Ever find yourself in a position where you want to clean up your diet, but the hefty price tags on healthy foods stop you from doing so? You’re not alone.
“It’s really challenging for people to make the right choices when price is sometimes the thing that strikes them in the face,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Libby Mills, also a nutrition and cooking coach in Philadelphia in the US.
But is there really merit to the claims that cost makes eating clean unattainable for budget-minded people? And how can you reap the benefits if you’re unwilling to fork out huge amounts of cash?
I’ve got the answers for you…
Clean eating comes with a price tag
If you’ve ever walked down the snack food aisle in a supermarket, you’ll know that you can buy a jumbo-sized bag of chips for less than the price of a bag of baby spinach. A recent Cambridge University study found that healthy foods are three times more expensive than unhealthy foods.
As for organic foods, while they might cost you more than their non-organic counterparts, the price gap is getting smaller, says Allison Enke, a product compliance and nutrition analyst for Whole Foods Market in the US. “In general, as demand for organic products has grown and volume has increased, prices have become more competitive over time,” she says.
But it’s possible to clean eat on the cheap!
While clean eating can be money-sucker (if you let it), it doesn’t have to break the bank! These tips and shortcuts will help you plan, shop and eater smarter so you can save your hard-earned money for something more fun than groceries (or, you know, for your paying rent)!
Five tips for making clean eating on a tight budget possible
#1: Opt for in-season produce
During harvest time, the costs of in-season produce usually drop due to increased availability, Enke explains. That also happens to be when fruits and veggies are at their peak in terms of flavour as well as nutrition! If you’re not sure what’s in season, ask someone who works in the produce department at the supermarket.
#2: Don’t splurge on organic everything
It’s important that you know when to skip on organic. Certain foods, like corn, pineapples, avocados and cabbage, absorb a minimal amount of crop chemicals and are okay to buy conventionally grown. Others, known as the “dirty dozen”, including apples, grapes, strawberries and peaches, often have high levels of pesticide residue, so spending on organic will eliminate your chance of consuming chemicals.
#3: Buy staples in bulk
Buying up supersized quantities of everyday staples like olive oil, nut butters and spices can help you score big savings. Enke says: “It also helps eliminate excess packaging and reduces spoilage and waste, which means even more savings.” Grains, such as rice, barley and quinoa, are especially good bulk buys, because they’ll double in size once cooked, explains Mills.
#4: Take advantage of frozen convenience
Frozen fruits and veggies are a great, affordable option when it comes to eating clean on a budget, Mills says. “Whether it’s summer or winter, they’re often more nutritious than the fresh fruits and veggies,” she explains. That’s because they go right from the farm where they’re picked to the processing company where they’re flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.
#5: Always save some for later
Preparing leftovers can help cut back on food waste. It’ll also allow you to take advantage of produce when it’s at its peak (and cheapest), according to Mills. “If your casserole calls for tomatoes during tomato season when they’ll be at the height of flavour, nutrition and most adorable, then why not make a double recipe of that casserole?” she suggests. When you’re done eating for the evening, package leftovers in usable quantities and freeze them for another time.