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How to Shop Healthy on a Budget – The Top 10 Tips

Many people believe that it is expensive to follow a diet plan that requires you to buy specific foods, but that's not necessarily the case. A tight household budget does not mean that we have to sacrifice our health goals. With a few smart shopping strategies, grocery shopping can be cheap without you having to compromise your health goals. Here are ten smart tips on how to shop healthy on a budget:

Tips for Shopping Food on Low Budget

1. Buy Fresh Food

Tip number one: opt for fresh food whenever possible. Not only do fresh whole foods belong to any healthy diet plan, they are also usually cheaper than prepared and processed foods. In addition to avoiding unhealthy processed foods that come in fancy packages, you might also want to steer away from pre-cut fruits and vegetables, which are generally much more expensive than their whole counterparts. In addition, pre-cut fruits and vegetables are typically less nutrient-dense than whole foods.

2. Opt for Generic Brands

Not all healthy food items, such as some legumes and dried fruit, are available in the fresh produce section. Instead, they come pre-packaged and the consumer is often left with a choice between a generic brand and a name brand. If you're trying to shop healthy on a budget, choose generic items and store brands which are often significantly cheaper than name brands. In most supermarkets, the less expensive generic products are placed on the top and bottom shelves, while higher priced products are shelved at eye level.

3. Compare Unit Prices

If shopping healthy on a tight budget is your priority, make sure you check out and compare unit prices of healthy foods and ingredients. Displayed on the shelf price labels, these prices tell you how much the food costs per ounce, 100 grams, or kilogram. Smaller packages are often cheaper at face value, but the cost per ounce or kilogram might be more. And in case your local grocery store does not show the unit prices on the shelves, you can quickly figure them out by using the calculator on your cell phone.

4. Create a Shopping List and Stick to It

One of the best strategies to keep your grocery shopping within your budget is to plan your meals – and to stick to your plan. If you are prone to impulse buying, ask your husband or son to do the food shopping. According to research, compared to women, men are more likely to only buy food that is on the shopping list. Another way to avoid buying unhealthy groceries on a whim is to shop only when your stomach is full. If you go shopping hungry, you are more likely to buy expensive junk food rather than the healthy items on your shopping list.

5. Buy Foods That Are in Season

It may be tempting to buy fresh berries in winter, but if you're trying to eat healthy on a budget, fruit and vegetables that are currently in season may be a better choice. Fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season in season are usually cheaper, tastier and more nutritious than out-of-season produce. The seasonal food charts included in many of the condition-specific nutrition guides on (see list of conditions and diseases in the blue menu bar at the bottom of this page) can help you decide which seasonal foods you want to put into your cart on your next visit to the grocery store.

6. Shop Around the Perimeter

As a general rule, avoid the center aisles of your local supermarket – and our trip to the grocer will be both cheaper and healthier. The expensive, unhealthy processed and preserved foods are typically placed in the central aisles. In contrast, the healthy fresh produce is usually placed around the perimeter of the supermarket.

7. Don't Go Shopping When You're Hungry

If you are prone to impulse buying, avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. Walking through the aisles of your local grocery store with your stomach growling can make you vulnerable to buying unhealthy snacks on a whim.

8. Take Advantage of Coupons and Sales

Cut you grocery bill by searching weekly store circulars for coupons and information about sales and special offers. You should also make sure you paper-clip the coupons to your grocery list so you won't forget them at home when you go grocery shopping. In addition to using coupons to lower your grocery bill, you may also want to consider joining a valued customer program which offers extra savings to the store's regular customers.

9. Choose Frozen Over Canned Food

In winter when fresh produce is limited (and often more expensive), it may be tempting to turn to canned or frozen alternatives. While most fruit and vegetables lose a lot of nutrients when they are canned, frozen fruit and vegetables can actually be quite nutritious, and are thus a good alternative for those are trying to eat healthy on a very low budget. Why? Because food producers typically freeze fruits and vegetables at their peak ripeness, a time when these foods are usually most nutrient-dense. For more information, read the article Nutritional Differences Between Frozen & Fresh Vegetables.

10. Make Your Meals from Scratch

Rule number eight: make your own meals from scratch whenever possible. Making your own meals is not only healthier, but it is also better for your wallet. If you are out of ideas for meals, try browsing our recipe directories for inspiration. To access a recipe directory that matches your health goals, click on a condition or disease in the blue menu bar at the bottom of this page.

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