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Budget-Friendly Hacks for Healthy Food Shopping

Health and well-being are on the minds of many Americans as the country transitions to a post-COVID era. According to…

Health and well-being are on the minds of many Americans as the country transitions to a post-COVID era. According to a OnePoll survey commissioned by Nutrisystem, being in lockdown for over a year has motivated many of us to reflect on the importance of our health.

In fact, more than 70% of adults surveyed believe that the COVID-19 pandemic taught them to be more aware of their own health. Part of this newfound awareness for health spills over into the grocery store.

Fruits and veggies topped the 2022 Food and Health Survey consumer’s list as the go-to foods to keep our immune system in tiptop shape, according to the International Food Information Council.

The bad news is that the cost of feeding ourselves at the grocery store has skyrocketed by more than 12% over the last year. This means that a grocery cart of foods that cost $200 last year now costs $225 for the same items.

To help reduce these costs, here is a slew of hacks that can help you eat more healthfully without draining your wallet.

[SEE: Best Foods to Eat in the Morning.]

Take advantage of grocery store apps

The savviest way to save money is to download the supermarket app and use it to navigate the store’s weekly flyer and sale items. The front page of the flyer typically contains the best buys. Better known as “loss leaders,” these foods are purposefully put on sale to “lead” you into the store. In fact, these prices could be so low that the store loses money when you buy them.

“We do this knowing the price will bring customers in the door, and they will buy more items,” says Leah McGrath, a corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. In other words, the store is willing to take these losses to get you into their building so that you will buy the pricier items that aren’t on sale, like toilet paper and laundry soap.

Each week, I search for lean meat, poultry, breakfast cereals and produce loss leaders and plan my weekly meals around these staples. And, when the toilet paper goes on sale, I stock up.

[Read: Healthiest Frozen Foods and Meals.]

Use Your Freezers

Your freezer can store more than just ice cubes. Some pricier items that occasionally go on sale can be frozen and saved for later.

Buying meat and poultry in family size packages can also lower the price per pound. While a pound of chicken thighs is about $2.79 per pound, the price per pound often drops by about 35% if you buy a three-pound package. Divide the larger package into three, one-pound portions in freezer-proof, zip-closed bags and stockpile these in the freezer for future meals.

[READ: Ways to Keep Veggies Fresh Longer.]

Consider Canned or Frozen Produce

According to a Michigan State University study, canned and frozen veggies are not only nutritional powerhouses but also a bargain compared to fresh produce. In this research analysis, the canned veggies were calculated to be about 80% cheaper than fresh and 50% cheaper than frozen.

In fact, the canned and frozen produce may even have a better nutrient profile when you consume them. The heating process during canning causes some leaching of the water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C from Mother Nature’s finest, but what’s left of these nutrients remains intact in the can for months in your cupboard. The fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E, minerals and fiber remain intact during the canning process. Frozen produce is flash-frozen so the nutrients remain the same as fresh.

Fresh veggies may initially provide more nutrients than canned alternatives, but storing them in the vegetable bin in your refrigerator for days allows these vitamins to oxidize as the veggies wilt before you cook them. If this sounds like a problem you run into, you might be better off with the canned or frozen variety.

Plus, canned and frozen produce are already cleaned and chopped, saving you time when preparing food.

Consider Meal Delivery Programs

Cooking at home, especially during the week, can feel like an unpaid, part-time job for some (me included). Subscribing to a meal delivery program has become increasingly popular because it makes eating healthier more convenient and is a motivator to dine out less and save money.

“We have seen an increase in new customers because people want healthier meals, but don’t want to cook them daily,” says Courtney McCormick, a registered dietitian and the manager of Clinical Research for Nutrisystem.

In fact, according to Huumon market research, the popularity of these delivered pre-made, ready-to-heat meals is predicted to surpass, if not replaced, delivery meal kits, which send you the ingredients but you have to prepare the meal yourself . why?

“When you do the math, it can be more time efficient and affordable to subscribe to a meal delivery program than preparing meals at home from scratch,” claims McCormick.

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Budget-Friendly Hacks for Healthy Food Shopping originally appeared on usnews.com