Healthy eating requires proper planning. The planning is fun and exciting, but planning nonetheless. So when you’re trying to balance your spending and also eat well, sometimes you need to get creative.
I’ll let you in on some little hints that help me afford quality foods and still be able to have money for other things like bills and a social life:
- Buying in bulk.
It’s almost always cheaper, and you can avoid the packaging waste by bringing your own reusable glass container (I try to avoid plastic containers unless something’s going in the freezer or I’m going to a place that doesn’t allow glass). Ask your cashier if he or she is able to weigh your container first, then head on over the the bulk section and let the filling begin! I buy pantry and other cooking/baking items in bulk such as lentils, beans, quinoa, brown rice, dried fruits, nuts and nut butters, seeds, herbs, teas, spices, baking soda, reishi mushroom powder, cacao powder, etc.
- Buying local.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a farmers market or pick-your-own place, chances are you’ll be paying a lot less than a store’s retail price for the same items. Farmers occasionally have “seconds” (aka second picks) offered at a discounted price. For example, a large bag (peck) of apples for $7. Many stores, especially smaller natural food stores, carry local goods as well.
- Buying sale items.
Some stores feature “manager’s special” items, which just means that the store isn’t allowed to sell the item after a certain sell-by date. The expiration date, however, is what you should check. It’s later than the sell-by date so the item is still good to eat. Use your best judgement though, and go with your gut. If something doesn’t look, feel, or smell right, it probably isn’t. I’ve gotten a lot of awesome produce marked down because it got a little wilty or there was a problem with the store’s cooler. It’s all fine to eat, and if it doesn’t look that awesome raw, you can lightly steam it or pop it in a smoothie.
- Bringing reusable bags.
Whole Foods offers a 25 cent discount for every bag you bring in and use. They give the option of subtracting the money from your bill or giving you wooden quarters to drop into your choice of charity donation boxes. Other stores may have similar waste-reduction incentives. It never hurts to ask!
- Buying frozen (sometimes).
While fresh, local, and organic are always best, sometimes you have to make little compromises. I compare the weight and prices of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables to see which one is a better deal. Many frozen items are flash-frozen very soon after harvest to maintain as many nutrients as possible. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies and other blended drinks. Frozen veggies don’t take long to steam, or you can toss them into soup or a pot of quinoa to cook alongside the rest of your meal.