As humans, we love to justify our actions — especially when it comes to ones we know could be better. “I would love to eat healthier, but it’s too expensive,” is an excuse we hear all too often. And that raises an important question: does a healthy diet really cost that much more? Turns out, it doesn’t.
According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, making healthy food choices only costs about $1.50 more per day, on average, than low-quality diets — a small price in comparison to both the health benefits and healthcare savings.
The experts conducted a meta-analysis of 27 studies, across 10 countries, and examined the prices of both healthy and unhealthy diet patterns. From this, they compared the cost differences per serving (200 cals) and per day (2,000 cals) for a variety of foods, including meats/protein, grains, dairy, fats/oils, snacks/sweets, and soda/juice. While the data concluded that, overall, healthier items such as fish, protein, fruits, and vegetables are more expensive than processed items and meals, there are ways to eat a diet that’s nutritious AND affordable. And this isn’t the only study that’s been conducted. Others have looked into just how expensive unhealthy eating is, too.
1. Get in the kitchen.
You don’t have to be a Food Network star to sizzle up something spectacular. Whether it’s a protein-packed recipe, a quick smoothie, or something you create on your own, learning to cook is all about experimenting and creating an appreciation for food. It’s cheaper than eating out, and A LOT healthier, too. Still want more reasons to break out the cookbook? Check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s article on How Eating At Home Can Save Your Life.
2. Cook in bulk.
Whip up big, healthy portions for the entire week. Whether you’re feeding yourself and/or others, you’ll save time and have go-to lunch and dinner options that end up being less expensive per serving than a greasy Big Mac. Not enough days in the week? Dedicate one night to prepping and cooking all of your meals for rest of the week.
3. All hail produce.
It’s okay if meat doesn’t make it into your meals 7 days/week. Not only do plant-based diets rock, but whole-grains and nuts have a longer shelf life. Even better, veggies cook up great when frozen, and frozen fruit is delicious as a snack. We all have changes in plans, so don’t let fresh produce wilt. Stock up on frozen fruit and veggies that you know you can rely on.
4. Do your research.
Pre-prepped, trimmed, packaged, ready-to-go foods are always going to be more expensive (duh, they did the work for you!). This is especially true for fruit and veggies.
If you can fit in the time in to do a little extra work — like trimming the fat off your chicken breasts, dividing up almonds into your own “100-calorie packs” or brewing your own coffee and tea — you’ll end up saving more per serving size. Even better, knowing what is local and in-season will help you save more. Many grocery stores will display information like this all around locally-grown items; helping you help community-based farmers, too!
5. Use an app.
There are a ton of free apps that can help with food choices, shopping lists, coupons, recipes, and meal planning. Try out any these healthy apps out for size.
GroceryPal — No need to shuffle through mindless stacks of coupons or find out where the weekly deals are at grocery stores near you. GroceryPal does it for you. Select an item and then create a shopping list for a quick in-and-out shopping experience.
FarmStand — You might not even know where the local goodies are in your community. Find out where the farmer’s markets are located nearest to you, complete with directions, photos and advice from other local shoppers just like you.
Big Oven — Equipped with over 25,000 recipes, there is no excuse not to hop right into the kitchen. Big Oven creates shopping lists for you, uploads your recipes, and displays recipes your friends have just posted. It’ll even plan menus for the week or month and automatically sync it to your calendar. How could it get any easier?
Checkout 51 — Upload receipts and get cash back on groceries and popular items you use every week. Deals are updated every Thursday and once you reach $20 in deal savings, you’re mailed a check.
Fooducate — Food scanner that’ll give you detailed analysis about anything that has a barcode. It’s a great tool to learn about healthy foods and make better choices at the grocery store.
6. Choose inexpensive “health foods.”
A healthy diet doesn’t need to be wild-caught tuna, filet mignon, kale, berries, and chia seeds all the time to be healthy. Foods like eggs, oatmeal, protein powder, frozen fruit and vegetables, flax seeds, and natural peanut butter are all inexpensive and loaded with nutrients.