How To Eat Healthy For Less Money

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has tips for eating healthy while saving money, and we think the tips are great.

There’s nothing ground breaking about them, but if you’re looking to change your habits following these tips is a great start. The tips for “bulk shopping” are fun:

  • Buy only products that your family will like and use often enough so that they will be used before spoiling or becoming outdated. Otherwise, you’ll waste food and money.
  • Not all bulk items are bargains. Make sure the item is really a good buy and saves you money. Check the unit price, don’t just look at the size of the package.
  • When you buy in bulk, you buy more than you can use before your next shopping trip. Be sure you have enough money to do this.
  • You should know what type of storage is needed for the product and have enough space to store it.
  • Beware that buying in bulk can lead families to overeat or eat too quickly. If this happens, you could run out of food or money before the end of the month. Make sure you can store food so that it won’t get eaten too quickly.
  • Know proper storage times for different foods.

    Eating Healthy on a Budget [UPMC via Getting Finances Done]
    (Photo: swruler9284)

  • Comments

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    1. Promethean says:

      Eating healthy seems to cost more money. I’ve recently committed to losing weight, not by eating less but by changing my habits to eat healthier. As a couple, my wife & I were averaging about $75/week on food, which has now jumped up to about $95.

      The price jump is okay for me, but how many people can easily take an $80/month increase in their food budget? What about for larger families– that increase could easily be twice as much for a family with a few kids.

    2. Amelie says:

      These tips are painfully obvious. They remind me of the sort of handouts they give at food stamp or WIC centers.

    3. kracer22 says:

      I have to agree with you there, cheap food is often bad food.. which is sad. You actually have to pay a premium to get real sugar in products nowadays, as oppose to that HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP crap thats in everything.. and turns to fat in your body, because your liver doesnt recognizes it.

      Apart from overconsumption & lack of exercise, I blame that one ingredient as one of the main reasons why there’s an obesity epidemic. And why don’t big companies use real sugar? Because as cheap as sugar is.. High Fructose Corn syrup is even cheaper.. like 5-10x times cheaper. And its all about profit/revenue. Even GATORADE has this stuff! Just read the label.

    4. reznicek111 says:

      Also, as with all grocery trips, one should never go bulk-food shopping while hungry. Otherwise, you’re liable to take purchase lots of items you don’t really need – and in the case of bulk stores, you just might end up with something like a five gallon bucket of pig’s feet.

    5. anatak says:

      @Promethean:

      I guess it all depends upon where you start from, and how you define “eating healthier”. I drastically cut my food budget, but yet was eating healthier, better tasting food. This was mostly done through buying fresh (preferably local) produce, organics and all natural foods. I also cut out most pre-packaged stuff to opt for home cookin’. I do know that many companies/grocers like to charge premiums for healthier foods. Gotta find a balance and know where to compromise.

    6. myrall says:

      I save tons of money on produce by shopping at international farmers’ markets around town. Or even the state farmers’ market. I can walk out of one of those places with a cart full of fresh produce for maybe a third of what Publix or Kroger costs.

    7. Transuranic says:

      High fructose corn syrup, a slow-burn poison for poor people, is in everything, and you can spend an hour circling your grocery – even the “fresh” stuff deli and bakery – looking for stuff without HFCS in it. Or fructose. (I’m lookin at you, “Vitamin Water”.)

      Bagels with HCFS in them never make me feel full, which I find really weird.

      Thankfully, Ritter Sport bars were on sale today (ingredients: sugar, chocolate liquor, almonds, cocoa butter, water, invert sugar syrup (uh oh?) soy lecithin, vanillin), so even though I ate a dark chocolate marzipan candy bar for lunch I feel pretty good about my nutrition today.

    8. ~buy house brand items instead of brand names

      ~purchase items in the weekly circular that are on sale rather than on a whim or at regular prices

      ~fold and re-use TP (i’m still adapting to this one)

      ~steal lots and lots of napkins from fast food places (wendy’s is my favorite thus far, and don’t even try this at subway)

      ~day old bread and discount-racked fruits are almost, if not just as good as their significantly more expensive brethren

    9. acambras says:

      There waaa

    10. acambras says:

      There was a funny episode of the Bernie Mac show that dealt with this — Bernie got a membership at Costco or Sam’s or someplace like that. Cut to the kids eating

    11. The_Shadow says:

      @Transuranic: The write-up on Invert Sugar Syrup over at Wikipedia is pretty good, here’s a link too it: [en.wikipedia.org]

      It’s a basically a syrup made from genuine sugar [sucrose]. I’ve looked around myself and can’t readily find any mentions of health concerns [outside of typical sugar usage] regarding it unlike HFCS.

    12. Dustbunny says:

      @Transuranic:

      Mmmm…Ritter Sport bars…I love those, and the dark marzipan is my absolute favorite!

      this is what Wikipedia has to say about invert sugar syrup:
      Inverted sugar syrup is sucrose-based syrup treated with the glycoside hydrolase enzyme invertase, and/or an acid, which splits each sucrose molecule into one glucose and one fructose molecule. This combination is sweeter than an equivalent sucrose solution by weight so it can be used to reduce the quantity of sugar in a recipe. It is also more hygroscopic, so it can be used to make a product that stays moist longer than if sucrose was used and is less prone to crystallization. This property is valued especially by bakers, who call the products trimoline or invert syrup.

      Okaay…I’m a liberal arts major, so I don’t know if that means this stuff is good or bad. Anybody know?

    13. SOhp101 says:

      No, the tips are obvious. It can be summed up in one sentence: don’t be wasteful.

    14. forgeten says:

      @Promethean: I think the main reason people think eating healthier is more expensive is they start buying organic crap. You end up paying more due to the label and due to the fact that its an inferior growing method. But like anatak said going to the farmers market is a great place to buy fresh foods cheaply and you can find stuff you can’t in a grocery.

    15. steinwaytony says:

      Maybe I’m not as smart as you guys, because this one changed my life:

      Buy only products that your family will like

    16. burgundyyears says:

      Folks, it’s a good idea just to limit sugar intake period. I’m sick of the rampant HFCS misinformation out there and I think it’s a testament to silliness that people think refined white sugar is some sort of bulwark of purity and health now – give me a break. If you have the enzyme sucrase in your body, most forms of HFCS and sucrose are going to be processed the same exact way. HFCS is no worse for you than refined sugar, but certainly not better for you either.

      Personally, and more on topic, I buy bulk frozen chicken, meatballs, and lots of frozen veggies, with rice as a side dish for a typical dinner meal. Not horribly fatty or processed, and doesn’t break the bank either. I’d definitely recommend buying rice in bulk though – there’s always a pronounced bulk discount on it at least around here.

    17. myls says:

      I think the question of whether it is cheaper or more expensive to cook healthfully or more complex than just the cost of veggies vs. the cost of fruit-roll-up things.

      There’s hidden costs to home cooking that make it difficult for a beginner. Cooking at home requires a large up-front investment in things like flour, sugar, spices, oils, and the like. It’s taken me years to get to a point where it’s actually cheaper to cook at home rather than buy pre-packaged meals with lots ‘o’ HFCS.

      I think that cost might be prohibitive for some people. Sure, it’s cheaper to make your own cookies, but if it’s the first time you make a batch, you’re going to have to go out and buy a whole bag of flour (~$2), sugar (~2), baking soda and powder (Another few dollars,) raisins or whatever…it adds up at first, even if it’s cheaper overall. On a limited income, this sort of up-front expenditure might not be possible at all…

      @steinwaytony: Awesome advice!

    18. crichardson79 says:

      Who wrote this article. It sucks. Good job Special ED.

    19. a_m_m_b says:

      @steinwaytony: don’t forget to buy stuff you like for times when you are sick to death of whatever they like & you don’t.

      @myls: very true. then there’s the cost in time . . . .

      our best success has been to poll the family for what the love, loathe & can live with; pre-plan meals 1-2 weeks in advance; and use sam’s club in conjunction with a mini-freezer (you’d be surprised how much will fit in one of those)

    20. kimsama says:

      I think this advice is not intended for the people here (relatively well-educated and literate), but you’d be surprised for how many people this is news. Seriously, I come from a poor town originally, and people didn’t know simple things like “look for the best unit price” and “plan ahead based on what’s on sale.” You wouldn’t believe how much food some of my childhood friends’ families wasted through improper storage (leaving boxes of Mac n Cheese in the car port? Not a great idea).

      I hope that the audience this is intended for gets the message and can understand and utilize this information!

    21. Promethean says:

      @forgeten:

      You’re right– I should check out the local farmers markets for my produce. Apples at one supermarket are nearly $1.50/lb, which seems outrageous, especially since apples have taken center stage as between-meal snacks. Healthy options in other standard products are expensive though too. Low-fat mayonnaise (20 calories, instead of 90 with most from fat) is nearly twice the price. Ditto for butter substitutes with less fat. Generally though, the extra cost seems to be from produce.

    22. HungryGrrl says:

      another one-

      Eat in-season, locally grown produce bought at the farmers market instead of the less nutritious and more expensive stuff flown in from Argentina that they sell at the grocery store. People can survive without baby spinach and strawberries year round. Eat frozen vegetables in the winter instead of overpriced fresh.

      “A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned” A good way to look at buying the less convenient items is to compare the difference in price to the amount of time of additional preparation you have to do and then think of it as money that YOU are earning while you do the task. For example, I can spend $3.00 lb for bulk regular chicken breasts or $6.50 for the Perdue Perfect Portion ones. Trimming meat isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it takes about 8 minutes to trim the extra fat off 8 chicken breasts, cut off the tenderloins, repackage them in plastic baggies or saran wrap (at a minimal additional cost cuz I buy non-food items at the closeout store not the supermarket) and pop them in the freezer. So by doing 5 minutes of work I’ve saved $3.50… or ‘earned’ something like $30/hour! Why pay that to the butcher when you can keep it?

    23. getjustin says:

      Buy your meat in bulk, trim, freeze in portions and save money and time. I also try buying the fruit that’s in season or on sale. And for those who buy sodas, find them on sale and buy a bunch. What’s the point in just getting what you need for the week if you’re going to buy them anyway?

    24. Fujikopez says:

      Never, ever buy spices in those handy little jars in the spice aisle. You can get them for a fraction of the price if you go to the bulk foods isle (usually in or near the organic and eco-friendly section) and get them there. What would have cost me $5 in the little jars cost me 97 cents in bulk foods.