By John Krueger (About the Author)
One of the first excuses I hear when talking about nutrition and healthy eating with anybody is “Eating healthy is more expensive” or “I can’t afford that.” So I am writing this article to show you a way of eating healthy while simultaneously saving money. Please note that all prices listed are based off of my local Sam’s club warehouse. I am aware that most people are not a warehouse store members (Costco, Sam’s, Bj’s, Etc.) but I have learned that it saves you a lot of money, even after you factor in membership fees. You can even purchase a family membership and split it with a friend (Me and a friend found the Sam’s membership on Groupon for $45 and split the cost for example). The sample diet listed below isn’t for someone who wants to eat a ton of different types of food throughout the day and would generally be seen as boring, but I big tip I can provide is flavor your foods in different ways by using different seasonings, or sauces. Some of my favorite low calorie high flavor seasonings or toppings include salsa, pasta sauce, fat free salad dressings, cinnamon (for oats), as well as any type of low sodium seasoning (be sure to include these calorie counts when tracking calories and be aware of your portion sizes). I have left out seasonings and sauces out of the shopping list because those type of things you will not have to purchase every shopping trip and typically last for a while. Okay now for the fun part:
The most important macro nutrient no matter what your fitness or health goal in my mind is protein. So that is what we will be shopping for first. The first item I put in my cart is chicken breast, priced at an insane $1.88 a pound. I eat chicken with 3 meals a day so I pick up about 11-12 pounds. Another good source of lean protein is 93% lean ground turkey, 5 lbs for a generous $13 or $2.60 a pound. A big staple in any fit diet is eggs, and egg whites. Both are great sources of protein, while the yoke in whole eggs provides essential fats and nutrients not found in the egg white and should be included unless you have cholesterol issues. 6 16 oz containers of liquid egg whites runs at $8.86, while a 36 pack of whole eggs costs $4.44 and a pack of 7.5 dozen costs a ridiculous $3.88. Yes a pack of 90 eggs sounds extreme, but you could easily crack the eggs and ditch some yolks for your egg whites if you wanted or could eat a mix of half whole egg and half egg whites. Finally, for those that take a protein supplement or are interested in one; Muscletech sells a whey protein powder at 6 pounds for $40 or $6.66 a pound. Way cheaper than anything you will find at Vitamin Shoppe or GNC.
Moving on to everyone’s favorite thing, Carbs! You can add them to your oatmeal, your shakes, and eat them by themselves; bananas provide a good source of energy as well as micro-nutrients and can be found in 3 lbs bundles for $1.38. Another staple is rice, which can be found in 10 lbs bags for $4.43. Plain quick oats, which you can flavor separately with cinnamon and stevia, make for a great breakfast or calorie and carb boost in shakes can be found for $7.98 for 10 pounds. One of my favorite foods, Sweet potatoes can be found in a 8 lbs bag for only $6.98. A personal favorite of mine is frozen mixed veggies, sold in individual steamer bags for a modest $5.48 for a pack of 6 bags. Frozen broccoli can be found in a 4 pound bag for $5.98. Finally, a 2.5 bag of romaine lettuce, which has way more nutrients than its bland counterpart iceberg, can be had for $2.97. For me personally, I like to use vegetables and lettuce/salads as a way to keep my overall calorie down for a meal but add a lot of volume and size to them to keep me fuller for longer. A variety of other fresh vegetables and fruits can be found for great prices as well if you so choose.
Last but not least we need to go hunting for some healthy fats to add to our diets and to our shopping cart. Whole avocados can be found in a pack of 6 for $6.98. Two 40 oz jars of natural peanut butter can be found for only $7.28, and again is a great addition to things like your oats, your shakes, on top of fruits and veggies, or even as a stand-alone snack. Another good source of healthy fats is raw nuts, but we did not add those to our shopping list but you can if you want to spend a couple extra dollars.
So lets breakdown everything we put in our cart and how much its going to cost us:
- Chicken Breast @$1.88 x 5 lbs = $9.40
- Ground Turkey @$12.95 x 1 5 lbs pack = $12.95
- Whole Eggs @$4.44 x 1 36 ct pack = $4.44
- Liquid Egg Whites @$8.86 x 1 package of 6-16 oz containers = $8.86
- Bananas @$1.38 x 1 3 lbs bundle = $1.38
- Oats @$7.98 x 1 10 lbs box =$7.98
- Rice @$4.43 x 1 10 lbs bag = $4.43
- Sweet Potatoes @$6.98 x 1 8 lbs bag = $6.98
- Frozen Vegetables @$5.48 x 1 package of 6 bags = $5.48
- Frozen Broccoli @$5.98 x 1 4 lbs bag = $5.98
- Romaine Lettuce @$2.97 x 1 2,5 lbs bag =$2.97
- Avocados @$6.98 x 1 6 pack bag = $6.98
- Natural Peanut Butter @$7.28 x 1 pack of 2 40 oz jars = $7.28
Grand Total: $85.11
Now we spent under $90 for at least a weeks’ worth of food (Some items will last us longer than a week depending on your serving sizes and such). Again this is the amount of food I eat to reach my fitness and health goals and obvious your quantities and food choices will be different depending on your own goals. This is also a sample based off of my purchases and your total will most likely be lower, again depending on how many a meals you are eating and the portion sizes of your meals. Another tip is for things in extreme bulk (rice, oats and peanut butter for example) you and a friend can split the cost and share the supply. You could even split the total cost and shop and meal prep together with a friend or a group of friends so that you all hold each other accountable and help each other stay on track.
Now some tips for those of you who shop at normal grocery stores or markets.
1. BUY IN BULK – Typically when you buy things in bigger quantities the prices are lower, so this is a easy way to save on staples in your diet that you eat often. This also goes with assuming you have the space to store it.
2. AVOID BRAND NAMES – A fun fact about the food industry, that many people know but seem to forget, is that the name brand products and “off brand” or store brand products are typically very similar and in some cases even made in the same factories or with the same ingredients. So do yourself a favor and opt for the cheaper versions.
3. SCAN YOUR WEEKLY NEWSPAPER FOR COUPONS AND SALES – Yes I know that this takes time and sometimes can be a hassle, but if your goal is to spend less on groceries than it is worth the effort. This also means you can’t be confined to a single store when shopping sometimes and can pick up items on sale that you need at different locations. Again this is with the assumption you live in an area with numerous choices of places to shop for food.