Eating healthy foods is often written off as being too expensive or not worth the trouble. The truth is, making healthy eating choices is a lot more cost-effective than we think. When we buy fresh ingredients and consider who and where we buy them from, it’s actually quite easy to spend less money on fresher, local and healthier foods that you can’t always find in big supermarkets. Plus, how fresh the ingredients are that we put in our body will directly affect what nutrients you absorb from it, giving you more energy every time you eat. If you are used to eating primarily processed foods it may take a little longer to notice the difference and get used to eating fresher ingredients and snacks. But at the same time, you won’t need to give up any flavors or tastes you enjoy because we aren’t talking about dieting, we’re talking about paying attention to how fresh your ingredients are and how long you can make them last. Let’s explore a few ways that you can start eating healthier without breaking the bank.
Eat At Home
One of the biggest and best ways to save money while making sure you’re eating healthier is by eating at home. Cooking at home does take time, but that can also be an important meditative part of your day if you set it aside. Most of the food we eat out at restaurants and fast food places is processed and unhealthy. “Eating healthy is all about making sure your ingredients are fresh and prepared by you,” said Seb Evans, Co-Founder of Banquist. “The more you eat out and buy processed foods, it won’t matter what ingredients you withhold. You’re still spending more for a lower quality food that may sustain you in the short term, but in the long term you’ll be less healthy and save less money on eating out.” Processed foods will give short term energy, but often won’t last you until your next scheduled meal.
A danger of cooking at home is wasting food that hasn’t been cooked or has stayed in the fridge too long after cooking. Founder and CEO of Diathrive Michael Hennessy said “How often do we all cook a big meal and save the leftovers only to throw them out a day or two later? I know I certainly have done this, and it’s such a waste of fresh ingredients! Eating leftovers is a great way to make your groceries last longer than a few days, and get several meals out of one night of cooking.” Eating your leftovers is the best way to make your ingredients last after cooking a big meal. Things like soups, stews and chilis are great foods to cook in the colder months that can be stored easily and heated up at a moment’s notice.
Of course, cooking at home doesn’t mean you should never go out. “The easiest way to save money on food is to stop going out to eat! Of course, treating yourself to an occasional meal at a restaurant is fine, but when that’s the norm you’re paying almost double what you would if you were to just eat and cook at home for the majority of the week. Limit meals to once a week or less to save huge amounts of money on food,” says Steven Vigilante, Head of New Business Development at OLIPOP.
Part of eating healthier is making sure your metabolism is working to its fullest. The best way to make sure of this is to make sure you are eating at regular intervals throughout the day. The most common meal that people skip is breakfast. “A lot of people I know have trouble eating early in the morning before starting your day,” said Shanzil Amin, Managing Partner at WellBefore. “I totally get that, but at the same time it’s important to get your metabolism going early so that your body is prompted to continue fueling. You don’t need to eat a ton for every meal, but it’s important to practice regular eating habits. This will encourage your body to use the nutrients you’re putting in, meaning you’ll get more out of everything you eat.” Maintaining healthy eating habits means training your body to extract the most nutrients possible from every meal.
That means that little dips in energy throughout the day are likely due to sugar levels dropping. Crocs CEO Andrew Rees had this advice to give “Make sure you are not only eating a regular three meals a day, but also giving yourself a healthy snack to eat throughout the day. This can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels up. Something simple like an apple or orange can make or break your mood for the day.” Even a small spike in natural sugars can elevate your energy levels just as much as you need to get through the day.
Find the Best Stores for the Best Items
Don’t get too attached to one store! “Most people will default to one market or store to get all of their items,” observes Hector Guttierez, CEO of JOI. “Consider that some stores may have better options in terms of fruits, veggies, meats and packaged goods. It can be extremely cost effective to source your items from different places that have better deals on particular ingredients.” This is a great way to differentiate where you shop and make sure you’re getting the best ingredients possible.
Sometimes this can be a fun way to discover new specialty stores you didn’t know about before. “Some stores specialize in organic spices and packaged goods. If you can find a local store that sells fresh and unique spices, your homemade food will not only save you money but taste absolutely amazing,” said Michael Nicholas, CEO of Sootheze.
Make it Yourself!
Another great way to save money on food is to make and grow things yourself! “One of the most cost effective ways to save on essential items like bread is to make it yourself!” Said Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co.. “It takes time, but if you can set aside some baking time every couple of weeks you will save a ton if bread is a big part of your diet.” Additionally, you can grow your own vegetables and spices to freshen up your cabinet even more. Dr. Payel Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder of Cleared said, “Some produce can be grown easily from any small home or apartment. Greens like rosemary, dill, and basil are all things that are staples in many delicious meals and easy to grow and maintain at home. Having a green thumb can save you hundreds of dollars in produce every year.”
Farmers Markets and Seasonal Produce
Farmers markets are the way to go when it comes to fresh produce. These vendors deliver straight for their farms for the best fresh fruits and veggies. “Some cost effective ways to eat healthier include purchasing fruits and vegetables from farmers markets,” said Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods. “These are a great place to find quality fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank. They are also more fresh than the produce you often find at the grocery store. Also, when you go to the grocery store, stick to your grocery list. You will save money and often eat healthier because you won’t be tempted to purchase desserts that may not have been on your list.”
Often when shopping for natural and organic produce, you’ll find that certain things aren’t available year round. “Our shopping culture is designed to give the illusion that all fruits and vegetables are available all year. This just isn’t the case, and the result is that many items get marked up and aren’t nearly as fresh as they would be when they’re in season. Plan your home meals based on what fresh ingredients are currently in season to get the most bang for your buck,” says Miles Beckett, CEO & Co-founder of Flossy.
Eating healthier at lower costs is about thinking critically about what you can take care of at home yourself, where you shop and why you’re buying the ingredients you’re buying. Too many go into the store either feeling too hungry or without a plan, and end up with a seemingly random supply of ingredients. Think critically about where you buy your fresh ingredients from to achieve a healthier meal plan in your home.