The price of gluten-free products, nut milks, and nut butters can make your excitement to eat healthier plummet.
How on earth are you supposed to find the money, let alone the time, to eat clean?
Unfortunately, the food industry has made it really hard for everyone to afford a wholesome diet with real ingredients.
One of the biggest problems is how easy it is for us to chose the unhealthy options at the grocery store.
The marketing, the strategic placement, the ingredients used to fool our senses, and the price are all more attractive in terms of convenience, money, and even taste.
You know switching to whole foods is the right thing to do, but that is just too expensive, right?
Well, not as much as you’d think. You can nail healthy eating on a budget if you do it the smart way.
Here are 6 tactics to help you afford all the good stuff that should go on your plate:
- Buy mostly seasonal produce
Buying seasonally is my best tip to guarantee yourself healthy, delicious, and affordable food regularly.
Because there’s a lot of supply and it’s cheaper to grow and transport, seasonal produce sells at lower prices than out-of-season produce.
Simply put, the easiest it is to grow the produce, the cheaper it will be when you buy it.
Food grown in its natural season is also tastier and better for your health. It is more flavorful and it’s been proven to be more nutritious.
Eating with the seasons will also help you find better deals at the farmer’s market or grocery store.
- Make wise choices when it comes to organic food
Sadly, nowadays we (and our wallets) have to make a distinction between organic and conventional fruits and veggies. Although organic produce is always preferable, it’s more expensive.
When you need to prioritize, follow these two guidelines to pick what needs to be organic and what doesn’t:
When buying organic, prioritize the produce listed in the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list (apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes).
This list shows the produce that holds the greatest amount of pesticide residues, which means it shouldn’t be purchased conventionally.
The products you can buy conventionally are part of EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list (avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangos, papaya, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes), which lists the produce that holds the lowest amount of pesticide residues.
- Choose the farmers’ market when buying organic
It might be surprising, but farmers’ market can actually be cheaper than grocery stores when it comes to organic produce.
A 2011 study conducted by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFAVT) compared the prices between conventional and organic produce from grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
The findings concluded that for most organic products, farmers’ markets were more affordable than grocery stores, except for potatoes.
The study showed that organic produce from farmers’ markets are 38% cheaper than organic produce from grocery stores.
Also, organic cantaloupe, lettuce, and snow peas from farmer’s market were more affordable than conventional ones at the grocery store.
To sum up, avoid buying organic in a grocery store. Instead, go the farmer’s market.
- Realize you don’t need to splurge on “superfoods”
Some of the most popular superfoods you see nowadays being mentioned in the health space are foods like maqui berries, acai berries, bee pollen, spirulina, maca root, wheatgrass, and chlorella.
These foods are incredibly nutritious and they’re an amazing addition to your diet if you can afford it, but their price tag is just as high as their nutritional value (or even more).
The good news is you don’t need these foods to lead a healthy lifestyle. You can get the nutrition your body needs from common fruits and vegetables.
Don’t let these health trends hold you back from trying to eat better. You don’t need a pantry full of fancy products, you only need real food.
A study published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease created a ranking of 41 powerhouse fruits and vegetables.
The study defined powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV) “as foods providing, on average, 10% or more daily value per 100 kcal of 17 qualifying nutrients.”
The top ten powerhouse fruits and vegetables were:
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet greens
- Leaf lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens.
To put that into money terms, according to the latest National Retail Report – Fruits and Vegetables [http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf], buying all the foods mentioned above at organic prices would cost you less than $21:
Organic retail prices for vegetables and fruits
|Chinese cabbage||per pound||1.48|
|Swiss chard||per bunch||1.07|
|Spinach||per 10 oz package||5.49|
|Collard greens||per bunch||2.00|
* not organic
This is a huge bang for the buck considering you get super nutritious food and you don’t need to buy every single leafy green on this list. Also, the conventional prices are significantly more affordable.
Meanwhile, a single bottle of chlorella or spirulina ranges from $10 to $30, and an 8-ounce package of acai powder can cost you up to $30.
- Buy ugly produce
Did you know that 6 billion pounds of perfectly good produce are wasted every year in the U.S. just for being considered “ugly”?
As it turns out, retailers have very strict (and arbitrary) standards on what the produce must look like to be sold, which leads to “ugly” produce never reaching the shelves.
Their loss, your gain! You can cut your cost of eating healthy by buying ugly produce that is just as nutritious and tasty:
- In California, you can sign up to Imperfect Produce, a startup that specializes in delivering ugly produce from farm to home at 30% less of the costs of conventional produce. They also partnered with the grocery store chain Raley’s to sell ugly produce at lower prices.
- In Maryland, you can sign up to Hungry Harvest, a service that delivers organic surplus produce right to your doorstep at more affordable prices than farmers’ markets and grocery stores.
- If you live near Dorchester, Massachusetts, you can shop at the Daily Table, a not-for-profit retail store that sells ugly produce and other edibles at low prices.
- If you live in Europe or Canada, there are a lot more options available to you, which you can find in this directory by endfoodwaste.org.
- Take advantage of coupons and deals
Fortunately, there are deals you can find online for organic and healthy products.
You can find daily coupons on organic food products at sites like
Another great way of getting good deals is getting to know the farmers of the produce you buy at the farmers’ market.
Friendliness, honest appreciation, and buying from them just a couple of times is likely to get them to cut you a deal or give you extra produce. More than once I’ve gotten free mangos and melons at the farmer’s market just for chatting up a bit with the seller.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be as expensive.
Yes, eating more high quality products are a bigger investment than buying cheap and junky food every month, but it’s an investment that is:
a) WORTH IT – Investing on your health is one of the best ways to use your hard-earned money.
Eating seasonally, choosing the farmers’ market for organic produce, buying ugly produce, prioritizing the quality (no the quantity) of the food you buy, not spending on highly priced superfoods, and lowering your costs with coupons are powerful money saving tools.
Let me know what your best tips are to eat healthy on a budget in the comments below! 🙂