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Capes in the Kitchen, Motherhood (and Mayhem), Nutrition — June 27, 2012 at 9:07 am

How to Eat Healthy on the Cheap


Lately I’ve heard a lot of this: “I want to eat healthy but it’s so expensive!”

I do agree that there are some things that are more expensive to buy than their processed alternative, but I’m going to make the case here for how you can eat healthy, whole foods inexpensively and without breaking the bank. I got a chance to pick the brain of Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietician from Washington D.C., while I was at the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Denver last weekend.

Here are some of her suggestions and you might just be surprised at some of it! I know I was! Especially with this first one.

  • Buy frozen fruits and veg. The foods that are frozen are picked at their peak condition, says Rebecca, so you know that you’re getting some quality goods there. Fruits are picked ripe and there are constantly sales on store-brand frozen veggies. Even if there aren’t, they are not that expensive. A dollar or two for four servings of vegetables? Not bad at all.
  • Buy canned veggies. Before you smirk, think corn, beets, chick peas, maybe not canned green beans because those get mushy (although I actually like those). Rebecca says, when you prepare them, be sure to rinse the sodium off of them.

Click the picture for source.

  • Go for the frozen meals, but read your labels on calories, fat and sodium and choose ones that you wouldn’t normally make on your own. Ps. Ever make them and eat them and find that you’re starving 5 minutes later? Rebecca says add veggies to your frozen meals, but don’t stop there. Have a salad beforehand (dressing on the side) and then some fruit afterward. You’ll actually be full off of that.
  • Do a little math. It may seem like the “easy” foods are cheaper but did you know that canned salmon per ounce is less than hot dogs per ounce? And (as delicious as hotdogs are) salmon is much healthier. You can add it to wraps and salads and pasta, or grill it on its own. (Check out Rebecca’s post on protein costs per pound.)
  • Which leads me to the next one, eat less meat. Get your protein in by making things like tuna salad and tuna casserole (with whole ingredients). Add soy crumbles to pasta, use beans, or my new favorite friend, LENTILS.
  • And finally, this is my own tip that I’ve learned along the way: don’t stockpile the crap. I know it’s tempting to buy those bogos and have a pantry stocked full of food for months and months, just in case the world goes into a meltdown, but here’s where that fails for me. First of all, lots of things that have a really, really long shelf life has a very good likelihood of being full of chemicals and preservatives anyway. (Edited to note the inexpensive exceptions! Like beans and rice, whole grains and pastas! Initially, I was thinking of my former need to buy bogo because it was ON bogo, things like terrible cereals and low-fat sugary granola bars with preservatives! So I’m editing to note, don’t stockpile just for the sake of stockpiling because it’s cheap. Stockpile because it’s GOOD.) I say this about stockpiling because how often do you throw out entire boxes of food from your stockpile because you haven’t eaten them by the use-by date? You don’t? Oh, you’re much better than me. I end up throwing out entire boxes of graham crackers or whatever it is that I got on bogo because we never got to it. I have found that when you buy what you need for the week, you eat it. You eat just what you need and no more and no less. You are more likely to finish it because you don’t want to waste it. (Except for bagged salad. For some reason, I have tossed perhaps a million bags of salad on account of forgetting about it.) Anyway, less shelf time, less chemicals (again, in most cases, not all). More yummy whole foods. More vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Less wasting money on a stockpile that just gets tossed. You’re saving your dollar for quality, whole foods.

Ps. feel free to factor in the costs of health care – deductibles, co-pays, medications, etc – money you can save in the long run just for simply having a healthy shopping list today. It all counts!

Rebecca was just featured in a Washington Post article about debunking popular summer myths like “Will watermelons grow in your stomach if you eat the seeds?” “And do you really have to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim?” so be sure to check that out!

My question to you: what are your favorite ways to save money while eating healthy??

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  1. We have a saying about the cost of healthy food around our house.

    “It’s cheaper than angioplasty!” ;)
    Barbara recently posted..Starting Over With Exercise……AgainMy Profile

  2. You really made good use of your time with Rebecca, the nutritionist. Lots of good points in your post. some of which I had not considered. I am giving myself 100 useless, yet ego-boosting points for having bags of frozen fruit in my freezer. I use them for breakfast smoothies.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted..3 Excuses You Can Use When Mountain HikingMy Profile

  3. Canned veggies contain BPA in the lining

    • Great point! Thanks for that, you’re right! And that’s sort of a bummer! I reached out to Rebecca to ask her advice on that, meantime I did find a list of companies who either don’t have BPA in their cans, or are phasing them out. Which is a step at least. But I’m glad you pointed this out because now I’m going to have to research this more and perhaps write some letters. I hate BPA and it doesn’t have a place in our food and containers. Thanks!
      Christie O. recently posted..How to Eat Healthy on the CheapMy Profile

  4. I DIDN’T KNOW YOU COULD RINSE OFF THE SODIUM. I thought it was there, take it or leave it, so I just tried to avoid things in cans when possible. Why don’t people tell you things like that? Or is that one of those things that’s ON THE CAN and I’ve been too stupid to read it? *I’m going to go check, if I have any in the cupboard.*

    Also, I didn’t know cans had BPA. I’m checking out your link above. Am I wrong thinking that there is (or has been) a risk for botulism?

    • I had heard it before about the sodium, but Rebecca confirmed it for me. I have also read that there was a risk for botulism but it is very rare and if it happens, has to do with a mistake in the canning process and/or in home canning. We do a lot of canned carrots, my kids love those. And I didn’t realize that about the BPA either, but it just makes me mad! :)
      Christie O. recently posted..How to Eat Healthy on the CheapMy Profile

  5. I’m not fond of canned veggies, except mushrooms. But I have a freezer full of bagged veggies, berries, and more. I shop like a demon to feed my family healthy foods on a tight food budget, but it’s worth it in the long run!
    Kris recently posted..How Do You Track Your Workouts?My Profile

  6. I agree with all points! Except the last one :P I have a nicely-stocked pantry for the end of the world and it 1) doesn’t go bad, and 2) isn’t processed. Yay! The trick is to buy things in bulk that store really well, such as beans, rice, whole grains, spices, and other natural things (honey, seeds and beans to sprout, dried seaweed and miso, vinegar, etc.). I love having a stockpile of healthy preserved food at my fingertips. At first, I was wasting some but only because I was storing things I DIDN’T EAT haha…. that was the key. Now I store healthy things that I want to constantly pull from and replenish, and nothing goes bad :)
    Shanti recently posted..Antishay 16 – A Perfect Week! and the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference 2012 – #FHBC12My Profile

    • That’s awesome, Shanti! And yes, great point! I will definitely agree with you on that part, I do have beans, spices, honey, rice and things like that too for a rainy day (i.e. for the end of the world). I was thinking more about all the things I couponed and bogo-ed for so long in my previous (chemically) life, like boxes and boxes of cereals and (sugary) low-fat granola bars, things like that. But you’re right, there are still some non preservative, healthy choices left to stockpile (and for cheap too!!) Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog! It was an honor to be there with you at FHBC12 and hearing about your journey!
      Christie O. recently posted..How to Eat Healthy on the CheapMy Profile

  7. Haha, that picture…so true. I can’t imagine being filled up with Lean Cusine!
    Charissa recently posted..The Colourful Smoothie ChallengeMy Profile

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