5 Tips to Save Money on Groceries and Eat More Plant-Forward
When you go to the supermarket, do you skip the produce section, convinced that all the fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are pricier food choices for your family? Author Mia Syn, a Registered Dietician in South Carolina, has written a new book, Mostly Plant-Based, which offers easy, affordable recipes that are both nutrient-dense and plant-forward so that you can eat healthy every night of the week while saving money on groceries.
We asked her for her best tips on how to save money on groceries while eating a healthy diet high in nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies, legumes, and whole grains. Syn advises people to aim for a "plant-forward" diet, which means focusing on whole foods that are not just better for you but also cheaper than meat and dairy as well.
Her take: Skip all the processed or packaged foods which are both higher priced and offer little or no nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy antioxidants. A bag of chips is no bargain when you account for the lack of nutrition within. Instead, seek out the most nutrients for your calories, which automatically will lead you to the produce section, or to cans of beans, bags of legumes, and whole foods.
That is how you save money on groceries, even as you are investing in your health and the health of your loved ones, she explains. Just by not adding meat, dairy, and processed foods to your grocery cart, you are likely going to be saving money as well.
Syn, who has a Master's in Human Nutrition, started creating recipes and sharing them on her blog and Instagram, @NutritionByMia, and now has 170,000 followers. "I look at recipes from a nutrition standpoint. I start with the ingredients first, not like a chef. I think about how to get more nutrients into our meals."
Avoid Buying Fast Food, Even If It's Cheaper
When you look at what we think of as cheaper food options, you have to also look at what nutrients your food is giving you, Syn says. "Avoid fast food, which may be less expensive, but you aren't getting many nutrients for your calorie buck," Syn explains. The important thing to consider is whether you are getting what you pay for. Look for healthy nutrients, or nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes, and spend on those.
Below, she shares her five money-saving tips for eating a healthy, mostly plant-based diet full of nutrition and delicious at the same time. Her new book offers easy 10-ingredient or fewer recipes that make it easy to eat healthily. The book's full title: Mostly Plant-Based: 100 Delicious Plant-Forward Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less.
"I want my recipes to be easy, and approachable for busy people who want to eat healthily and feel good." She focuses on a plant-forward approach that combines more plant-based foods while eating less animal protein. "That's because I am busy too. As a Registered Dietician, I always start from the point of view of how to add more nutrients to every meal."
Eating healthy does not have to be more expensive, Syn insists, if you know a few simple tricks to save money at the store. To help shoppers make the best decisions at the store, she shares her tips for bringing home nutrient-dense foods without stressing the bank account.
5 Tips to Save Money on Groceries by Eating Plant Forward
1. Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods
First, look for foods with the most nutrients. That means heading to the produce section and finding vegetables, fruit, legumes, or squash – anything you could grow on your imaginary farm. Buy in season. It's cheaper and better for you. Frozen can be as healthy as fresh.
Head over to the Frozen Food aisle. "Fruit lovers think fresh is better for you. But frozen fruit can be just as good, nutrition-wise, and much cheaper. So if you like making a smoothie start by keeping a bag of frozen berries in the freezer." Canned is also an option but be sure your fruit or vegetables are packed in their own juice, with no sugar added.
2. Avoid Buying Meat
If you want to be plant-forward, instead of adding meat to your pasta sauce, use mushrooms, nuts, and seeds since those are full of nutrients and add more flavor and texture. Or, you can do a sauce with 50-50 meat and mushrooms if you want to. But avoiding buying meat will save you money and help you be heart healthier by reducing your intake of saturated fat.
For the best protein that's inexpensive, other than rice and beans, you can also try tempeh and tofu. Both tempeh and tofu can resemble meat when you make them into a crumble, or you can make them into a scramble if you want to do that instead of eggs.
3 Skip Brand Name Items
Buy the store brand to save money on your grocery bill. The store brands are often the exact same as name brands but cheaper than the known brands. The other thing to know is that those famous brands of cereal or granola are full of sugar, so not only are they pricey, but they are not good for you either. Instead, buy oatmeal, and add berries, raisins, or nuts.
Save money on groceries by relying less on brands and packaged foods, and buying more healthy whole foods. This way you invest in creating healthier choices for you and your family.
4. Skip Processed Foods
Skip processed foods with long lists of ingredients, including fake meat. All of these are expensive. When kids are hungry, it's tempting to just give them fast food or processed foods like frozen pizza. But that's not a healthy option and both of those can add up. If you want to get kids to eat healthily and save money on groceries, getting them involved is a good idea.
You can get them to help you in the kitchen, and teach them to make nutrient-dense foods, like butternut squash mac and cheese, or add rice cauliflower to their smoothies. You can also make brownies with the kids and show them how to add black beans to the mix to add fiber. Kids will eat whatever they help you make in the kitchen. So have them help you prepare these healthier options and learn that these are good for them too.
5. Bring a List to the Grocery Store
"First, always have a plan, before you head to the grocery store," Mia advises. "When you make a list and buy what's on it, you save money by not purchasing a lot of unnecessary items.
"Go to the store with a plan and a list, and know what you are making for the week. I offer a three-week meal plan in my book, so you can look up recipes and follow a plan, which will make it easier to stay on track and eat a plant-forward diet and also not buy extraneous items.
When you go to the store hungry it's too easy to get swayed by what you see in the snack aisle. Have a snack like an apple before you head to the store since we're all human and when we're hungry, food makes us want to reach for the first thing or the most convenient thing. That is usually not what's healthy or what's going to save you money. Reach for the most nutritious items, and those are also usually the ones that are the best value for your family."
Bottom Line: To Save Money on Groceries, Eat Plant-Forward
By choosing foods that are nutrient-dense, like fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and nuts and seeds, you can not only save money but invest in the type of food that helps you feel healthier and more energized. Keep it simple with recipes of under 10 ingredients or fewer, says Mia Syn, RD, and author of Mostly Plant-Based.
For more expert advice, visit The Beet's Health & Nutrition articles.