Eating cheap doesn’t have to mean eating unhealthy. In fact, spending more for many foods often results in higher calorie counts and more unhealthy ingredients. Women’s Health magazine has a list of grocery items you can swap to lose weight while saving cash. We’ve added some of our own favorites:
1. Cheaper Cuts Of Beef Instead Of Prime Cuts
The higher the price of beef cuts, the more fat it generally is. (The reverse is true for ground beef.) Fat, or marbling, is what makes T-bones, filets and rib eyes so tender, so tasty and so expensive. While flank, top round, chuck, sirloin and other less-expensive cuts of beef can be a bit tough, that’s only if you don’t cook them properly. Marinating and slow-cooking cheaper beef cuts gives you a delicious, satisfying main dish with fewer calories from fat.
Check out the Mayo Clinic’s helpful guide to choosing lean and extra lean cuts of beef, as graded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
2. Canned and Frozen Instead Of Fresh And Organic
Vitamins and minerals don’t fall out of fruits and vegetables just because you can or freeze them. Organics may or may not keep you safe from chemicals, but they don’t have more milligrams of vitamin C or antioxidants than their commerical counterparts.
While some food gurus claim that canning and freezing processes reduce the nutritional value of foods, there’s no definitive proof of this, and a recent University of Georgia study found that freezing can help foods retain more nutrients. The more fruits and vegetables you can afford, the more you’ll eat, so keep your pantry and freezer stocked with quick sources of tasty nutrition.
And cut the cost of orange juice by two-thirds or more by choosing cans of frozen over gallon jugs of fresh.
3. Avocados Instead Of Guacamole
Avocados can be more expensive than other fruits, depending on where you live and when you buy them. But they’re usually cheaper than guacamole, and don’t contain any added chemicals that might come with a commercial guac. And mashed avocados are often all you need for a delicious accompaniment if you don’t want to make your own guacamole. If you really want some guac, make your own with a few seasonings you probably already have in your spice rack.
Adding a few slices of fresh avocado to a sandwich or bowl of hot chicken soup is another great use for these deliciously good sources of fiber, healthy fat and vitamins and minerals.
4. Eggs Instead Of Pancakes And Waffles
If you don’t eat eggs because of the cholesterol, good news! Dietary cholesterol is not the kind that causes heart disease, so eggs are back on the menu. Eating waffles and pancakes may reduce your fat intake, but they can be full of sugar (especially when you pour on the syrup), and often contain soy.
5. Fresh Salads Instead Of Salad Kits
Salad kits are convenient, but they can cost three or four times the price of a head of lettuce. They’re also packaged in lots of environmentally unfriendly plastic and you often get a fatty, creamy dressing to go with it. You’ll be more likely to make your own salad if you don’t have to cut up multiple ingredients each time. Here’s a helpful article on how to turn your refrigerator into a salad bar.
6. Wraps Instead Of Bread
Two slices of healthy whole grain bread can add 300 or more calories to your sandwich. A loaf of premium bread can also cost more than $4. Try wraps instead, like Flatout’s 90-calorie wraps that come in regular and gluten-free varieties (wait for them to go on sale, then buy a bunch and freeze some). Stuff your guilt-free wraps with more veggies than meat and you’ll fill your tummy for less money and with fewer calories.
7. Veggie Flatbread Pizzas Instead Of Frozen Meat Pizzas
Buying a pepperoni or sausage frozen pizza can shrink your budget while expanding your waistline. And if you don’t get them on sale, frozen pizzas can cost up to $8 each. Look for flatbreads you can use to make delicious personal pizzas, topped with half the cheese of a normal pizza and your favorite fresh or frozen veggies.
8. Black Beans Instead Of Chicken
Skip the chicken and substitute protein- and nutrient-rich black beans in your favorite Tex-Mex dishes. Melt black beans with gooey cheese into quesadillas and fajitas. Add them to a vegetable soup seasoned with some cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime juice and slices of avocado.
9. Spaghetti Squash Instead Of Pasta
Dying for a plate of pasta with rich tomato sauce and diced veggies? Try spaghetti squash instead of store-bought pasta. After you cook it, you scrape the squash from the gourd and it comes out just like strands of spaghetti.
10. Generics Instead Of Brand Names
Don’t pay up to three times more for green beans, corn, pasta or other common groceries by buying brand name groceries. Many generics are just as high quality as brand name items, and grocery stores often make knock-off versions of your favorite cereals, juices or other products that are almost exactly the same. You can save $100 or more per month switching to brand name items and then spend some or all of those savings on more healthy foods.
11. Whole Fruits And Veggies Instead Of Prepped Versions
Having someone else cut your carrots, celery, peppers, pineapple or apples for you can double or triple the price. While pre-cut fruits and veggies are convenient, they can bust your budget. Invest in some plastic refrigerator containers and spend one evening each week cutting up your fresh fruits and veggies. Keep vegetables like celery and carrots floating in water to keep them fresher, longer. Place a paper towel over lettuce and pepper slices to wick away excess water that can make them turn soggy.
12. Rice And Beans Instead Of Meat
Combine rice and beans and you have a protein-rich dish that’s a staple of vegetarians everywhere. Try unique combinations like red rice and beans with baby carrots, black beans and yellow rice with diced green peppers, basmati rice with chickpeas, or refried beans with brown rice and salsa.
13. Canned Tuna Instead Of Tilapia
You might think tilapia is a healthy source of protein, based on how many restaurants serve it nowadays. But actually, tilapia, like catfish, is a cheaper, farm-raised warm water fish that’s higher in unhealthy Omega-6 fat. Cold water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) are better choices, and canned tuna is a better lunch choice than tilapia.
14. Soup Instead Of A Piece Of Meat Or Fish
Instead of steak or chicken or pork or fish as your main dish, have a few more lunches or dinners consisting of soup-and-salad combos. Avoid cream-based soups and opt for healthy, broth-based vegetable soups, recommends the American Heart Association. The piping hot soup combined with a sweet, crunchy salad is a budget-friendly, healthy alternative to meats and seafood.
15. Water And Iced Tea Instead Of Soda And Juice
Have you looked at the labels of juice bottles lately? Some contain less than 10 percent juice, many are less than 30 percent juice, and many barely contain any of the main fruit or berry pictured on the bottle (you’re mostly getting apple and pear juice). And do I even need to explain how unhealthy sodas are?
Invest in a water dispenser or filter for your home if you aren’t thrilled with the taste of your water, and you’ll start drinking more. And iced tea is another refreshing drink with a variety of health benefits that can become a go-to drink for your lunches and dinners.
16. Tomatoes Instead Of Lunch Meat
Why not try thick slices of juicy tomatoes as the main ingredient in a sandwich? You can add them to a grilled cheese sandwich. You can wrap them with your favorite greens, some thin-sliced red onions and some balsamic vinegar, or with a dash of salt and pepper and some olive oil. If you grow your own tomatoes, you’ve got a free, rich source of vitamin C and lycopene and a delicious sandwich star.