Over the course of the "Eat Well" mission in Lark DPP, you learned a lot about healthy eating to lower diabetes risk. Check-in 7 brought up an important point: the cost of food.
You can eat healthy on a budget just by going to regular supermarkets. These are 10 tips for eating healthy on a budget.
1. Reduce waste
Americans throw away about 30 to 40% of the food supply. If you are near average, you can save a lot of money by cutting back on waste. Choose packaged products, such as dairy products and bread, with dates far away so that you can have a chance to use them before they go bad. Plan to use or store produce and fresh meat and fish to avoid wasting it.
2. Check sales and use coupons
Check the ads and coupons before you shop and be flexible about your planned meals for the week. Stock up on non-perishables, such as canned and frozen goods, when they are on sale, and buy in-season and on-sale fruit, vegetables, and poultry and fish.
3. Choose store brands
Many supermarket chains carry their own line of products as alternatives to name brands. They may be cheaper by one-third or more, and are often similar to the national-brand products. They can even be identical, having been made literally in the same food processing plant with the only difference being the name on the label. If you are unsure, read the list of ingredients to make sure they are similar to those of the name brand product.
4. Drink more water
Water is free, and it is healthy. You can save dollars, calories, and sugar when you use water instead of buying soft drinks, fruit drinks, juice, and sports drinks. Tap water can even be healthier than bottled water due to its fluoride content, depending on where you live.
5. Prep your own
You are paying for someone's labor and time, plus shelf space and energy, when you buy pre-prepped meals and ingredients. Save up to half or more, and often gain nutrition, by buying ingredients that have been processed as little as possible. Consider dried beans instead of canned, heads of lettuce and whole fruit and vegetables instead of bagged salad and pre-cut produce, and dried grains instead of ready-to-eat or frozen ones. Supermarket salad bars, soup bars, and rotisserie chickens can be tempting, but costly. To save money, make your own ingredients and dishes whenever possible.
6. Portion your own
Foods packaged in individual servings, such as single-serving packets of oatmeal and 100-calorie snack packs, are convenient, but each serving costs two to four times as much as when you buy a regular multi-serving package. Instead, buy big bags and boxes if they are less expensive. If you need pre-portioned food for convenience or because you have trouble with portion control, just make your own single-serving packs by measuring out single servings and storing each one in a separate baggie. This also works for nuts, pretzels, breakfast cereal, crackers, cheese, and popcorn.
7. Reduce junk food
Your body probably does not need those potato chips, candy bars, cookies, or that ice cream, bacon, or mac and cheese, so why would you spend good money on them? Save money and lose weight by cutting out the foods that you probably should not be buying anyway.
8. Eat plants
You have the chance to save money and improve your health every time you opt for a plant-based protein over red meat or poultry. Beans, lentils, split peas, and soy products are all inexpensive options to get your protein. Make soup, stew, chili, and casseroles with your plant-based proteins, and count on getting more fiber and antioxidants with those choices.
9. Buy in bulk
Value packs and family packs often cost less per serving than smaller packages of meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables. You can take advantage even if your family is not enormous. Just cook the fresh items quickly. Use them in recipes to eat soon or freeze, or freeze them on their own to add to recipes later in the week or month.
10. Stock up for a rainy day
Keep some healthy ingredients on hand in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. That way, you can always have the option to cook a healthy meal and you do not need to pay the extra money to eat at a restaurant when you had not planned to do so.
Here is an example of how you can make your meals for the day healthier and less expensive.
1 packet flavored instant oatmeal made with low-fat milk
1 cup pre-cut fruit salad
Oatmeal made with ½ cup oats and non-fat milk plus ½ diced apple and cinnamon.
Plain oats are sugar-free and less expensive than flavored instant oatmeal. An apple costs less than pre-cut fruit.
Salad kit with greens, cheese, breaded chicken strips, dried cranberries, crispy noodles and creamy dressing
Salad with chopped romaine, any other cut vegetables, ½ cut pear or 1 tangerine, garbanzo beans, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
1 slice of whole-grain bread
Salad kits are expensive and not always healthy. Beans are a high-fiber and lower-calorie protein source than breaded chicken. Use fresh fruit instead of dried cranberries to cut sugar. Subbing olive oil and vinegar can cut unhealthy fats and possibly sugar and sodium compared to salad dressing.
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.