8 Tips to Eat Healthy and Save Money on Groceries

by Carly Diedrich, dietetic intern

One of the biggest misconceptions in today’s world is that healthy eating means a huge grocery bill.  The good news is that healthy eating does not have to be expensive! Here are eight tips and tricks to help you spend less without sacrificing nutrition!

  1. Come prepared to shop. Plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list based off of what you plan to make. Then be sure to check your pantry to see what ingredients you already have at home. This can help reduce picking up miscellaneous items that you think you might need. 
  2. Eat before you shop. Going to the grocery store hungry is setting yourself up for two things: buying less healthful foods than you normally would and buying extra items just because they look good. Instead, have a meal or snack before you shop. It will make sticking to your list much easier! 
  3. Buy in bulk when appropriate. Ounce for ounce, the larger bag of almonds costs about a third of the price of the same almonds pre-portioned into 100-calorie packs. If you like knowing the serving is 100 calories, you can portion out those almonds from the larger bag at home, using plastic bags or small plastic containers. (At about 7 to 8 calories each, 12 to 14 almonds is your 100-calorie serving.) For foods with a long shelf-life (like nuts, oatmeal and popcorn kernels), the savings add up quickly. 
  4. Choose whole foods. We pay for convenience. Packaged, pre-sliced apples cost almost twice as much as the same weight of whole apples and don’t have nearly as long of a shelf life. Investing in a few kitchen gadgets such as an apple slicer and corer, spiralizer or food processor will make home food prep quicker and easier and can save money in the long run.  Just be sure to shop for gadgets you will actually use! 
  5. Buy spices from the bulk bins. If you are trying a new recipe that calls for a spice you don’t have on hand, head to the bulk bins! You can get (and pay for) only what you will need. Ground spices start to lose their flavor after about nine months, so buying from the bulk bins can prevent having extra that will sit around and go weak before you can use it. To sweeten the deal even more, most of the Hy-Vee spices in the bulk section are organic! 
  6. Know when shopping organic is really worth the extra cost. If you are concerned about pesticides and herbicides on fresh produce, remember that some foods are more likely to carry these compounds than others. The “Dirty Dozen” are 12 foods that might be worth buying organic, while the “Clean Fifteen” are foods that have very little traces of pesticides and are perfectly fine to eat non-organic. If remembering the lists is difficult, you can think of it this way: Foods that have a soft skin that we eat may be worth purchasing organic, while foods that have a thick skin or rind are typically not worth purchasing organic. 
  7. Shop seasonally. Look for produce that is in season. If your favorites are out of season, remember that frozen fruits and vegetables usually have the same nutritional value as their fresh counterparts and can be a really good alternative. Frozen fruit is also picked at its peak ripeness, so those blueberries are less likely to be sour! To know what to buy when, look for price changes on foods (the price will go down when the food is in season) and use guides like the one below to give you an idea about the best times to buy your favorites. More specific seasonal food charts are available online (including at websites such as minnesotagrown.com and cuesa.org). 
  8. Finally, shop for what YOU need. Don’t feel like you have to buy foods based on what is popular or what your friends and family are buying. Not everyone needs gluten-free crackers or paleo protein bars. If you don’t have a reason to buy specialized products, then save your money.

Happy shopping!