If you’re like most Americans, one of the biggest line items on your monthly budget is food. We all need to eat, right? One of the biggest and most common misconceptions is that eating healthy means spending a fortune at the grocery store. With the right strategy, you can save money and improve your diet. These healthy grocery store hacks will help.
1. Stick to the Perimeter of the Store
Have you ever realized that healthy items are kept on the outer perimeter of the store and that junk food is in the aisles? A really easy hack for spending less on food is to stick to the perimeter and avoid getting sucked into the aisle abyss where prepared foods live. By doing this, you’ll only buy whole foods that are fresh and healthy. There is one exception: the frozen section. It can be good to have some frozen vegetables or seafood on hand.
2. Shop at Ethnic and Discount Stores
Many times, shopping at ethnic stores is much less expensive than big name grocers or specialty stores. As a bonus, they have a wide variety of items that are likely healthier than what you’d encounter at a typical American supermarket. If you don’t have one nearby, search for a discount supermarket like Aldi. You won’t find name brand items there, but think of it as an experiment in saving money.
3. Prepare a Meal Plan
Meal planning can be used for healthy shopping, too! It can be even more beneficial, as you want to make sure you’re filling up on the right kinds of food. You’ll want a decent amount of protein, vegetable, meat or both, depending on your dietary preferences, in your cart so you don’t get hungry in between meals. Some people have more success eating six small meals per day — shop accordingly.
4. Use Coupons
Typically, there aren’t many coupons for healthy food in the paper, but there are other places you can look. Whole Foods has an entire online sales flyer, complete with coupons. They may be stuck on a board at the front of the store as well. Other stores have point-of-purchase coupons you should watch for, and it doesn’t hurt to look for coupons or discounts on packages, either. If food is close to expiring, the store may have a discount coupon sticker on it. If you can gobble it up quickly or create a meal later that day with it, take advantage of your good fortune.
5. Compare Prices
It always pays to compare items and prices between stores. I used to shop at Whole Foods, but there was a Trader Joe’s in the shopping center right across the street. It afforded me the perfect opportunity to compare prices between the two if they carried the same type of item. The “healthy” aisle in your local grocery store may be a great option, too.
6. Buy Store Brand
Many stores have been quick to create their own “healthy” brand when it comes to organic foods, and like any store brand item, they’re usually cheaper than the competition. You can give these a try before you buy the high-end brands. You might be surprised at the quality.
7. Buy Whole, Not Pre-Packaged
It’s easy to fall for the “convenience” trap, but it’s always going to be the most expensive option. You’re better off buying kale, romaine or iceberg lettuce than the salad bag kit. You should try to stay away from the ready-to-go salad that costs almost as much as a salad in a restaurant.
Another good example is buying pre-cut fruit and vegetables. It might save you a little time, but how hard is it to chop everything up? Do it all at once and then put it in a container so it’s ready to go for your next meal or snack.
8. Buy in Bulk
Warehouse clubs can save you a lot of money if you know your prices. Buying items like beans, oats, nuts or meat in bulk can be worth it if you have the storage.
9. Buy in Season
You might love strawberries, but the price isn’t as loveable when they’re not in season. It goes without saying, but it’s often not worth buying produce when it isn’t in season. Besides the cost, it won’t be as fresh, as it likely traveled very far to get to your store. You can try a local farmer’s markets for alternatives.
10. Don’t Always Buy Organic
It’s tempting to think you should always buy organic because our minds automatically equate that word to “healthy,” but there are times when it can be unnecessary. For fruits and vegetables with thick skin, such as mangoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes and avocados, you can often get away with non-organic. Fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides include apples, spinach, celery, cucumbers and grapes. For a full list, you can check with the Environmental Working Group.
It’s not hard to shop for healthy food and spend less as long as you’re strategic about it. Hopefully these 10 hacks will help you save more and eat better.
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