Eat Healthy for Less

by Lisa Maloney

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Fresh, healthy food doesn't have to be expensive. Follow these tips to save money and improve your health.

Use it up: Take inventory of what you already have and dream up ways of using it. If you're never going to eat it, pass it on to somebody that will. Make soup or salad at least once a week to finish leftover perishables before they spoil. You'll save a lot of money if you eat everything you bring home instead of throwing it out.

Make it: Prepared foods like beef jerky, fruit leather and snack bars may be the most expensive items in your cupboard. Making them is usually easy and relatively cheap. Consider investing in a food dehydrator.

Look in unusual places: You can get healthy food for less at farmers' markets, pick-your-own farms, food co-ops, buyers' clubs, and even online. Find out if there's a crop-share or food-share program in your area. If you find lower prices away from home, ask if they will ship to you.

Harvest it: If there are wild edibles nearby, learn how to gather and store them. Make sure you know how to avoid dangerous plants. It might be worth your while to make a gathering trip away from home, especially if you can save time and money by combining it with other travel plans or going in a group.

Grow it: Even if you don't have space for a garden, some vegetables and herbs grow well in containers. Buy your pots second-hand or reuse anything you can poke drainage holes in. Put reused lids underneath to catch drips, or group containers together in large trays. If you need a grow light, check thrift stores, garage sales, and online.

Take a class: Taking a class (whether it's on nutrition, gathering, or gardening) may be the best investment you ever make. You can save a lot of time, effort and money by learning how to do things right the first time; learn from other peoples' experiences and mistakes.

Plan ahead: Having quick, healthy options available saves time, cuts down on cravings, and reduces impulse purchases, making it easier to maintain healthy habits. Store homemade soup in the freezer, keep some trail mix in your backpack or glove box, and have a few bags of chopped vegetables or fruit (sprinkled with lemon juice to keep it from turning brown) ready to go in your refrigerator.

Buy it: Always shop on a full stomach. Make a shopping list. If it's not on the list, don't buy it. When what you want is on sale, stock up. Fill up on grains, cereal, dried fruit, and even herbs and spices in the bulk aisle of your local supermarket or health food store. Buy in bulk at warehouse stores and split with a friend. (Save your storage containers and reuse them.)

Ask for it: If the store doesn't stock what you want, ask for it and then keep asking. Find out if you can get a discount for pre-ordering or buying in quantity. Is there a frequent buyers' club or discount program you can sign up for?

Don't buy it: If you're not going to use it before it spoils, don't buy it. Period.

Take the Next Step:

  • Is there room for improvement in your grocery bill and your eating plan? Start with the above tips to save money and improve your health.
  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

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