How to Save on Healthy Food

How to Save on Healthy Food
Written by Irina Vasilescu

At a popular burger joint, a 20-piece box of chicken nuggets costs only $5. In a leading online store, a 2-pound pack of organic 100% whole grain quinoa costs a whopping $16. When you compare the level of satisfaction that you will get eating a box of chicken nuggets from a fastfood chain with the nutty flavor of quinoa, you will definitely choose junk food. But if you’re concerned about your health, you may want to take the alternative route of eating quinoa.

However, you don’t want to pay too high a price for it. The difference between the prices of the above example is $11.

Would you want to pay so much more when shopping for healthier food? The good news is that you do not necessarily have to. There are many ways for you to save money when shopping for healthy food. The bonus is that you can use cheaper substitutes while lowering your caloric intake as well! Read on to find out how you can do just that.

Know Which Grocery Items Are Too Pricey

When it comes to healthy food, there are two rules that you have to follow. First, you should know which health food items are too pricey especially when bought on a regular basis. Naturally, you should look for equally healthy – yet cheaper substitutes. The second rule is to know which health foods are worth the price tag.

To get started, here is a list of the healthy food items which are considered too pricey, and what cheaper but equally healthy food items to substitute them with:

Buy frozen instead of fresh berries

If you have a sweet tooth, you might go overboard when ordering dessert at a restaurant or buying goodies from a bakeshop. Instead of packing on the pounds with these calorie and sugar-laden sweets, snack on fruits instead. Use them as toppings for healthy breads or your morning oatmeal or cereal.

Berries are excellent fruits because they have antioxidant properties and they’re super healthy. The problem is that they can also be a bit expensive, especially when bought out of season.

So what’s the cheaper yet equally healthy alternative? Simply swap fresh berries with the frozen variant! They cost a lot less than the fresh variant, although the fruits can be cheap when in season. Another benefit of buying frozen berries is that you don’t have to worry about accidentally consuming bad fruit.

Buy canned salmon instead of fresh salmon fillet

Fish is the staple meat of those who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. The best variant for this is salmon, but purchasing it fresh will cost you. The cost of fresh salmon fillet can be quite high and they take a lot of time to prepare. Canned salmon, on the other hand, can be bought really cheaply in supermarkets.

Aside from the cost savings that you will get to enjoy, you can also consume the fish out of the can. Not only that, but you will get the Omega-3 fatty acids from the fish which benefits the heart. If you want to pack cheap, healthy lunch on the go, simply add some rice to a can of salmon fillet and you’re good to go.

Blend tofu instead of using whey protein powder

Those who are working out and require a specialized diet may want to prepare protein shakes at home. The main ingredient of this is whey protein powder. When you buy the canned variety, it can cost you quite a lot.

But did you know that tofu makes for a cheaper whey protein substitute? Tofu is an excellent source of protein and when cut into small chunks, they can be blended right into a healthy smoothie. Don’t worry about its mushy texture of bland taste, because it can be mixed with other ingredients to refine the mixture for your palate.

Snack on kale chips instead of vegetable chips

Looking for a healthier alternative to buttered popcorn? Vegetable chips may be your first option, but they are a bit expensive.

If you want the same taste that potato chips has but while using a healthier ingredient, try making your very own kale snack ships at home. Use cooking spray on the leaves of just-washed kale. Season with sea salt before baking in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The healthy snack tastes like potato chips, but without the calories and fats.

Snack on dried fruits and nuts instead of buying Larabars

If you’re in the mood for sweet snacks, munch on dried fruits and nuts instead of Larabars. These are delicious snacks with flavors like cashew cookie, banana bread, coconut cream pie, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter cookie, blueberry muffin, chocolate coconut chew, peanut butter chocolate and more.

Sound delicious? They definitely are, but snacking on them every day will burn a hole in your pocket. What’s so special about these snack bars is that they are tastier than your average granola or protein bar. They’re also gluten, dairy and soy free, and are only made from fruits and nuts.

If you don’t have the budget to treat yourself to one or two Larabars per day, an excellent substitute is simply to snack on dried peanuts and fruits. Combine them in one container and munch on the fruits and nuts when you need a quick pick-me-up snack.

Quick-cooking oats instead of instant oats

If oats is your constant companion for a healthy breakfast, instant might be your go-to product. There’s a big difference in price, however, between quick-cooking and instant oats. Quick oats are better than instant because the latter come in small packets which are usually filled with sugars, preservatives and other ingredients with added calories. With instant oats, you can have the real deal with all that fibrous goodness.

For a non-sugary yet still sweet option, top your quick oats with a few frozen berries.

How About the Health Foods Which Are Worth the Price?

If there are cheaper yet still healthy substitutes to health food items, there are things that you can easily splurge on without the guilt. For example, if you love almond butter or Greek yogurt, you may not find a cheaper substitute. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you make up for the added cost by using the cheaper alternatives mentioned in the previous section.

If there are other quite pricey items on your grocery list that you cannot seem to live without, go ahead and splurge on them – but make sure to save on your other grocery health food items.

Other Ways to Save on Healthy Food

Here are additional tips on how you can save money when shopping for healthy food for yourself or the entire family:

Shop for the ingredients that you need in bulk

When buying healthy foods, you will save more by planning what you are going to cook for the entire week – then purchase what you need in bulk. This way, you can take advantage of wholesale or bulk discounts. Planning the menu for the week is also a great way to keep those extra pounds at bay. Just make sure that you are incorporating plenty of fruits and veggies in your menu, so that you can maintain that healthy theme in your eating habits.

Stock up on what you already have in your fridge

If you haven’t been making home-cooked meals for the past few days and you have not inspected the contents of your fridge, do it before heading off to the supermarket. Taking stock of the food items that you already have will allow you to plan your meals around these ingredients, and give you an idea about which items you need.

Use online or magazine coupons

Whether you’re shopping at a supermarket or a small grocery store, make sure to cut out those magazine coupons or copy the codes of discount vouchers on your mobile phone. When you see health food products on sale, don’t hesitate to give them a try – especially if they come at a discounted price.

Buy slightly bruised fresh produce, if you plan to use them immediately

Finally, if there’s a slight bruise or black patch on a fruit or vegetable in the supermarket, they might be available for a discounted price. Don’t hesitate to buy these because you can easily cut off the part of the fruit or vegetable which is bruised. Just make sure that you will cook the ingredient right away, otherwise you will simply be wasting your money on unused, bruised produce which may be rotten after a couple of days.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways by which you can save money on healthy food items. Living a healthier lifestyle means eating healthy as well, but you don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg for it. By following these shopping tips, you can eat healthy, delicious food right in the comfort of your home – without having to spend a fortune on buying health food items.

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


    • You’re right, it seems to be a phase for now, which is really good as we all want a healthier world.
      It is expensive though, but buying in bulk or online are the best ways to cut costs.

      • I wish it didn’t cost so much to do. I eat healthy most of the time, but at a cost too. Normally I try to buy in bulk, but sometimes it isn’t possible and you’ve just gotta pay that extra little bit if you wanna keep your diet healthy.

  • Buying frozen fruit and veg is a fantastic idea because they also last longer…so if you change meal plans it’s no big deal – you wont lose any food because it’s gone bad. I like to get frozen onions, broccoli, and more in bulk. It’s cheaper, the onions are cut (I’m extremely sensitive to onions) and it lasts for ever!!

    Cooking your own oats is also the best idea ever! If you make your own oats in the morning at 7, you’ll be full until at least noon. It’s gotten me through many cold high school days! 😀 Those instant ones are awful, they have no texture and they are gone from your belly before you’ve even left the house. The key to good oats is to cook them with milk, not water, and using a little vanilla essence ;).

    Buying in bulk is not always the most easy thing. Sometimes you get lucky though! I discovered that I can get the same eggs, but twice the amount, for the same price if I buy in bulk….from the same place too! I don’t know how I missed that before but really glad I found it. Also if you buy online you can sometimes get in on bulk savings – for $12 you can get 9 packets of noodles, or for $15 you can get 18. Not the most healthiest of choices even though it’s fat free but a great example of how you can find online bulk specials if you look.

    • Buying in bulk is a great tip and can lead to really significant savings. Just be careful of overbuying. If half of your bulk purchase goes bad before you can use it, it’s not a savings at all!

      You can freeze lots of things to help prolong shelf life, though. Cheese freezes well if you don’t mind a slight texture change. Only use frozen cheese for melting in sauces or on top of casseroles. Milk even freezes. It leaves an unsightly ring around the top of the jug, but it’s great for cooking!

      • I agree that buying in bulk is a good tip when you can, but in addition to thinking about what might spoil you also have to think about how much space you have. I once got a huge bulk package of Kraft mac and cheese (there were like 100 boxes in it at Sam’s Club, no joke) and when I got home I realized we really didn’t have the space for it.

        I also live the canned salmon and frozen berry ideas. They ultimately usually taste just as good, and they are really a LOT cheaper.

  • Here’s another tip: if your town hosts any farmer’s market, go close to closing time. If it’s the last day, you can sometimes get a great deal on produce by sellers who would rather get rid of their wares than pack it all up and take it back home.

    You can also freeze a lot of excess produce if you cut it up and flash freeze it. If you found a great deal on onions but can’t use them all right away, chop them up and lay them in a single layer on cookie sheets in the freezer. When frozen, *then* bag them up. They may not be usable for something like a stir fry, but perfect for casseroles and things like that.

    • That’s what we do for the farmer’s market in the summer. I’ve gotten really good deals at night before closing. Sometimes I can get 2 or 3 times as much for the price I would have originally paid. I usually freeze most of it and/or take some to my parents.

  • I wish eating healthy wasn’t so expensive. I worked at McDonalds for a few years during high school and college and it’s crazy how cheap the food is. I would see a family of four come in and order everything off the dollar menu. If they were smart about it they could all eat for under $25. Not everyone has a great deal of money for groceries to make all their meals at home. Life would be easier if healthy food was cheaper – and it would probably help with the obesity rates in the country.

    When I shop for healthy food I usually look for items that are on sale or if there are any coupons available. It’s hard to buy healthy otherwise. I sometimes buy a lot of canned vegetables and fruits and/or canned tuna/chicken. It’s healthy food that I can make into quick meals.

  • Even something as simple as reducing your meat intake and increasing your vegetable intake can have a big impact on both finance and health.

    Vegetables tend to be cheaper and the health benefits are clear. That’s something that more of us should consider.

  • Buy your organic quinoa and oatmeal and all your dried goods in the bulk section. You will save as much as 50% in some cases over the pre-packaged version of the exact same food.

    For me, I don’t have the option to splurge, even if I think I “need” that item. Not everyone has enough to buy even one or two spendy items. If I bought almond butter, I would have to go without vegetables. While you can’t find “cheap almond butter” you can use peanut butter instead.

  • I love the advice to look at what you have in the refrigerator before you go out to grocery shop. This is so key to saving on the food budget. You can plan meals and really stretch that buck.

    I work many hours during the week, by the time I come home at night the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal, I have gotten in the habit of doing all sorts of cooking on the weekends instead. I do just exactly what you said, I plan the menu and then go to the market and buy in bulk. I don’t just cook one meal I actually cook several, some I freeze, some will keep. It is so much easier when I have a dish waiting for me when I get home.

    The other plus is you actually save energy when you cook like this, you heat up the house while cooking. It smells so homey and inviting, but you actually use less gas making more then one meal as opposed to just a single meal. This is a great article the only point I think a bit controversial is buying bruised produce, you have to be very careful with that, some things are fine other things could make you sick if you have food sensitivities. If something has black spots or decay better to pass it by, the vitamin content in some older produce is compromised at that time.

  • Some really good tips here. Eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be time consuming. The best way to get round this is to batch-cook, like other commenters have suggested. I also like to visit the supermarket an hour before they close. You can pick up some fantastic reductions at this time.

  • I think that buying healthy food is actually cheaper than junk food, if you approach it right. For example, I can buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $3 a pound – where as the chicken nuggets cost $3-4 for a 12 oz box, and the majority of the food is actually “filler” and not chicken. I think that we tend to swap convenience for health. Like in your example, it’s much easier and quicker to make instant oatmeal than regular oats. If you’re short on time, my suggestion is to take one day a week and prefab/precook enough to last for the entire week. I’ll buy a big roast when it goes on sale, cook the entire roast, then cut it up several different ways – some gets sliced thin for lunch meat, some a little thicker for roast beef dinner, some gets diced to make things like tacos or stir-fries, etc. I then freeze it until I need it. At the same time that I cook the roast, I’ll cook chicken breasts and a pork loin. I also make a big batch of “granola” similar to your Larabar example. I mix up a bunch of nuts and dried fruits, then put them in small bags that I can just grab when I’m on the run. It’s well worth spending a few hours one day a week prepping food for the rest of the week.

  • I agree, its very convenient to buy all healthy foods at once. If you think about it, going to the store every other day to buy a few items to fix a meal for that night cost more than you would just by making one trip. A suggestion I would make is that you buy frozen or freeze your fresh fruit. My morning routine consists of a homemade smoothie and oatmeal. Freezing your fruit ensures they wont go bad quickly and its much easier to handle when your on the go.

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