Sarah Reid, RHNC, CNP
It’s a common assumption that healthy eating means spending more. However, when done right, eating better can actually save you money! Couple that with the lower health care and restaurant costs you’ll have down the line and you’ll be more comfortable in both your physical and financial skin!
Here’s why you might be spending more than you should:
Buying things you'll only use once
- Items (especially spices, sauces, or fresh herbs) that are so specialized that they can really only be applied to one recipe or style of cooking will either go bad or stale sitting in your pantry or fridge if you buy it for a “just this once” occasion.
- If you’re trying out new recipes that call for things like hearts of palm, saffron, curry paste or Szechwan peppercorns, don’t be afraid to add the word “substitute” to the recipe. In general, a less expensive, more versatile, more available or already owned item can replace the more obscure ingredient. Look through The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim or check the website Cooks Thesaurus for reference.
- If you choose to purchase that specific ingredient, buy the smallest amount you can that is still suitable for your recipe. This is especially the case for dry goods like spices, which can be bought in only the amounts you need at bulk food stores.
- If you’re buying an ingredient that doesn’t come in bulk or in a small or “trial” size, look up other ways to use it before it goes bad. Muffins, stews and casseroles are good vehicles for many spices and ingredients like pureed pumpkin, and sauces like hoisin, pesto or plum sauce are excellent tossed with rice or pasta.
Buying produce out of season
- If a certain recipe calls for an item that isn’t in season at the time (and is therefore more expensive), substitute with a similar but in-season item.
- In some recipes (like sauces, quickbreads and some casseroles), frozen produce is a healthy and economical option
Over-buying in bulk
- Always check unit prices of “value sized” packages and compare it to smaller sizes. The bulk item may not actually be saving you money.
- Ask yourself if this item is something that you and your family actually want to eat and is the healthiest choice – don’t be tempted just because of a “good deal”.
- Determine if you can use up the whole item before it expires. If not, a smaller size is probably best.
- Decide whether the bulk size is practical for you and your family – if you save a dollar but have to spend five to buy individual containers for things, it’s not economical!
Falling for a “2-for” deal
- If it’s an item that you use all of the time and is non-perishable, then it’s usually a safe bet to go for the deal.
- More commonly, though, the sale is on junk food like chips or ice cream. That sale isn’t going to help your health or your wallet.
- You don’t actually have to buy two items to get the sale price. Just be sure to ask first!
Putting perishables in the cart first
- If you do this, they’re stuck, unrefrigerated, for most of the trip – shortening their lifespan at home.
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