How to Eat Healthier While on a Budget
Many of us are interested in eating healthier, but it's no secret that fruits and vegetables spoil faster than pre-packaged dry foods like cereal and pasta. So how do we maintain a healthy diet while keeping costs down? There are a few ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet without breaking the bank or dealing with spoiled foods.
Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Canned
First and foremost, having some form of fruit or vegetable in your diet is better than having none at all. Fresh options are traditionally considered the best, however they often cost more and spoil more quickly, leading to food waste. If it better suits your lifestyle, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can serve as alternative options to fresh choices and provide similar health benefits. Below are a few tips for getting the most out of your fresh, canned and frozen options:
- Drain and rinse canned produce prior to use to remove extra sodium
- Avoid spoiling of fresh vegetables by cooking a vegetable-heavy meal, side dishes, or soup
- Use frozen fruits or vegetables to make a tasty smoothie, without having to add ice
Where to Buy Fresh
If you’re more interested in increasing fresh produce at a reduced price, farmer’s markets offer a great way to save money. While the food may not last longer, it can often be cheaper than buying from a store. Additionally, you don’t have to live in a rural area to find farmer’s markets. Many local communities have information on where you can find a farmer's market close to home. For example, this Boston area site allows you to find open markets in the area, including days and hours of operation as well as available benefits and voucher programs.
If you live in a more rural community, local farm stands may provide another affordable option. Explore the farms located near you to see if they have a seasonal farm stand that offers fresh fruits and vegetables.
Seasonality is Key
Finally, whether you’re buying produce from stores, farmer’s markets, or farm stands, buying seasonally and locally can reduce both your grocery bill and your impact on the environment. Produce that you buy in season is cheaper than buying that same produce out of season. That's because fruits and vegetables that are in season can be grown by local farmers, minimizing the cost of shipping, which gets passed to the consumer. Products that can't be grown locally will almost always be more expensive, as they may need to be shipped in from hundreds - or even thousands - of miles away. Resources such as this one can help you find out what grows in your area and when, and help you save more money on food.
-Courtney Long, Practicum Student, BWH Nutrition and Wellness