Eating a diet of mostly unprocessed, wholesome, raw, and even organic foods can help you maintain a healthy weight and even give you more energy. However, healthy food doesn't always come cheap. Free-range eggs, organic chicken, and many organic fruits and vegetables are often priced at a premium and you might find only a very limited selection of healthy foods at your local grocery store. Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store will make it easier to snatch up some of the healthiest items, but you still need to be wary of prices. If shopping for groceries at Whole Foods or other health food stores puts you well over budget, you need to be smarter about how you shop and what you buy.
Here are seven easy ways to save money on healthy food:
1. Get your grains in bulk. Many health food stores, food co-ops, and natural food stores have large bins of whole grains that they sell by the pound. These are usually much cheaper than buying the same grain packaged by a premium organic line or healthy food brand. Organize your pantry to accommodate for larger bins or canisters of rice, wheat flour, oats, flax seeds, and other grains so you can buy in bulk and save.
2. Make a trip to the farmer's market. You'll almost always find in-season fruits and vegetables priced lower at the farmer's market than at your neighborhood health food store and grocery store. Plan to pick up just a week's worth of fresh produce from the farmer's market so you don't end up throwing most of your haul away. If you end up buying in bulk, don't be afraid to negotiate a good price-especially close to the end of market hours.
3. Buy more unprocessed foods. The more processing involved to get that grocery item into its packaging and onto the shelf, the higher the cost. Buy whole grains like oatmeal instead of processed oat cereal. Buy a block of cheese instead of a bag of shredded cheese-you'll end up paying less per ounce. Buy a whole cooked chicken instead of buying the canned variety. Buy plain yogurt that you can flavor with your own fruit, honey, or other sweeteners instead of buying cups of flavored yogurt. These small modifications can spell big savings when you're buying groceries for the entire family.
4. Pick up frozen instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits and vegetables are usually flash-frozen, which means you don't miss out on any of the nutrients you would otherwise get from the fresh versions. Frozen fruits and veggies are usually less expensive than fresh fruits and veggies, and are already cut, bagged, and ready for storage. Look for a store's brand over a name brand to save even more.
5. Make your own healthy baked goods. Low-fat muffins, gluten-free brownies, and other "healthy" treats from the bakery are usually priced much higher than your typical bakery dessert. They're considered premium foods, so you'll be much better off baking a large batch at home and freezing any extra for the near future. Whether you're a fan of bran muffins, low-fat chocolate cake, vegan cookies, or gluten-free desserts, scour the Web for some healthy recipes and stock up on the basic ingredients to save on the cost of these sweet treats.
6. Go meatless one or two days per week. Meat-free days will cut your weekly grocery costs significantly and even more so if you have a very large family. Be creative with vegetables or low-cost meat alternatives like tofu so you can save money without compromising on a satisfying meal. From veggie lasagna and tofu bakes, to vegetarian chili and skewered veggies on the grill, there are dozens of tasty, meat-free recipes that end up costing much less per serving than meat-based dishes. Remember, you can always cook a double batch and freeze one batch for the following week.
7. Take advantage of coupons and in-store deals. Bagged vegetables, frozen fruit, and even some seasonal produce can be purchased at a discount with the help of coupons and in-store specials. Monitor your local grocery store's circular to see what healthy items are "buy one get one" offers for the week and check the newspaper for coupons on brand-name frozen goods and some healthy convenience foods. A few dollars in savings here and there can help to trim down that grocery bill over the course of the month.
Sabah Karimi is a popular Yahoo contributor and a writer for top personal finance blog Wise Bread.