With trendy (but suspect) superfoods being peddled by Instagram influencers and the rise of high-end, organic smoothies or exclusively sourced, artisanal specialty items promising to kick your body into next-level healthfulness, it’s no wonder healthy food gets a reputation for being insanely overpriced.
But eating healthy doesn’t have to be a whole-paycheck ordeal. Just as you can bypass the trendy, high-cost workout class to get fit in your local park, you can fuel your body just fine without the hyped up specialty products and save some serious cash.
- READ MORE: Ask the RD: What are the Best Foods to Buy on a Tight Budget?
If you’re looking to eat your best to support a fit body, but also not break the bank, here is the grocery list for you:
- Bananas are the holy grail of workout foods for providing a portable source of easily digested carbohydrates. They also cost about 20 cents each.
- Canned tomatoes have more absorbable levels of lycopene than fresh ones and come at a fraction of the cost. Just make sure to opt for the low-sodium variety and use them for chili and soup or make a homemade pasta sauce by adding herbs.
- Cottage cheese had its heyday back in the 1980s as a weight-loss food and is primed for a 2019 comeback. While you shouldn’t eat it exclusively, it is an inexpensive, protein- and calcium-rich option that makes a filling snack or addition to a salad.
- Eggs are likely the most versatile protein around; just search the hashtag #putaneggonit to be inspired. Luckily, the egg-cholesterol myth has been put to rest, and we can now healthfully devour these nutrient-rich gems for as little as 16 cents an egg.
- Canned beans are roughly 99 cents a can and loaded with fiber, complex carbs, B vitamins and protein. Rinse the legumes before adding to soups, stews, salads or even making nutritious treats (chickpea cookie dough is a thing).
- Frozen produce is a great backup when items are out of season. Stock up on sauce or seasoning-free versions. Added bonus: For those with better intentions than execution, you won’t have to toss out a fridge full of wilted produce at the end of the week.
- Whole grains, which are simple and unprocessed are loaded with complex carbs and fiber and can be used for hot breakfast bowls, side dishes or added to salads, etc. … You can also utilize these humble grains to make your own snacks like granola or air-popped popcorn.
- Ground meat is often seen as less desirable. But you can find great high-quality versions of just about any animal in ground form at a fraction of the cost of larger cuts. It is also easier to portion out ground meat over larger cuts and portion control is great for the body and the budget.
- Herbs and spices are the best cost-saving way to add flavor to your food. Sauces can be pricey and loaded with junky ingredients, so keep a stocked pantry of dried herbs and spices for when your low-cost groceries need a boost.
- Root veggies like beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc., won’t break the bank but they will provide lots of phytonutrients, complex carbs and act as a hearty addition to your meals.
- Sardines are one of the most underappreciated health foods. Sure they have a strong smell and potent taste, but the health benefits are stellar. Tins of these fish are far less expensive than fresh seafood and are loaded with nutrients such as calcium (from the bones), omega fatty acids, vitamin D and protein.
- Seasonal fresh produce is cheaper during its harvest season. So skip berries in February or asparagus in August and check your seasonal growing calendars to see what you can get right now in your area. Added bonus: In-season produce maintains more nutrition and tastes better.
Try these grocery shopping habits to save even more:
Planning ahead, writing down and batch-cooking what you’ll consume for the week helps guide your shopping and saves you from buying unneeded items. After you know what you’re making, you can buy accordingly, and since you’ve planned your meals, you’ve also planned to use your leftovers, too.
Online shopping now includes filling a grocery cart. Many subscription sites come with savings when you choose to reorder. Most of us eat the same foods on repeat, so opting to have them delivered on an ongoing schedule makes sense. Beyond staples, you can get full meal kits delivered weekly or monthly to stock your freezer with nutrient-rich options. Having meals on hand keeps you from going on a grocery binge or going out for a pricey restaurant meal.
There is a 10-pound tub of organic unrefined coconut oil in my pantry. Sound extreme? Maybe, but think about how much oil (of any kind) you use because if you’re like me, you cook with it (or add to smoothies, etc.) daily and that adds up fast. Opt for buying a bulk quantity (sites like Amazon allow you to compare cost per unit and see the savings) and simply refill a jar you can easily use day to day. The bulk concept also works great for grains, nuts and seeds. Your local grocery store likely has a bulk section that charges less due to the lack of packaging and allows you to get as much or as little as you need.
Nut butters, snacks, baking mixes and other staple pantry items can add up when opting for less processed, organic, gluten-free or allergen-free versions from trendy labels. Companies like Brandless have done wonders for showcasing the fact quality nutrients can be independant of a flashy label and stripping that brand name can come at a very reduced cost. Check out Brandless.com or head to your local grocery to learn what products its store brand offers, even Walmart’s label has an organic product line.
Of course, investing in your fitness is a huge investment in your overall health and well-being, which is priceless.