It is possible to eat clean on a budget with a few clever tricks.
Even though,Â as a nutritionist, Iâd much rather spend money on goodÂ food than fancy clothes and mani-pedis, I still need to watchÂ my grocery billsâespecially since I split my time between New York City and LA, two of the most expensive cities in the country. But while health food has a reputation for being super pricey (Whole Foods isn't nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for nothing), studies have shown that nutritious diets can be absolutely affordable, and I couldn't agree more.Â Below are my seven go-to tricks for filling my kitchens with the healthiest possibleÂ fare, without blowing my budget.
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I often find my favorite staples for a lower cost on amazon.com than in my local market, especiallyÂ when I purchaseÂ largeÂ quantities. For example, a 32-ounce bag of my go-toÂ rolledÂ oats, Bob's Red Mill, costs about $7 at my supermarket. But when I buy four bags from amazon forÂ $13,Â eachÂ bag is less thanÂ half price. If you donât go through food quickly enough to buyÂ in bulk, consider splitting an order with a friend.
Check theÂ retailer's prices
At my localÂ grocery stores, Amrita's Chocolate Maca,Â my favorite energy bar, costs anywhere from $3.50 to $3.99. But when I orderÂ an entire caseÂ directlyÂ from the company (amritahealthfoods.com), the price drops to $2.25 per bar. Plenty of healthy brands sell directly to consumers. AndÂ many companies will send you special offers and discount codes to help you save even more if you register online.
Speaking of discounts, many natural and organic manufacturers offer printable coupons on their brand websites or retailer sites like Whole Foods. You can generally save anywhere from 50 centsÂ to more thanÂ $1 per product, which adds up to big savings over time. Iâve also used organicdeals.com, which links directly to coupons for Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe's, and more. The last time I clicked through the site, I snagged $1.50 off two organic spice products, $1 off organic veggie broth, and $1 off organicÂ dark chocolate. Score!
ChooseÂ organic store brands
Contrary to popular belief, buying organic doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Most supermarket chains now offer store brand organic items, whichÂ can be a lot less expensive than brand name goods. For example, Kroger grocery stores sellÂ organic store brandÂ pulses (beans, lentils, and peas) for $1 per can, which can be 80 centsÂ less than the non-organic brand name pulsesÂ on the next shelf.
Frequent your local farmerâs market
You probably already knew that local produce is super fresh, but did you know it can also great for your wallet? Â Since in-season fruits and veggies are plentiful, sellers atÂ farmer's marketsÂ often charge less than grocery stores. As a bonus, youâll be supporting areaÂ farms, and getting to know the people who grow your food. If youâre not sure when and whereÂ nearbyÂ farmerâs markets are held, check out localharvest.org.
Cut back on takeoutÂ
As much as I love to cook, I donât always have time. And while Iâve foundÂ a number of healthyÂ takeout dishesÂ at local restaurants, they can be ridiculously expensiveÂ withÂ the delivery fee and tip. As an economical alternative, Iâll whip up a dish with basicÂ items I always keep on hand.
For example, I love making aÂ simple kale and white bean soup. I put bagged chopped kale, low-sodium organic veggie broth, and a splash of olive oil in a pot, andÂ boost the flavor by tossing in someÂ minced garlic (from a jar), dried Italian herb seasoning, smoked paprika, black pepper, lemon juice, and a little balsamic vinegar. Then I add water, bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, andÂ throwÂ in a half cupÂ of canned white beans for protein.
When I'm really pressed for time,Â Iâll addÂ a dollop of store-bought, dairy-free pesto toÂ steamed frozen veggies and canned cannellini beans (drained and rinsed) for a cheap and easy balancedÂ meal.
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Pick upÂ non-food items elsewhere
Iâve been committed to buying eco-friendly brands of cleaning products and laundry soap for years. But I recently realized that many are available at price clubs and discount stores for much cheaper prices than what I see at the grocery store.Â While shopping in more than one place takes a little extra time, to me itâs worth it, because it meansÂ more funds for healthy foods, and I can splurge on something special, like organic wine.
Cynthia SassÂ is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with masterâs degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen onÂ national TV, sheâs Healthâs contributing nutrition editor, and privately counselsÂ clientsÂ in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her onÂ Facebook,Â TwitterÂ andÂ Pinterest.