DETROIT – At Prince Valley Market on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, shelves are fully stocked and options are plentiful.
Customers say they are paying close attention to how much things cost everywhere.
“Prices are too high,” said Dora Hopkins of Southfield.
Hopkins prioritizes buying healthy foods, but is careful to compare prices.
“It’s good for my health. Certain things are just high, you know, so I try to find something that can be priced lower,” Hopkins said.
That’s a great approach, said Bethany Thayer, registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health.
“I hear all the time people saying that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, and I don’t buy it for a minute. I think there are lots of ways to eat healthier and not spend so much money,” Thayer said.
With groceries prices continuing to rise dramatically, many families are having to make difficult 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 that savings start before you leave the house.
“Planning ahead is the number one way to save money at the grocery store, and it’s also the one people don’t do,” Thayer said. “They are more likely to do it in real time.”
Thayer recommends planning meals for the week, checking what you already have at home, and then making a shopping list.
“Putting this on a shopping list will not only help you make better purchases at the store, but it won’t overbuy and waste money on food you won’t even eat.”
Two other important tips:
“You’ve heard it before, don’t come to the store hungry. You’re going to start buying things you had no intention of buying,” Thayer said. “And number two, try to come alone. When you come with other people, you are more likely to be convinced to buy something else.”
In the produce aisle, focus on whole fruit versus ready-made options. Thayer quickly found an excellent example of potential savings.
“This whole watermelon is $7.99 versus this half watermelon, which is $8.84 versus this (small) container, which is $5.02.”
With fruits and veggies, don’t assume prepackaged is a better deal. Do the math!
We found that individual halos cost four for a dollar – making each one cost 25 cents. The three pound bag of halos was $7.99, which seemed like a savings, but when we actually counted there were only 16 halos in it, which was 50 cents each!
This big difference even surprised our expert.
Thayer says you can also save money by buying non-organic products.
“Many people think they are doing their families good by buying some organic vegetables. The reality is from a nutritional point of view, they are the same, but organic ones cost a lot more,” said Thayer.
Thayer says onions and potatoes are an inexpensive way to stretch meals year-round.
“A good way to add some flavor without using salt on some of your tastiest items is potatoes – great source of things like vitamin C and potassium,” explained Thayer.
Moving into the cereal aisle, we found that the bagged Raisin Bran was a better deal than boxed.
“We found that a bag of cereal costs 27 ounces for $5 versus 25 ounces for $6. So save $1 and earn a little more,” Thayer said.
With oatmeal, bigger was also better. A bowl and a box of ten individual envelopes cost about the same price, but the bowl had three times the number of servings.
For grains in general, Thayer said the healthier whole wheat option is often the same price as the less nutritious version. This was true for the pastas and breads we checked.
Cooking oils tend to be expensive. Thayer said that canola oil and olive oil are good sources of monounsaturated fat, but canola is a much cheaper option, especially for baking or frying.
“In this case, it’s a little over two dollars, versus a little more than six dollars for olive oil,” explained Thayer.
When it comes to meat, buying sales is key. Thayer also recommends serving more “meatless meals” and watching your portion sizes.
“You only need about three ounces or the size of the palm of your hand,” Thayer said.
Frozen fish is another healthy cost-saving option.
“Tilapia tends to be a lower-priced fish. And again, it’s a very lean protein source, delicious in a lot of different things. Salmon tends to be what people go to and sometimes you can get a really good price on salmon, especially when it’s frozen,” Thayer said.
If you tend to throw away fresh produce that spoils before using it, head to the freezer section.
“Buying it frozen is a good way to save some money because we can pour what we want and then put it back in the freezer again,” 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 beverage aisle and not get a lot of nutrition in the process,” Thayer said.
Finally, beware of bulk buying. People often think they’re saving money by buying healthy foods in bulk, but Thayer emphasized that you need to do the math and make sure you’re actually able to use that food before it goes bad.
While it takes a little more planning and time to save at the grocery store, Thayer said, it’s time well spent.
“People are starting to make decisions, and we expect more informed decisions, about what they are buying.”
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