to cooking and trying new things and we must be willing to change our mindset toward spending money on food.
Rather than think of food as an expense that puts a dent in the family budget every month, think of food as an investment in you and your child’s future. The type and quality of food that you feed your family has a large impact on their overall health. Ultimately, poor health can result in costing a lot of money. The small choices you make every week at the grocery store as well as meal planning can result in having a large effect over time. Altering our perspective justifies the money that we spend on quality food, while also making food a priority in the family budget.
Here are some ideas for eating healthy on a budget:
- Buy local produce that is in season. Seasonal produce is less expensive because there is more produce available in the current growing season (more supply = lower prices).
- Shop around. Find what grocery stores in your area carry the best prices for the best quality foods. When it comes to food and your health, quality does matter.
- Reconsider buying in large bulk. Although it seems like you are getting a good deal when you save a little by purchasing a lot, consider the fact if your family really needs an excessive quantity of any given food around the house. Often, if it is there, it will be consumed. With this in mind, the family will likely eat more, which results in purchasing more than necessary.
- Incorporate new foods that are nutritious and inexpensive. Some of the most nutrient-rich and least expensive foods out there are legumes. These include beans, lentils and dried peas. Many adults and children are not huge fans of legumes. Search for appealing recipes that use legumes as the main ingredient. You will receive a lot of nutrition for your money! For example, a bag of dried green or yellow split peas costs less than $1.00 and can make a large pot of soup to feed a family of four.
- Consider decreasing the amount of meat you and your family eat. It is common for many Americans to over-consume calories and more specifically, protein. Meat can be a major expense. The recommended serving size for a piece of meat is 4 ounces. This amount is comparable to a deck of cards. Consider how much meat your family is consuming on a regular basis and determine if there is room to trim back. Replace excess meat portions with less expensive whole grains, legumes or seasonal produce.
- Eat out less; eat in more. Paying for food prepared and served by someone else is more costly compared to purchasing and preparing that food for yourself at home. In addition, when you prepare meals, you can choose healthy ingredients. Using the split pea example: A bag of dried yellow or green split peas that can feed a family of four costs less than $1.00, and a cup of plain coffee from a coffee shop costs almost $2.00.
For those who are financially able, I hope that healthy food is a priority in the family budget. It will pay off in the long run in terms of health outcomes and the quality of life. For more information on healthy meal planning on a budget, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment.