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Dietician Digest: Eating on a Budget - Money Saving Swaps and Tips

I once had a patient tell me, “When I hear the term “eating healthy,” I automatically think of dollar signs.”Does that sound like you? If so, you are not alone. Many people believe eating healthy equals spending more money. However, that does not have to be the case. Consider these money-saving tips for ways to include healthier foods in your diet without putting a hole in your pocket.

Bulk does not mean better. In some cases, buying in bulk can save you money. However, that is not always the case. If you are buying foods in bulk and finding it spoils faster than you can eat it, you are throwing your money into the trash right along with the spoiled food! Buy those non-perishable items in bulk and only the perishable items that you truly know you will consume in time or are able to freeze for later use.

Know how to store produce. Approximately 40% of our food waste comes from the fruits and vegetables that we throw out. For the average American household (4 persons or less), this could cost you anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000 per year. Follow these tips for how to store produce in order to lower food waste (and save money):

  1. Keep items like onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and other winter squash in the pantry.

  2. Place citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bananas on the counter, away from direct sunlight.

  3. Store the rest of your produce inside your refrigerator door (and inside the produce drawer if you have one). Make sure to wash the produce immediately before use, but do not wash and then place in your refrigerator – the excess moisture becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.

  4. If it still takes you a while to eat your fruits and vegetables, pick items with a longer shelf life like potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, bananas, apples, and oranges.

When shopping, look at the unit per ounce price vs. the total price. You may find that you are spending more money than you thought. Here is an example:

  1. You see Brand A and Brand B for frozen cauliflower florets.

  2. Brand A: 16 ounces (1lb). Price tag says $1.50. This breaks down to approximately $0.09/ounce.

  3. Brand B: 12 ounces (3/4lb). Price tag says $2.25. This breaks down to approximately $0.19/ounce.

On the surface, it looks like Brand B is only $0.75 more than Brand A ($2.25 vs $1.50). However, Brand B is actually more than twice the amount ($0.19 vs $0.09 per ounce). It also comes in a smaller bag, meaning you have fewer servings per bag, which results in you having to buy more in the long run. Another way to show this is to take Brand B and convert the price from a 12oz bag to a 16oz bag. When you do this, Brand B now costs $3.04, more than double again! So, long story short, look for the lowest unit price per ounce when choosing between products.

Use coupons wisely. Ask your grocery store if they have any sort of discount card. Enrolling in a discount card program helps save money at the register. Your account number, which is associated with your card, also remembers what items you bought. Stores then use this information to tailor coupons specifically to the items you frequently buy. This can also help you avoid items that you typically will not eat.

Drink nature’s free beverage, water! Swap out those bottled waters for your own water bottle. Studies show that this can save the average person more than $1,000 per year!

- Collette Romstedt, MA, RDN, LDN, ACSM EP

Registered Dietician and Certified Exercise Physiologist


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