Healthy food is expensive. We’ve all heard that before. You may have read that on the Internet or heard it on NPR as outlets reported on a study in the journal Health Affairs.
Researchers from the University of Washington School of Public Health crunched some numbers to find out how much it would cost to eat according to the new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They determined that meeting the government’s recommendation for potassium, a mineral that’s key to regulating blood pressure, would add $380 to the average person’s annual grocery bill.
They also found that the more saturated fat and added sugar a person consumes, the more food costs drop.
The issue isn’t that healthy food is too expensive but that our government’s current system of farm subsidies has made the price of unhealthy food artificially low. We spend less on food – not even 6% of our income – than the rest of the world.
Of course, all those cheap eats come at a very high price. What people save in the short term at the cash register when they load up on fatty, sugary, salty processed food they pay in the long term with their health. A recent large-scale study found that high-sodium/low-potassium diet – otherwise known as the standard American diet (SAD — really!) – significantly increases risk of death from all causes.
Is there any higher price than that?
But how much does healthy food cost, really? A USDA study earlier this year found it costs $2-$2.50 a day, on average, for the recommended daily 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables. But other USDA research has also found geography has a big impact on food prices. What’s cheap for me in Southern California may be pricey for you.
We talk about food costs all the time in Nourish Network, and while we believe a nourishing diet is a smart investment, we don’t think it should break your budget. With that in mind, here are 6 ways to save on your groceries:
- Cook! Awhile back we asked our Facebook followers to share their strategies for saving money on groceries. The No. 1 tip? Buy whole foods and cook from scratch.
- Plan meals. Planning is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Armed with an organized shopping list, you’re less likely to give into temptation for expensive “extras” at the store and you’re more likely to use up everything you buy. (Need some help planning weeknight meals? Check out our Nourish Weekly Menus service.)
- Eat in season. It’s a bargain compared to out-of-season fare. It tastes better, too.
- Shop smart for organics. Don’t always want to pay extra for organic produce? Choose organic versions of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen (fruits and vegetables most likely be contaminated with pesticides) and go for cheaper conventional versions of the Clean 15.
- Check out the bulk bins. You can save up to 60% on pantry staples – with much less packaging, which is nice for the planet.
- Pay cash. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found people are much more likely to splurge on unhealthy treats when they pay with a credit or debit card than when they use cash. Lesson: Leave the plastic at home when you go grocery shopping.
- Minimize food waste. If you’re like the average American family, you throw away $2,275 a year in uneaten groceries tossed in the trash or the compost heap or sent down the garbage disposer. Remember, buy only what you need and use what you buy. This pesto is an easy way to use up extra herbs – use any combo of herbs you have on hand.