Eating Healthy Without Breaking the Bank

— Written By and last updated by

Woman looking at grocery bill

Eating healthy can seem like a huge task. The thought of planning and preparing balanced meals from mostly fresh ingredients can often overwhelm a person. Then you look at your grocery bill and your eyes bug out like one of those old-time cartoon characters. We have all been there. But there are some simple ways to cut corners on the prices without cutting corners on a healthy diet. Check out the tips below.

First and foremost, plan your meals. If you can spare a few minutes prior to going to the store to sit down and plan your meals you can save yourself a lot of money. Look at your calendar and see what you can fix around the activities you have going on that week. I like to pick a cookbook and use it to create some new meals throughout the week. Make sure to find ways to include leftovers so you can stretch the value of the food you purchase. Planning allows you to create a list and when you have a grocery list you are much less likely to buy on impulse or buy items that will go unused. Saving yourself money should also include reducing the amount of food that goes to waste because of spoilage. (For more information on meal planning check out a previous article entitled: “What’s for Dinner”: No Longer Dirty Words)

When planning your meals think about what produce is in season. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has a great chart called What’s in Season. This allows you to shop for in-season produce. When produce is in-season it is cheaper and sometimes can even be on sale. Not only will shopping in-season save you money but it allows for more variety in your diet. In-season produce can also be purchased from local farmers as a way to support agriculture within your community. It is cheap, fresh and healthy!

Another great way to save money is to try frozen or canned produce. Buying frozen or canned can be cheaper and research shows that they have at least the same nutritional value as the fresh version. When choosing canned produce review the packaging. Look for things with no or low salt, and packaged in water or it’s own juice. You may even want to freeze or can your own produce. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to learn more about how to freeze or can foods. You could even join us for one of the hands-on canning classes offered at the Currituck County Extension Office. (Check out the article: 2018 Home Canning Series for details on upcoming classes)

The savings can really add up if you stock up when things are on sale. Use sale ads to help plan meals. If you know something is going to be on sale at your local grocery store you can prepare several meals with this item. Make sure to sign up for your grocery store’s email list and take advantage of what they showcase each week. Stock up on shelf-stable items to use in future recipes. A well-stocked pantry means you will run to the grocery store less often and be less likely to eat or order out. A great way to save is to prepare meals at home.

Lastly, you can grow your own produce. Having a small garden or even pots on your porch or windowsill can help you save money. The USDA estimates that every dollar spent on seeds and fertilizer can grow, on average, twenty-five dollars worth of produce. Kids love to garden so growing your own food can be a family project! If you would like more information about growing your own produce contact the Currituck Extension Office at 252-232-2262 for resources. Or join us for any of our Gardening and Cooking classes held throughout the year. On May 21st we will be holding a Gardening and Cooking with Herbs class. Visit the Currituck County Center “What’s Cooking?” page for more information and a complete list of classes.

Eating healthy can be overwhelming to your mind and wallet but now you are armed with several tools that can make it a little easier for yourself and your family. For more information about healthy eating on a budget please contact Olivia Jones via email olivia_jones@ncsu.edu or phone 252-232-2261.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, family and marital status, sex, age, veteran status, sexual identity, genetic information or disability. NC State, N.C. A&T,U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.