It’s true that prioritizing healthy eating can put a dent in your pocketbook. Vegetables and fruits are more expensive than many processed foods. Meat, poultry and eggs, dairy, and fish are also pricey — especially if you want the organic, pasture-raised, wild-caught, antibiotic-free stuff.
So what’s a healthy-minded person on a budget supposed to do?
Before you start trimming your grocery list, try to reframe the way you think about food cost. It’s not just a line item: What you spend at the market is an investment in your well-being as well as your family’s and our planet’s health.
This is an uncommon mindset in the United States, where we’re accustomed to inexpensive processed food made from government-subsidized commodity crops — and where we spend a smaller percentage of household income on groceries than any other country in the world.
You can offset some organic-food expenses by buying less processed fare, which offers comparatively low nutritional value and may also increase your healthcare costs, explains Paul Kriegler, RD, Life Time’s nutrition program manager.
“It might look cheap on the shelf, but if you do the math in terms of how well it nourishes you, it’s not worth it,” he says. “And if you consider the expenses for medications and doctor’s visits down the line, healthy eating becomes far less costly.”
Still, your dollar won’t stretch as far on nutritious fare in the short term. A 2013 Harvard School of Public Health study found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, and nuts costs about $1.50 more per day than a diet of processed foods and refined grains. Though it may not seem like much, those expenses can add up over time.
The following strategies can help you make the most of the high-quality, nutritious food you invest in.
Simplify Your Kitchen
Cooking at home costs pennies on the dollar compared with eating out or ordering in. It may be one of the most cost-efficient healthy skills in which you can invest your time — and it doesn’t need to be complicated, says Tamar Adler, author of Something Old, Something New and host of the podcast Food Actually.
“There’s all this pressure to be perfect in the world of food,” she explains. “But you don’t need to be perfect. You already have everything you need to cook well.”
Much of Adler’s cooking philosophy comes from the Italian tradition of cucina povera, or peasant cooking, in which everything edible is eaten. This is…