Consumer IQ

Does Frugal Grocery Shopping Allow for Healthy Eating?

grocery list

The phrase “frugal grocery shopping” often brings to mind pictures of people purchasing the least healthy options out there, such as big bags of chips, 3-liter bottles of soda, and packages of processed baked goods.

While you can get a lot of calories for a small amount of money and it often seems that you need to shell out a whole lot more to get the healthy options, it is possible to cut your grocery bill and improve your diet.

In fact, the answer to the question “does healthy food cost more?” is more often than not a resounding no.

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Foods

In 2012, the USDA’s Economic Research Service did a study to find once and for all the cost of eating healthy foods. The results may be surprising. What the team described as unhealthy foods, such as chips, soda and ice cream, were as expensive as meat and other sources of protein.

The least expensive foods? Grains, dairy, and vegetables, in that order, followed by fruit. The foods were ranked by the price per portion size.

Grains are the least expensive type of food whether you rank the foods by weight, portion size, or caloric content. The ranking includes all types of grains, from super healthy quinoa and brown rice to less healthy white rice and refined flours.

While protein, such as chicken and red meat, ranked pretty high in the cost per portion area, you can find inexpensive types of protein. Beans and eggs are two examples of high protein foods that don’t cost much per serving.

Getting the Most From Healthy Foods

Of course, not all types of healthy food are the same. For example, if you only seek out food that is out-of-season or that’s sold at a high-end gourmet store, of course you’ll end up paying more. The best way to cut your grocery bill is to pick out locally grown, in season produce.

If you want to save on your produce, check out your local farmer’s market or pick-you-own place. While farmer’s markets are often thought to be more expensive than the grocery store, they are usually considerably more affordable.

The cost of eating healthy also goes up if you insist on only eating the finest cuts of meat. If you want to avoid hormones or other residues in your meat, but don’t want to pay the extra costs, your best option is to reduce the amount of meat in your diet.

Organic, grass-fed beef or free range chickens tend to cost considerably more than the regular types. If you want to stick with organic without the high cost, go for organic eggs and organic dried or canned beans.

More Frugal Shopping Tips

Frugal grocery shopping means looking for the best deals on the healthiest foods. If fresh produce is very expensive where you live, look for frozen options. Frozen vegetables often cost less than fresh versions, especially in the off-season.

Since the veggies are frozen at the peak of ripeness, you are getting the same nutrition as you would with fresh produce. If you shop the frozen section when veggies are on sale, you might be able to get a one pound bag of produce for just $1.

Think “day old” or “almost past its prime” when shopping. The bread in the bakery section might be a little stale, but you can use it for toast or add it to soup without anyone noticing. Dairy products such as yogurt and milk are usually fine for a few days past their “sell by” dates.

The produce in the reduced section is more often than not perfectly fine, if not a little worse for wear. If it’s too ripe to eat on its own, you can add it to baked goods, a smoothie or use it in a soup.

What do you think? Does healthy food cost more where you live?

“Does Frugal Grocery Shopping Allow for Healthy Eating?” was written by Kelly Anderson.