Eating healthy is rumored to be more expensive than eating those convenient, oh-so-addicting processed foods that seem to be everywhere you look.
Before you get discouraged and head to the nearest drive-thru to eat your feelings – rest assured. The price of healthy eating isn’t as much as you might think.
A 2013 study by Harvard School of Public Health found that the price difference between eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts and eating an unhealthy diet rich in processed foods, meats and refined grains is about $1.50.
An extra $1.50 a day to feel better and prevent future health problems doesn’t seem to be much, but it can add up – especially for larger households.
You can shop smart at key locations with a great shopping strategy to offset this price. We spoke with nutritionist and author of The Strategic Grocery Shopping Guide, Jamie Logie, for a few tips to help you start eating healthier without breaking the bank.
Know Where to Shop
Depending on where you live, the farmers market may not be available all year round. So take advantage if and when you can.
Not only does the farmers market help to support local famers, but it can also be a great spot for good grocery deals.
Don’t be afraid to try to haggle a price down, or see if you can get a price break if you buy a lot of produce. Unlike at the grocery store, there can be some wiggle room in the prices.
If you’re wary of asking for a price reduction, try haggling on bruised fruit or at the end of the day when the farmer might be more willing to compromise and get rid of their goods.
And the more you shop there, the better your chance for scoring discounted produce, according to Logie. “When you become a regular… you can haggle on price a little, or they just give you a bit better deal.” You could even score some extra items once you build a buyer relationship with the farmers.
Logie says ALDI and similar discount stores have great whole foods options like dark leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and more. To make a discount even more enticing, ALDI claims to be the “nation’s low-price grocery leader.”
That title shines through in a price comparison conducted by Business Insider in 2015, which found that a shopping trip at ALDI was about 30% cheaper than Walmart.
Originally known mainly for their aforementioned low prices, ALDI is also making an effort to appeal to health-conscious eaters. They recently announced that they’re significantly expanding their fresh produce and organic offerings.
ALDI doesn’t provide shopping bags, so be sure to take your own or budget in purchasing some of their reusable bags at checkout.
When thinking of Costco, you may imagine things like frozen dinners the size of a dining table or a 55-gallon drum filled with Orange Drink – but this retailer actually offers produce and other healthy foods in addition to their bulk-sized shopping options.
A 2015 article by the Huffington Post confirmed that Costco sold around $4 billion in organic food – that’s more than any other retailer. Yes, even more than Whole Foods.
Logie, recommends shopping at Costco for a couple of healthy-eating essentials, like raw nuts, fish and produce.
But she does push for shoppers to be mindful of their purchases. “Costco can be great but you need to check if the things you are buying in bulk are actually a deal or not.” Make sure you’re actually getting a better price for items in bulk.
Know How to Shop
Look for Clearance
When food items near their expiration or sell-by date, their prices are usually reduced to ensure they sell. Be on the lookout for these priced-to-sell items, which are sometimes marked as “manager specials.”
Since these items are set to go bad, a good tactic is to base your next meal on whatever you find on clearance. Logie recommends timing your clearance shopping: “Clearance foods at grocery stores tend to go up around 7 p.m. That’s a good time to find ready-made meals, soups or things like sushi.”
Wait Until the Time Is Right
Timing is everything, as the cliché goes. This applies to healthy shopping and eating as much as anything else. If you let the seasons help dictate your diet, you can save some green while eating some greens.
“Ideally, you want to eat fruit that is in season and that may save you more money, too.” Logie explains. She compares fruit price differences in winter as an example: “A pint of strawberries will be more expensive at around $3 – $4…while a large naval orange… will only be around 75 cents.”
Personal Finance website The Balance has a month-by-month calendar to see what veggies to buy when.
Use a Coupon App
There’s a good chance your area’s grocery chain offers a phone app that replaces keychain loyalty cards.
These apps offer exclusive coupons and offers to help you save when grocery shopping. While some of the coupons make the latest junk food products look tempting, pay attention to coupons for fresh produce and other healthy options that are even more appealing.
“I think coupon apps are helpful, especially for proteins. So if you see [a] sale on specific proteins, make that your base for that week’s (or next few days’) meal and build the rest of your meal around it,” says Logie.
The Meijer app is currently offering savings on organic milk, cheese, eggs, milk alternatives, organic mushrooms and organic salad through the end of April – and that’s just a few of the 440 coupons listed.
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.