I love junk food. Now that I've been out of college for several years, I'm realizing it's time to start making adult decisions about my eating habits and maybe giving up the ramen and macaroni and cheese. The more I look into eating healthy, I'm beginning to realize that it doesn't have to cost your whole paycheck. I've been trying to see a difference between the cost of eating healthy and eating the junk I normally consume. The truth is, all I really notice is that I feel healthier, but don't feel strapped for cash.
Shop at Night
One of the best tricks I've learned is to hit the deli at night. When I lived in Michigan, I would visit Meijer at night and they would announce at 8PM that everything in the deli was half off. I'd get a great choice of lunch meat and cheese at HALF the price! Other stores mark down produce and bakery items just before closing, as well. Next time you're grocery shopping, just ask an employee if they usually offer discount prices at night, it could end up being worth your while.
Have a Healthy Meat to Veggie Ratio
It's no secret that meat purchases will make up the bulk of your grocery total. However, remember that you can have filling meals without overloading on meat. I sometimes buy packages of stew meat and freeze half and make kabobs with the other half. Vegetables and potatoes are a great way to beef up your dinner without any extra beef. You could also skip the meat altogether and go for a veggie stir fry. Brown rice is a healthy alternative to white, and you can throw just about any vegetable that is in season and on sale in a quick and healthy stir fry.
*Note that if you are looking for low prices on meat, contrary to the previous tip, you may want to check in the morning as some butcher's or supermarkets do their markdowns before noon.
Grow Your Own Herbs
I could never understand why dried herbs and spices were so expensive, when I could hardly taste them in my food. After talking with a few of my fellow BradsDealers, it seems to be a wise investment to grow an herb garden. One of these fresh-herb proponents, Casey, said, "The taste difference from fresh to dried is HUGE. You can buy the plants from $3-4 and it is a much better deal because the plant will last longer." If one of our experts tells me something is a great deal, I'm going to try it! A second fresh-herb pro here at BD, Becky, told me that basil, oregano, rosemary, chives and sage are all very easy to grow. Even though you'll have to front the one-time cost of the plants, you'll get to reap the benefits of fresh herbs at your fingertips and stop wasting money on dried herbs that don't have as much nutritional value as fresh herbs.
Take Advantage of Farmers' Markets
If you're not into the idea of growing your own herbs or produce, check out your local farmers' markets. To find one near you, visit Agricultural Marketing Service and search your zip code or the zip code of a town near you. Much like the late-night deli shopping, take advantage of the deals you can get just before the market closes. Vendors are going to want to clear their stock before leaving, so you could end up with a pretty steep discount on some fresh, local products.
Some of the healthiest non-perishable foods (think whole almonds, oats, canned goods) can be found for a really great price at Amazon. Always price compare, but don't be afraid to branch out of your grocery store comfort zone and search online for deals on food. For fresh food, consider trying grocery delivery from Peapod. Right now, new customers can get $15 off your first order with our exclusive code BDEALS15.
If you're a frugal person to begin with, eating healthy isn't going to change that. You'll still be able to find sales on items that are going to keep you full, feeling great, and cost only a few cents more than your college cuisine.
What are your favorite money-saving health tips? Share with us in the comments below!
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