How to: Shop healthy and save money

“Healthy eating is too expensive.”  It’s a phrase I hear all of the time. But in reality, unhealthy eating has big costs and isn’t the most productive way to spend.

First, some nutrition economics: Why do we eat? Plain and simple, we eat to nourish our bodies with the nutrients we need to thrive. Secondly, what is productive spending? Productive spending is getting the most value out of every dollar. 

But how do we define “value” in the world of food shopping? I challenge you to take a moment and ask yourself:  When I purchase food, am I thinking about how many nutrients I am getting for every dollar? If we can switch our mindsets, we can redefine “productive spending” to be about maximizing the amount of nutrients per dollar.

I am a firm believer that there is no “one size fits all” diet out there. We are all unique, and we all have different nutrition requirements. That being said, I think we can all benefit from the following:

  • Eating Whole Foods: Eat as close to nature as possible
  • Being Plant-Strong: Reconfigure your plate, let plants be the star of the show
  • Reaching for Healthy Fats: Get your fats from whole plant sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives
  • Striving for a Nutrient-Dense Plate: Pack in as many nutrients per bite as possible

Essentially, eat real food. Makes total sense, right? You can learn more about Whole Foods Market’s Four Pillars of Healthy Eating here

Here are some tips to get the most nutritional bang in your grocery basket:

1.  Produce: Look for local. While some produce can travel over 1,000 miles to get from the farm to the store, local produce requires little transportation costs – making it easier for local farmers to offer quality produce at a lower price! Bonus: shopping locally benefits you, our local farmers, and the planet.  For inspiration check your nearest farmer’s market. At Whole Foods Market, all produce labeled “From Around Here” are from within 100 miles and are at the peak of their nutrition. 

2.  Frozen Department: This is the ultimate unsung hero of the grocery store. It’s where fresh stays fresh! These fruits and veggies are picked at the peak of their nutrition and flash frozen to lock in all of those nutrients.  Plus, frozen veggies are already chopped and blanched, which cuts prep and cooking time in half. A veggie stir-fry dinner can now be ready in five minutes. Frozen fruit is perfect for your smoothies or warmed up in your morning oatmeal.

3.  The Bulk Department: From millet to farro (my favorite), quinoa to amaranth, there are so many amazing whole grains to explore and the Bulk Department is the perfect place to do so. Why? Because not only do you get to choose how much or how little you want, but buying in bulk also avoids the cost of packaging (a savings that gets passed on). At Whole Foods Market, you can BYOC: bring your own containers from home to reduce waste and support the environment!

Get a head start on a New Year’s Resolution: Try one new whole grain each week. Cook up a batch and freeze half for later!

4.  Meat, Seafood, or Specialty Items: Choose quality over quantity – it’s better for your health AND your wallet.  Talk to the fishmongers, meat butchers, and cheesemongers – they will cut your meat, fish, and cheese to-order and they are happy to recommend a high quality (read: flavorful) product, so that a little goes a long way. And of course, fill up the rest of your plate with veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

5.  Prepared Foods: Need a quick and convenient meal with no surprises at checkout? Look for fixed-priced items in the prepared foods department. 

And just a few more tips for your grocery shopping trip…

  • Shop sales, clip coupons, and use unit pricing. These are tried and true ways to save money. 
  • Make a focused but flexible grocery list to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Look for store brands (like the 365 Everyday Value brand) to get the biggest bang for your buck. 
  • Connect with your store:  join your local stores e-newsletter and Facebook page, and follow on twitter and Instagram to stay “in the know” of pop-up sales, promo’s and special store events

This article was originally published on Philly.com’s Goal Getter column.