The scene often goes something like this: You arrive at the grocery store, fully armed with good intentions to pick out the best, healthiest, organic foods you can find. By the time you hit the dairy department, you feel like you’re really on a roll. You’ve been reading labels, you have plenty of protein and produce in your cart, and you’re feeling like your healthy new lifestyle is becoming second nature. Then comes the dreaded checkout line. Maybe you try not to look at the screen as the total keeps going up and up. Or perhaps you have in mind an estimate of how much the total will be, only to see that you spent how much on three bags of groceries?!
Yes, sticker shock has affected many an health-conscious shopper. How can you feed your family healthy foods without taking out a second mortgage?
It really is possible to eat well and stay within a reasonable budget. Before your next trip to the grocery store or your local health-food chain, make sure you keep in mind a few tips.
1. Buy in-season produce. This may seem like a no-brainer. However, keeping in mind that the cost of your favorite fruits and vegetables may double or triple when not in season will help you keep your strawberry hankering in check when it’s the middle of winter. This handy chart can help you remember what produce is in season when.
2. Shop the sales. You most likely do this already. However, did you know that many grocery stores have bargain sections for their meat and even produce? Many offer reduced prices on items that are nearing their expiration date. Additionally, national and local health food chains often provide coupons in their flyers. Others even give items away weekly when you sign up for their email alerts.
3. Don’t be afraid to be different. Sure, you might like the convenience of boneless chicken or steak. However, many less popular cuts of meat can be found at reduced prices. For instance, liver may not be wildly popular, but you can make some delicious meals with it and it often costs under a couple dollars for a few pounds. You can also try whole chicken, making sure to use all the bones and innards to make a freezable chicken broth.
4. Grow your own. Gardening is not only therapeutic, but once your garden is started it can provide you with an abundance of fresh produce at a minimal cost. The best part? You are getting nutrients from soil that is native to your area, and you know exactly the environment in which it was raised. No need to worry if it’s truly organic or not.
5. Join a CSA. If it’s not possible to grow your own produce, the next best thing is to join a CSA, or community-supported agriculture. In this arrangement, buyers typically pay up front for a whole season’s worth of produce. Local farmers then provide you with a weekly supply of organic, locally grown produce. Not only are you supporting local agriculture, but you are benefiting from high-nutrient, fresh produce.
6. Buy off-brand. Generally speaking, your grocery cart should be filled with mostly produce and meats. However, when buying dairy products, grains, and shelf-foods, choose store-brand products over pricey name-brand items and you will find checkout a little easier on the wallet.
We congratulate you on your efforts to eat well! We know it’s not always easy, and that’s why we’re here to help. Our Simple Guide to Clean Eating will give you just the boost you need to keep on track. We wish you the best of health!