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10 ways to eat better for less

Healthy eating could cost you an extra $550 or more a year, according to one study. We've got 10 ways to help you spend less.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 23, 2014 12:19PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf you resolved to eat healthier in 2014, you've probably noticed it's not just your waistline that's getting thinner. Your wallet may be lighter too.

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, it could cost you an extra $550 per year or more to eat healthy. However, that doesn't mean you should resign yourself to living off Cheetos and Mountain Dew.

Here are 10 ways to eat better for less.

1. Buy in season

Produce is one product category prone to massive markups. One way to avoid paying exorbitant prices is by buying in season. For example, that may mean berries in the early summer, followed by beans, corn and then squash in the fall.

However, you can find specific information for your area by doing an Internet search for your state plus the words "seasonal produce."

2. Shop with a list

Before heading to the store with only a few vague ideas of what you need, take the time to create a menu plan and a shopping list. Having a plan can help you avoid impulse purchases that may be fattening as well as costly.

A list can also help you avoid throwing your money in the trash when you end up with extra food that spoils. And that brings us to strategy No. 3.

Grocery shopping © IT Stock Free/Jupiterimages3. Buy only what you'll use

According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of American food goes to waste, and that means you might be throwing money away. Using a menu plan and a list is a good way to ensure you are only buying food you'll use.

However, you can also save money by trying before you buy. Rather than spending a lot on a new product, try the smallest size first to make sure you like the item before buying more.

4. Do your own prep work

Pre-cut fruits and veggies are convenient, but they cost more. If you're trying to stretch a meager grocery budget, do all of your own prep work. If you’re short on time during the week, consider setting aside an hour on the weekend to do all the chopping and peeling at once for a week's worth of meals.

Learn how to properly store them so they don't discolor or spoil.

5. Skip processed snacks

You might be craving a bag of chips and a soda pop, but you'll be better off with a hard-boiled egg and some water. Processed foods are often loaded with simple carbs that can send your energy spiraling downward while leaving you hungry for more.

Instead, look for high-protein snacks that will fill you up longer without the nasty side effects that come from sugar overload.

6. Buddy up to your store managers

Meats and produce often get marked down at least once a week. Ask your local department managers about markdown schedules so you can be there at the right time to get first dibs on the offerings.

When you find a good deal on lean meat, don't be afraid to stock up and put the extras in the freezer for future meals.

7. Eat less meat

Speaking of meat, it's often the most expensive part of the meal. The magazine Eating Well estimates you could save $210 annually by replacing a pound of sirloin with a block of tofu once a week for the year. Of course, you could save even more by using beans as your protein.

If meatless options don't sound appealing, look for casserole or salad recipes in which meat takes a supporting, rather than a starring, role.

8. Eat less in general

Another way to save money is to simply eat less, period. As evidenced by many of our waistlines, we seem to have a portion control problem in our country. However, think twice before quickly dropping your family from 10-ounce servings of meat to the 2- to 3-ounce serving size suggested by the American Heart Association.

Making such a drastic change could lead to a mutiny in your house. Instead, slowly back off on portion sizes.

You could also start serving a broth-based soup at the beginning of meals, a tactic proven to reduce the amount of food people eat during the main course.

9. Use coupons

You may be thinking coupons are only for highly processed food, but there are a surprisingly large number of coupons available for healthy foods including produce. For example, regional grocery chain Meijer often has dozens of produce coupons available through mPerks, its mobile coupon app.

10. Grow your own food

Finally, you can’t beat free. For the price of seeds or seedlings, you can have a summer full of fresh produce at your fingertips. If your thumb isn't green or if green space is in short supply around your house, try planting some fresh herbs in small windowsill containers.

Herbs are often an integral part of healthy recipes, but supermarket prices can add up in a hurry.

How do you save money while eating healthy?

More on Money Talks News:

Jan 23, 2014 2:15PM
Jan 26, 2014 6:22PM
Slash your grocery bill by 50%!  Eat 1/2 as much.
Problem solved :)
Jan 26, 2014 5:39PM
Hahahahahahah.  EAT LESS, USE COUPONS, BUY ONLY WHAT YOU'LL USE.  Wow.  This should have made front page headlines everywhere.
Jan 26, 2014 3:29PM
 More die from ignorance than intelligence. 
Jan 26, 2014 2:31PM

 It's rather apparent the writer has never grown a garden. I don't consider 4 to 5 hours or more in the garden every day then 3 or 4 more hours prepping the days plunder for canning or freezing once harvesting begins to be free. 

Jan 23, 2014 2:05PM
The uncut up fruits and veggies , #4 are the main component of 40% that goes in the garbage, #3.
Jan 26, 2014 6:24PM
The only problem with waste is that sometimes to get a lower price on food is to buy it in a larger quantity.  Since there are only two of us at home (kids all grown up) we don't get to eat all of it all the time.  This person that wrote this wants to replace sirloin with TOFO????You gotta be sh1tin me.  That crap looks and tastes like drywall spackle... Some of that meatless burgers look like something that fell off the bottom of the lawn mower...I'll stick to the meat or burgers.
Jan 26, 2014 6:29PM
We do the garden thing, raised bed type but if you let it go for a week or so, it looks like the side of the road.  My wife refuses to use any type of weed killer or pesticides so some of it goes to the worms and caterpillars. 
Jan 26, 2014 7:07PM
I like eating what I like and eating how much I like. I could care less what anybody else thinks. I like eating meat, fish and poultry at every meal and I always have. If I die of a heart attack or stroke, then I'll die happy. Same with smoking and drinking. We only get so many days here anyway, might as well be happy while we are here.
Jan 23, 2014 1:50PM
why worry about eating for less . simply claim to be a undocumented person and the american taxpayer will supply you with what ever you need . 
Jan 26, 2014 6:53PM
We will all be on food stamps before Obama is out of office anyway, soon we can get more to eat.... now most of us working people are just over the line from getting assistance. 
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