For a large majority of Americans, highly publicized health foods and products have become similar to luxury goods. We’ve been bombarded with the idea that a healthy diet is expensive, something only for the affluent, and must come from high-end grocery stores that are over-priced. You know the one I’m talking about. I disagree. With 7,175 farmer’s markets across the country and mainstream grocery stores carrying more and more healthful products, there are plenty of easy and accessible ways to eat well without breaking the bank.
When the USDA revised their recommendations for a healthy diet this past year, they also did a parallel study analyzing the cost of following their recommendations. In particular, the USDA calculated the average cost per serving of the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables (including fresh, frozen and canned) and found that, on average, they cost 50 cents per one-cup serving. For an adult eating 2,000 calories per day, the USDA recommends eating 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit, for a grand total of $2.25/day. 4 ½ cups of goodness or a bag of chips and a coke?
Don’t believe that healthy food doesn’t have to break the bank? Check out my top money savers:
- Buy in bulk: Whole grains like quinoa, barley, millet or brown rice, beans and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, cannellini, kidney and black are very inexpensive. Bought in bulk, whole grains and beans can cost just pennies per meal. And because they are full of fiber they make you feel full and satisfied longer (put them into soups, stews, salads, burritos, etc.).
- Buy in season: Produce in season is abundant and almost always less expensive than out-of-season produce.
- Avoid pre-packaged produce: Precut, washed, and packaged fruits and vegetables are without a doubt more expensive than the whole food.
- Shop farmer’s markets at the end of the day: Farmers’ markets are a great place to find fresh, in-season, and locally grown produce for cheap – especially if you shop at the end of the market day, when growers may be willing to sell their produce at a discount, rather than have to pack it up and take it back home with them.
- Frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables: Frozen store brand vegetables are often cheaper than fresh produce. Frozen is hands down more nutritious than canned as the vegetables are frozen right after they’re picked, which preserves vitamins that can be lost in transporting fresh vegetables from the farm to the store.
- Buy local: Locally grown fruits and vegetables often cost less than imported produce. And you’ll be supporting local agriculture and that little thing called the environment. And who doesn’t like that?