Detroit At the Prince Valley Market on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, shelves are full and options are plentiful.
Customers say they pay close attention to the cost of things everywhere.
“The prices are really high,” said Southfield’s Dora Hopkins.
Hopkins makes buying healthy foods a priority, but is careful to compare prices.
“It’s good for my health. There are certain things that are just high, you know, and then I try to find something that can be cheaper,” Hopkins said.
It’s a great method, said Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian with Henry Ford Health.
“I hear all the time that people say healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, and I don’t buy it for a minute. I think there are all kinds of ways we can eat healthy and not spend a lot of money,” Thayer said.
With grocery prices continuing to skyrocket, many families have to make tough decisions about what to buy. We asked Thayer to go shopping with us to share her tips and tricks for saving money on healthy foods.
She said saving starts before you leave the house.
“Planning ahead is the number one way you’ll be able to save money at the grocery store, and it’s also the way people don’t,” Thayer said. “They are likely to do it quickly.”
Thayer recommends planning your meals for the week, checking what you already have at home, and then making a shopping list.
“Putting that on your grocery list will not only help you make better purchases at the store, but it won’t help you overbuy and waste money on food you won’t even eat.”
Two other important tips:
“I heard it before, don’t come to the store hungry. You will start buying things you have no intention of buying,” said Thayer. “And secondly, try to come alone. When you come with other people, you are more likely to be persuaded to buy something else.”
In the produce aisle, focus on the whole fruit versus the already prepared options. Thayer soon found a prime example of potential savings.
“This whole watermelon is $7.99 for half a watermelon, which is $8.84 for this (small) container, which is $5.02.”
With fruits and vegetables, don’t assume prepackaged is the best deal. Calculate!
We found individual auras that were four for one dollar – making them 25 cents each. The three pound bag of auras was $7.99, which seemed like savings, but when we actually counted, it only contained 16 auras, which made 50 cents each!
This big difference surprised our expert.
Thayer says you can also save by buying non-organic products.
“A lot of people think they are serving their families well by buying some organic vegetables. The truth is from a nutrition perspective, they are similar, but the cost of organic is much more,” Thayer said.
Onions and potatoes are an inexpensive way to extend meals year-round, Thayer says.
“A good way to add some flavor without using salt in some of the savory items is potatoes – a great source of things like vitamin C and potassium,” Thayer explained.
Moving to the grain aisle, we discovered that bagged raisin bran was better than bagged.
“We found a 27-ounce bag of cereal for $5 versus a 25-ounce bag for $6. Save $1 and get more,” Thayer said.
With oatmeal, larger was also better. A can and a box of ten individual envelopes were about the same price, but the box held three times as many servings.
As for grains in general, Thayer said a healthy whole wheat option is often about the same price as the less nutritious version. This was true for the pasta and bread we checked.
Cooking oils tend to be expensive. Thayer said canola and olive oil are both good sources of monounsaturated fat, but canola is a much cheaper option, especially for baking or quick frying.
“In this case, it’s just over two dollars, versus just over six dollars for olive oil,” Thayer explained.
When it comes to meat, shopping is key. Thayer also recommends serving more “meatless meals” and watching your portions.
“You only need about three ounces or the size of the palm of your hands,” Thayer said.
Frozen fish is another healthy, cost-saving option.
Tilapia tend to be one of the least expensive fish. And again, it’s a low-fat source of protein, delicious in a lot of different things. Salmon tends to be the kind that people go for and sometimes you can get a really good price on salmon especially when it’s frozen,” Thayer said.
If you’re throwing away fresh produce that spoils before you can use it, head to the freezer section.
“Buying it frozen is a good way to save some money because we can pour whatever we want and put it back in the freezer for another time,” Thayer said.
When it comes to healthy drinks, Thayer recommends sticking with tap water and low-fat dairy.
“One place to save money at the grocery store is not to spend it on drinks. You can spend a lot of money in the drinks aisle and not get a lot of nutrition in the process,” Thayer said.
Finally, be careful when buying in bulk. People often think they’re saving money to buy healthy foods in bulk, but Thayer emphasized, you have to do the math and make sure you’re actually able to use that food before it goes bad.
Thayer said that while it takes more planning and time to save at the grocery store, the time is well spent.
“People are starting to make decisions, hopefully more informed decisions, about what they buy.”
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