Welcome back to my blog series, Healthy Groceries on a Budget! Are you enjoying your healthy savings yet? 🙂
If you read my post two weeks ago, you learned my parameters for a healthy grocery cart, plus how I read nutrition labels. Then last week, I shared 6 money-saving tips for the most common budget pitfalls — grains, meat, and produce.
Today I’m sharing specific examples of healthy swaps to save even more money at the store! I’ll dive right into the details of a common choice we might pick, then share a healthier choice along with its price tag. Some of these have a “better” and “best” option, so you can choose what works best for your budget and tastes.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
SWAP #1 – SALAD
1 Large Bagged Caesar Salad Kit = $4.99
I think we can all agree this isn’t the best choice, since the lettuce is often treated with chemicals to prolong its shelf life and the dressing is loaded with preservatives.
Using ingredients you already have on hand (cheese, vinegar and oil, etc.), you can make your own salad with a few extra minutes of effort. The cost difference?
1 Package of Organic Romaine Hearts = $2.69 + a few cents for salad toppings (*better*)
Total savings = $2.30
1 Full Head of Organic Romaine Lettuce = $1.34 + a few cents for salad toppings (*best*)
Total savings = $3.65
SWAP #2 – VEGGIE DIP
1 20-oz Bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing = $4.69
While my husband and kids love the taste of this dressing, I’m not thrilled with its ingredients, which includes MSG, artificial flavors, and preservatives galore.
If you can transition your taste buds to hummus, it’s a great veggie dip alternative, giving you added protein and fiber. I’ll call this the *best* alternative for health benefit.
2 Containers of Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus – 20-oz equivalent ($2.29 each) = $4.58
Total savings = 11 cents
If you’re not ready to part with Ranch-flavored dip, try this simple homemade ranch mix that uses herbs you already have in your pantry. When you’re ready to make the dip, simply add mayo and milk. (Despite the recipe instructions saying to use the dip immediately, I recommend letting it sit in your fridge for 24 hours. This allows the dried herbs to soften and marinate together.)
Assuming you already have the recipe ingredients on hand, this is practically a $0 cost. But I’ll factor in the cost of mayo and milk just to be conservative. This one definitely wins the *best* award for cost savings.
2 Recipes’ Worth of Homemade Ranch Dip = $1.30
Total savings = $3.39
SWAP #3 – BREAKFAST BAGELS
1 Package of Mini Cinnamon Raisin Bagels ($2.69, 10 bagels per package) = 27 cents per bagel
Since packaged bagels are high in preservatives and sodium, and low on whole grains, they’re not the most ideal breakfast food. Surprisingly, a healthy alternative that appears to be more expensive is actually a lower price per serving.
1 Loaf of Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Bread ($4.99 per loaf, 20 slices per package) = 25 cents per slice (*better*)
Total savings = 2 cents per serving
To save even more money, you can buy plain Ezekiel 4:9 bread in bulk at Costco and dress it up with your own cinnamon and raisins.
1 Loaf of Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread ($3.50 per loaf at Costco, 20 slices per package) = 17 cents per slice (*best*)
Total savings = 10 cents per serving
SWAP #4 – MULTIGRAIN CHIPS
1 Bag of Original SunChips = $3.29
I know in the grand scheme of Chip Land, there are worse options out there than SunChips. But I want to show that even within the realm of “healthier choices,” we can find a better alternative that will save money. While SunChips aren’t as horrible as other options in the snack aisle, they’re a bit on the pricey side and have also been shown to contain pesticides.
If you want a better snack option, I recommend the multigrain tortilla chips by Food Should Taste Good brand. They’re loaded with healthy grains, and the company is committed to foods that aren’t genetically modified.
1 Bag of Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips = $2.99 (*better*)
Total savings = 30 cents
For even greater savings, try basic organic tortilla chips. Trader Joe’s chips don’t have any added sugars like the above brands do, and they’re a greater value per ounce.
1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips = $2.69 (*best*)
Total savings = 60 cents
SWAP #5 – APPLES
Okay, this final swap is my personal favorite because my family eats apples ALL. THE. TIME. Apples also happen to be on the Dirty Dozen list, which means they’re one of the worst in terms of pesticide residue. So this one is non-negotiable for me – I buy organic apples no matter what.
The funny thing is, I always assumed I was paying more for organic apples, but when I did my grocery experiment, I was SHOCKED to discover that wasn’t the case at all. I researched the prices on both regular-sized apples and small, lunch-box sized apples.
Here are my results:
Non-Organic Gala Apples, Regular Size ($1.99 per pound) = 60 cents per apple
Non-Organic Gala Apples, Lunch-Box Size = 50 cents per apple
And now for the organic prices… (These represent what I paid for a 3-pound bag of apples at my local Kroger store, plus individual small apples at Trader Joe’s.)
Organic Gala Apples, Regular Size ($1.66 per pound) = 50 cents per apple
Organic Gala Apples, Lunch-Box Size = 30 cents per apple
Regular-Sized Apples = 33 cents per pound, 10 cents per apple
Lunch-Box Sized Apples = 20 cents per apple
Who knew the healthier choice would actually cost less, right?!
So what’s the lesson in all of this?
“Healthy = Expensive” is simply not true. With a little detective work, you may be surprised at how much money you can save on healthier choices — both in the short-term and in the long-term (i.e., future medical costs resulting from better food choices).
A few minutes of research at your next grocery trip could save you a lifetime!