Low Fat Low Budget

As a dietitian on a budget, I am constantly on the lookout for healthy food at reasonable prices. My experience counseling underprivileged families has given me insights into which healthy foods are worth the money. Most people tell me that nutritious foods are too expensive. However, as an avid grocery store shopper, I have found many affordable options.

What constitutes healthy food? Everyone has their own idea. In my opinion, all foods are good for you, when eaten in moderation. If you follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, an emphasis is placed on consuming more fruit and vegetables, lean protein, low fat foods, and water. Overall, most Americans should decrease sugary beverages and limit junk food.

With this in mind, focus your grocery shopping trips on spending money specifically on healthier foods. The outer perimeter of a grocery store typically offers all the staples of a healthy diet: fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy. Avoid the middle aisles where junk food is located.

To save even more on your grocery spending, try some of these tips:

Buy frozen; skip the fresh. I buy frozen fruit and vegetables most of the time. The nutrients are the same (and sometimes better) in frozen. Fruit and vegetables not in season will be available in the frozen section at a reasonable price. If you prefer fresh fruit and vegetables, make sure to keep track of which ones are in season, as they offer more value for your budget.

Drink water. Water is a low cost necessity that is calorie and fat free. I routinely drink tap water throughout the day, saving money by avoiding high calorie sodas and other sugary beverages. If you prefer bottled water, buy it by the gallon rather than individual bottles and fill your own bottle. Consider filtered water. This requires a new filter every 3-6 months, but it’s still worth the investment.

Research before you shop. I receive weekly grocery ads in the mail and spend a total of 10-15 minutes perusing each store’s advertisement, finding the best deals on foods my family eats. If it doesn’t spoil, I buy the food in bulk.

Clip coupons. I subscribe to online emails from my favorite brands in order to receive coupons and other discounts. I also visit grocery stores that double or triple the value of the coupon.

Buy low-fat or fat free products. I recently noticed that low-fat and fat free products, such as skim milk and fat free sour cream, cost the same as their higher fat counterparts.

Plan your meals. I plan my meals around items found on sale for that week. I also try to follow recipes that include ingredients already found in my house.

Find clearance items. My local grocery store discounts meat and dairy products near expiration. Even if I don’t plan to use it right away, I freeze it for use later. This is how I typically purchase leaner cuts of meat for a reasonable price.

These are simple tips for saving money on nutritious choices. Finding simple and low cost ways to eating healthy will contribute to good health for the future.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/