Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. Learn how to make affordable healthy food choices every day.

There are so many reasons to eat healthier.  Whether it’s to lose those extra pounds, manage a health condition, prevent chronic disease, or improve your mood, adopting a healthy way of eating is easier than you think.  It’s a common myth that eating healthy is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. A few minutes of planning can keep healthy food spending in check and expand your culinary horizon at the same time. Read on to learn the six steps you can take toward healthy eating in an affordable way.

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

Before you begin, ask yourself why eating healthy is so important to you. Do you need to treat a medical condition? Do you want to lose weight? Or are you simply trying to be more conscientious about your living expenses? Solidifying your goals will make it easier for you to stick with your new plan. Jot them down in a journal and share them with a supportive friend or family member to keep yourself accountable and motivated.

Step 2: Track Your Grocery Spending

Now see where your money is currently going during your trips to the grocery store. Review receipts from your outings over the course of two weeks, and then mark down how much you spent on fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy, snacks, drinks, and other items. Tracking your spending is a useful way to reveal unhelpful habits you weren’t aware of.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Food

Analyzing your recent purchases, identify foods you don’t truly value. For example, are you still spending money on chips that are no longer enjoyed? Make a note to forgo the chips next time. On the flip side, pinpoint the foods that you simply must have. Don’t want to skimp on fresh herbs and grass-fed meat? Make room for these items in your weekly budget. Prioritizing your must-haves and eliminating the foods you no longer enjoy is an easy way to save money right off the bat.

Step 4: Get to Know Your Fruits and Veggies

When it comes to healthy eating, nutritionists claim we should “Eat the Rainbow”. In other words, we should aim to incorporate all the many different colorful fruits and vegetables in our diet. In fact, doing so is so important that the USDA recommends that half of our plate at every meal contains these nutritious foods. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient super stars, providing potassium, fiber, folate, and vitamins. Any healthy eating plan should showcase fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors.

Step 5: Upgrade Your Snacks

Snack foods are a beloved daily staple, but many are high in fat, salt, and sugar, and can seriously derail your health goals and grocery budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, it is still possible to enjoy healthy snacks when the craving arises. Replace processed snacks with whole grains, which are packed with nutrients and fiber. Include low-calorie, high-protein options with fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy whenever you can.  Healthy snack ideas include:

  • A handful of sugar snap peas with hummus
  • A banana and a cup of yogurt
  • A hardboiled egg and a slice of whole grain toast
  • A handful of nuts and dried fruit

Step 6: Putting Your Plan into Action

Þ   Create a grocery list. Your list should emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, and beans, and low-fat or fat free dairy products. Planning your grocery trip in advance will keep you organized and on task with only spending on the healthy items on your list.

Þ   Shop smart.  Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season or flash frozen because they are usually less expensive. Budget-friendly whole grain options include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and oatmeal. Beans and lentils are high quality protein sources that cost much less.  Save money and calories on sodas and sugary drinks – just stick with water.

Þ   Have fun in the kitchen!  Prepare the majority of your meals at home. Cooking your own meals gives you total control over what goes into your food, which translates to less sugar, fat, and salt. Eating at home, rather than eating out, also saves you money.  Explore new recipes featuring all the different types of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein you have in your newly stocked kitchen.