What you buy in the grocery store has a huge impact on your eating pattern at home and at work. Here are a few top tips to help you fill your cart with heart-healthy foods in a way that's also budget friendly!
1. Great grains
Looking for a simple and healthful dinner that won't break the bank? A good standby is a plateful of grains and vegetables. Use a small amount of protein as the condiment rather than the centerpiece. Grains give a lot of B vitamins, minerals, and fiber for a low price. Try any of the following...
- Store brand pasta and whole grain pasta
- Store brand brown rice and white rice
- Oatmeal (makes a great breakfast)
- Low-fat popcorn (perfect for snacks)
2. Bountiful beans
Beans are an inexpensive way to add protein, iron, and fiber to any dish. Look for options that are low in sodium. Pick up...
- Canned beans
- Dried lentils
- Dried beans
- Frozen beans
3. Lean poultry
Surprisingly inexpensive, lean poultry offers a great way to get protein and B vitamins. Consider...
- Chicken tenders
- Chicken breasts with rib meat
- Extra lean ground turkey
- Whole chicken
4. Frozen or canned fish in water
Fish is a nutritious, flavorful enhancement to pasta or rice dishes, along with salads. Plus, small cans provide built-in portion control. Your grocer’s freezer now provides better choices for fish too -- just make sure you choose plain varieties and add your own seasonings to keep the total fat and salt low.
5. Seasonal fresh vegetables and fruit
These are both economical and better tasting than out-of-season alternatives. Plan your meals around what is ripe, flavorful, and colorful. Heads of lettuce, carrots, cabbage, bags of apples, zucchini, corn and melons all make excellent choices when they're in season.
6. Frozen vegetables
Frozen vegetables provide a shelf-stable product that needs little preparation. You can find special deals on store brands. Again, make sure to choose options that are low in sodium.
7. Low-calorie, high-calcium dairy choices
Skim milk, light low-fat yogurt (or high-protein skyr) and nonfat ricotta cheese provide the best sources of calcium that are still low in saturated fat and sodium. Watch for specials and buy in bulk to save money.
8. Brewed tea
Brew your own tea to cash in on a beverage that is low in cost and chock-full of nature’s healthful antioxidants. Sugar-free brewed tea is an excellent and lower-priced alternative to soda and other sugar-laden and more expensive beverages. Choose store brands and stock up on special offers for even more savings.
9. Pick potatoes
Baking potatoes, especially when purchased in bulk (choose the smaller ones) make great meals and snacks. Potatoes are among the highest satiety foods -- meaning that they make you feel full longer.
Eating more plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that are minimally prepared can make shopping less expensive. It can also help you lower your risk for certain cancers. For more information, see www.dietandcancerreport.org.
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Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.