Ask the Dietitian: Cheapest Ways To Eat Healthy

Eating healthy can feel really expensive and sometimes even overwhelming, huh? Do you need those special nutrition shakes? Do you need to buy organic only? Should you only shop in the health food section of the grocery store? 

 

If you’re like me, then I’m sure you’ve been noticing your grocery bill creeping up and up over the past year or so as inflation continues. Maybe it’s even making you second guess how many fresh fruits and vegetables you’re buying because things seem so dang expensive these days.

 

Do you ever wonder why a box of strawberries is 3 times as expensive as a McDouble from Mickey D’s? Well, it takes a whole lot more work to get those strawberries out of the field and into the grocery store within a certain time frame before they go bad. Those fast food burgers aren’t necessarily the best quality beef and they’re frozen with a much longer lifespan so they just don’t cost as much. 

 

We know we need to eat healthy because of the impact nutritious foods have on our health. Even though it can be more expensive to eat healthy, here are some ways to cut the cost:

 

  1. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables as well as frozen meat. These items are typically cheaper and last longer. Nutritionally, they are just as good as fresh!
  2. Shop for produce in season. Grab more greens in the spring, fresh berries in the summer, things like squash and apples in the fall, and citrus in the winter.
  3. Consider non-organic products. This is a total personal preference, but buying products with that little USDA stamp can really skyrocket the price.
  4. Try Sam’s Club, Aldi, or a similar store. I find that the cost is usually half of what it is at a grocery store. 
  5. Speaking of Sam’s Club, if you’re looking for easy and cheap, check out their rotisserie chickens for $5. Even if you only eat the breast meat, it’s still cheaper than buying 1 lb of chicken breast and cooking it yourself!
  6. Meal plan. I know it can feel annoying, but if you can plan meals where you use the same ingredients on a few meals, you’ll have far less waste. 

 

Now let’s talk about the extras like supplements and special health food items. If you’ve purchased these things before, you know it can add up, but do you need them? I’m going to use protein bars as an example. Now I love a good protein bar. They’re convenient and they can help you reach your protein goals and keep you fuller for longer. But they aren’t absolutely necessary. Let’s say your protein bar costs $3 and has 12 grams of protein in it. You know what else has 12 grams of protein in it? A Greek yogurt that costs $1.25 or less. Or 2 hard boiled eggs that cost $.50 or a beef/turkey stick that costs $1. Shoot, even a 12 oz glass of milk has 12 grams of protein and only costs $0.47.

 

So even though I love some of these products that make my life easier, they aren’t always the cheapest and you definitely don’t need them. This also goes for nutritional teas and shakes that you may buy from a shop. Some of those drinks are $7-10 and they contain more sugar than candy and fewer micronutrients than a cup of fruit!

 

Let’s look at the cost of eating at home versus eating out. I probably spend around $400 a week on groceries for my family of 5. And that’s not really me looking for cheaper deals and we eat a TON of whole foods. Maybe one day I will have more time to do that, but for now, my goal is to order groceries and make that part of life as easy as possible! But you know what I spend on going out to eat? $50-100 a week. That’s it. Because we usually only go out to eat once a week.

 

$400 a week for groceries may sound like a lot of money, but when you break it down, it’s $11.42 a person per day or an average of $3.80 per person per meal. Could I only spend $3.80 on a meal if I went out to eat? There’s no way! And even if I could, there’s no way that meal is going to include the nutritious, colorful foods that I’m currently feeding my family. Our average meal includes lean protein, a vegetable, a fruit, and healthy grains and is usually fairly balanced. Unless it’s my kid’s choice, then they’re definitely eating buttered noodles, but I throw on some protein as well as fruit for color so it’s all fine, right? 🙂

 

Think about the cost of cooking at home versus eating out. I can tell you that taking my family of 5 out to eat or even driving through Panera will easily cost us anywhere from $40-$100. And you know what? I can cook a meal for SO much cheaper than that. Saving money on food is a whole lot easier when you cook at home and you’re going to probably be eating a healthier meal. 

 

Let’s review my top tips for eating healthy on a budget:

  1. Buy frozen produce and meat.
  2. Buy produce that is in season. 
  3. Consider buying non-organic if it’s cheaper.
  4. Shop at a store like Sam’s Club or Aldi’s for cheaper cost.
  5. Rethink the “extras” like shakes and bars. Are there cheaper options to help you meet your protein and nutrient needs? 
  6. Meal plan and cook at home as much as possible.

 

If you’re looking to eat at home more to save money and eat healthier, definitely check out my meal planning subscription service. I created this plan to help busy families eat at home more and eat healthier. I plan 7 evening meals a week complete with a color-coded grocery list, side item recommendations, nutrition facts, helpful tips, and your own login into my portal that includes access to 150 family-friendly recipes. This service is only $9 a month and I guarantee it’s going to save you so much money plus improve your nutrition! 

 

Salsa Fresca Chicken is one of the recipes you’ll find on my plan. I’ve entered all of the ingredients into my Walmart app for cost and this one ends up costing only $3.54 per serving! Here’s the recipe for you!

 

SALSA FRESCA CHICKEN

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups fresh pico de gallo
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lb fresh carrots – side
  • 4 whole wheat dinner rolls – side

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lay the chicken flat in a large baking dish and sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder.
  3. Cover chicken with the pico and then top with cheese.
  4. Bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  5. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve hot.

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