Is Healthy Eating Really More Expensive?

How many times have you heard about dollar menu items and cheap combo meals at fast food restaurants? These cheap deals can make it easy to believe eating healthy must cost far more than a meal at the local burger joint. The truth is you can maintain a healthy diet on a budget by making smart choices as you shop. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Don’t wait to get to the store to see what’s on sale. You may be swayed to purchase what’s on sale in addition to the items you came to buy and can end up spending more than you planned. Instead, review the store’s flyer before you go to determine the meals you will have for the week, and create a list based on that.

Buy in-season produce. It can be easy to get into a routine and buy the same fruits and vegetables year-round. But in-season produce is more economical and has higher quality. It also helps you stay on track to a complete diet that includes a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Save on protein. Meat and poultry are often the most expensive items in your grocery cart. Help your budget by considering alternatives to meat and chicken, such as beans, eggs, nuts, or fish.

“Healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean “organic.” Unless you have a medical condition, you can have a balanced diet without worrying about labels like ‘organic’ and ‘gluten-free’. Simply focus on eating more whole foods, rather than those that are processed.

Look on the lower shelf. Food companies spend millions of dollars in product placement to have their products right in your line of sight at the store. You can usually find generic or lower-cost items on the shelves below.

Have a ‘pantry meal’ once a month. Financial guru Pete the Planner suggests this as a way to ensure you have “free” meals once in a while. The idea is to not buy any specific ingredients for a meal, and create a free meal from items that are already in your pantry or freezer. This can be a fun family activity to bring out creativity while eating well on a budget.

It can be tempting to go for the $4 fast food meal, but keep in mind the real long-term costs of an unhealthy diet. It’s okay to go for the quick meals once in a while, but maintain an overall well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you have a long, healthy life.

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