by Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. pediatrician and child obesity specialist
Increasing food prices have more and more shoppers looking for ways to save money at the grocery store without sacrificing nutrition. For those of you who fall into this category, you’ll be happy to know that eating healthier foods can actually save you money. Savings can come from reducing portion sizes and from buying fewer of the high-calorie foods that tend to increase the amount spent at the grocery store. People tend to spend a lot on those "extras" -- foods that add calories but little nutritional value, like sodas, bakery items, and chips.
There’s no magic formula to buying or cooking healthy foods on a budget. It takes a little planning and creativity. But if think of the rewards— better health and more money—you’ll find it’s worth the effort. After all, health is wealth! Here are few ideas that will save you a little green (while also being green lights themselves):
Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper: With the advent of Sam's Club and Costco, you can save big time because the discount for bulk items beats the cost of purchasing individual products. You can either become a member yourself and pay the annual associated fees or you can ask a friend who has a membership to add you to their account. You will have the same benefits for less overhead.
Buy generic: Generic brands can provide a great savings! Stores deliberately place the highest-priced brand-name items at eye level, so be sure to literally look high and low for cheaper store brand labels.
Go frozen or canned: Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are healthy choices with a long shelf life. Skip ones packed in sauces and sugary syrups and look for low-salt options.
Buy sale items: Only if you know what to do with the food! Take advantage of specials on staple—broth, soups, pasta, rice, canned veggies, even bread and meat. Many of these items have a long shelf life or can be frozen for short periods of time.
Buy produce in season: Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week, based on fresh produce in season. Food in season is usually priced to sell. During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much. Also, shop your local farmers' market for great deals on local produce; the prices won't include shipping costs.
Brown-bag it: Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination. Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but you can control all the ingredients so they are healthy and low in calories. Pack a simple sandwich, salad, soup, wrap, and use freezer packs and containers to keep food at the proper temperature unless you have access to a refrigerator.
Wait….There’s more! You can get more for your money if you consider the nutritional value of food for the price. For example, sodas and flavored drinks deliver mostly empty calories and could easily be replaced with less expensive sparkling water with a splash of a 100% fruit juice. When comparing food prices based on the number of servings you'll get, along with the food's nutritional contribution, you’ll find many healthier foods give you a big bang your buck. For example, a pound of peaches yields three to four servings. So when you divide the cost per pound, the cost is usually quite reasonable. Here is a list of a few healthy foods you can find in your grocery store for under a dollar that reap huge nutritional rewards.
Prices may vary based on the store, location, and time of year.
Apples - Price: Approximately $1.99/pound. Great for: Snacks, salads, and fruit salads.
Canned Beans (low sodium). Price: You can buy a 15-ounce can for about $1 on sale. Great for: Salads, soups, and chili.
Yogurt (lowfat, or fat-free). Price: 60 cents. This is usually the price for an 8-ounce container of yogurt. Great for: Smoothies, yogurt parfait, dips, and dressings.
Eggs. Price: You can buy about a half dozen of eggs for $1. Great for: omelets, frittatas, egg salad sandwiches for lunch
About the Author:
Dr. Dolgoff’s Weigh: Child and Adolescent Weight Management practice boasts a 96% weight loss success rate. There are offices in Manhattan, N.Y. and Roslyn Heights, N.Y. There is also a national online component (http://www.drweigh.com/) to the program which children all over the country have been using to lose weight.