How to Get Delicious & Nutrient Dense Foods for Every Budget
Last updated: June 2021
Eating good food is one of the first steps we should take in resolving any physical or mental ailments – without nutrient dense foods, our bodies simply won’t work properly. But, sometimes it’s hard to buy the best food when you’re on a grocery budget. Take a look at the tips below to prioritize your mental health, physical health, and honor your wallet.
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The Food You Eat Matters
Food should be one of the first lines of defense against illness because there are limited to no side effects to eating nutrient dense foods that we enjoy.
Think about it. All medications, even if they work, have side effects. Even exercise can be difficult for some of us to start, although the benefits are overwhelming.
But literally every single person has to eat food. And most people enjoy the process of eating a meal or snack.
However, sometimes, we choose not so great foods. Maybe they’re highly processed, or they were sprayed with pesticides during the growing process. While these foods are find in moderation (just like most things in this world), it’s important to prioritize eating high-quality foods because this is the fuel our body runs on.
You would not pour water, or fruit juice, or detergent into your car instead of gasoline. Regardless of the fluid you try, your car would not run.
In the same way, no matter the alternative, you have to give your body the fuel it runs best on, or else it. will. break. down. No questions.
Prioritizing the food you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks in between promotes a comprehensive, whole-body wellness that provides a buffer against physical and mental ailments.
Now, specifically, you are going to need to find what foods work for you individually. EVERY single person is different regarding the types and proportions of food that they need in one day – that’s why there are so many different types of diets out there.
Regardless of the diet you choose, you must make sure that the quality of foods you’re ingesting is nutrient dense. You NEED high quality fuel.
How to Access Nutrient Dense Foods on a Budget
By now, I’m sure you’re saying, “These concepts are great! Changing my diet to meet my individual needs seems like it could really have an impact on my health.”
But you might also be saying, “I can’t afford all of this high-quality, expensive food!”
If that’s the case, then let’s talk about some ways to make nutrient dense foods more accessible to you.
Meal Planning and Prepping for Busy People
Meal planning/prepping one to two times per week can help you know what you’re having and when. Personally, I’ve been using meal planning for over three years to help me and my husband plan our dinners. I love it – great life hack.
Meal planning also reduces food waste and prevents you from making a last-minute drive through your local fast-food restaurant for snacks because you’ve already planned food to eat.
Non-organic fruits and veggies should be soaked to remove any harmful toxins. Foods that are easy to prepare ahead of time include boiled eggs, roasted veggies, fresh salad dressings, baked chicken, iced herbal teas, dried fruit and nuts, and bone broth.
Related: Practical & Healthy Meal Planning that will Save You Money
Volunteer at your local Co-Op for discounts or start your own garden.
Often, your local Co-Op provides discounts for those willing to serve.
This is beneficial not only for your wallet, but also promotes an understanding and mindfulness of where your local food was grown and how it reached your plate.
For those with a green thumb, starting your own garden, provides fresh foods during the spring, summer, and fall that you pay a few dollars up front for soil and seeds.
For those with small spaces, a container garden can be the perfect solution. While I live in a home with quite an overwhelmingly large yard, I’ve chosen to grow a container garden the past two years.
My husband and I have loved having fresh veggies waiting for us all summer.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you might even learn how to can or preserve some of your local or home-grown food for the winter months! While I haven’t ventured this far, I have loved water bath canning with a friend using local ingredients. I’m looking forward to the day I can start preserving my own home-grown food!
Visit the bulk section/store or ethnic grocers.
Both buying in bulk and visiting ethnic markets can provide great discounts on grains, vegetables, spices, and roots.
These options are often farm-to-store, providing the freshest options at a lower cost. You also get to support local small business and that is always a win!
Buy the most nutrient dense foods.
Nutrient density is a big deal when you are trying to save money. Everyone knows if I want to feed my family good nutrients, I’m not going to choose candy and ice cream. But sometimes when I’m choosing between fresh and frozen veggies, the decision gets a little bit harder.
Related: 5 Best Soda Alternatives When You Want to Quit Soda
Nutrient dense foods include unpopular meat cuts and leafy greens which both provide greater amounts of nutrients and at a lower cost.
With cheaper meat cuts you gain access to nutrient dense bones which can be used to create soothing bone broths. Leafy greens have great nutritional value and are often more inexpensive compared to other vegetables.
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Walk the perimeter of the grocery store.
In the perimeter of the store is the most nutrient dense foods – fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy to name a few. While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture into the aisles for flour, oils, or beans, spend most of your time with the least processed items.
Instead of searching the aisles for your favorite cookies or candy which provide little nutritional benefit at a similar cost to other more nutrient dense foods, focus on the foods that nourish you the best and walk the perimeter of the store.
Buy fruits and veggies frozen.
Often frozen fruits and veggies will be on sale or cheaper than the fresh produce options. The only real difference is the plastic bag.
While I believe the plastic industry and hyper-consumerism are certainly large current day issues, personally, I prefer to prioritize my own health THEN the health of the environment. That is, only if I have to choose between the two.
Frozen fruits and veggies are picked and then frozen immediately, so they are often fresher than the non-frozen produce, but sometimes at a reduced cost. Always be sure to compare once you’re in the store!
Related: Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Living: It’s Simple and Inspiring!
Prepare your food mindfully.
Preparing your food in such a way to maximize the nutritional value will improve your diet overall without any added cost.
Food prep to maximize nutritional value include eating raw foods, lightly steaming vegetables instead of boiling or roasting, using a crock-pot, taking your food to work in a cooler, slow cooking, sautéing, and using the right oil for the right cooking process given the smoke point of each oil.
Choosing these processes instead of deep frying, over-cooking, or microwaving is a great way to make sure you get to as close of 100% of nutrients in your food as possible.
Related: Five Easy Steps to be More Present Using Mindful Eating
Grocery Shopping for Your Body and Wallet
There you have it – great ways to prioritize your health, while still staying within your grocery budget. If you liked these tips and want more, check out my post on more general tips Save Money on Groceries for behavioral strategies I use to stay on budget.
Let me know which tips you liked best and which you’re going to implement this coming grocery trip!
Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, I am not YOUR mental health professional. The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and using this website does not establish a counselor-client relationship, or constitute provision of mental health services. I am not responsible for any damages resulting from your use of the content on this site, as the information provided does not substitute for collaboration with a health professional. Please consult with your health professional before making changes to your health regimen.