Ever thought about cleaning up your diet but worry about the price tags on all that healthy food? You’re not alone.
While clean eating can be a money sink if you let it, it doesn’t have to break the bank. These tips and shortcuts will help you plan and shop smarter, so you can save those hard-earned dollars for something more fun than groceries [or, you know, for paying your rent].
1. Emphasize in-season produce.
During harvest time, the costs of in-season produce often drop due to increased availability. That also happens to be when fruits and vegetables are at their peak in terms of both flavor and nutrition. If you’re not sure what’s in season when, staff in the produce department can usually help point shoppers in the right direction. During summer months, organic strawberries, stone fruits [like peaches, apricots, cherries and plums] and melons are some of the best values. In the winter, stick with pomegranates, apples, and citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits.
2. Know when to skip organic.
Certain foods, such as corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, and cabbage absorb a minimal amount of crop chemicals and are OK to buy conventionally grown. Others known as the “dirty dozen,” including apples, strawberries, grapes, celery and peaches, can have high levels of pesticide residue, so splurging on organic will eliminate your chance of consuming chemicals.
3. Don’t be afraid of store brands.
Unlike knockoff purses and shoes, you don’t have to sacrifice quality when choosing store brand products at the grocery store. They’re just as good as the national brands in taste and nutritional value, and usually cost significantly less.
4. Buy in bulk.
Buying up supersized quantities of everyday staples like grains, beans, nut butters, spices and olive oil can help you score big savings. It also helps eliminate excess packaging and reduce spoilage and waste, which means even more savings. And grains, such as rice, barley and quinoa, are especially good bulk buys, because they’ll double in size once cooked.
5. Take advantage of frozen convenience.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a great, affordable option when it comes to eating clean on a budget. Whether it’s summer or winter they are often more nutritious than the fresh vegetables and fruits, because they go right from the farm where they’re picked to the processing company where they’re flash frozen at the peak of ripeness. There’s very little time for the produce nutrients to deteriorate from air exposure. Plus, retailers will often have their store brand of frozen fruits and veggies for sale, which means you can stock up at an additional discount.
6. Save some for later.
Preparing leftovers can help cut back on food waste, and will allow you to take advantage of produce when it’s at its peak. So for example, say your casserole calls for tomatoes during tomato season when they’ll be at the height of flavor, nutrition and most available. Why not make a double recipe of that casserole? When you’re done eating for the evening, package the leftovers in usable quantities and freeze it for another time.