$1.50 Can Completely Transform Your Grocery Cart & Waistline

Perhaps you have already heard the newest fun fact to come from Harvard?

–> A healthy diet is just $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy one. 

That comes out to just under $550 per year. When it’s put like that it sounds like a lot, but per week it’s just $10.50 extra per week. Less than what 3 lattes cost.

I know what you’re wondering, what does that mean? What constitutes a healthy and unhealthy diet? According to the study, published in the British Medical Journal, it’s the battle of the unprocessed diet versus the processed one. The study also compares eating fatty meats to lean meats, and fat-free dairy to full-fat.

For a long time, price was the dictating factor in grocery shopping, but this study has raised many eyebrows… is money an excuse to buy low quality foods? We are all aware of our society’s growing waistline and dependency on processed foods. What would happen if people realized that not only can the afford healthy food but they might actually be able to eliminate all the cheap quality foods from their diet?

It would be a nutritional revolution.


That’s what Dan and I are talking about today on What The Fitness as well as tips to help shop healthy and even organic while staying on budget.

Yes, it’s possible… I’m living proof.

How To Shop Healthy Food On A Budget

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Here’s what was specifically covered…

1 – Budget

Look at your current spending habits, are there areas that you can cut to offer more room in your grocery spending? According to The Nest, the average American spends 4.5% of their income on eating out. If you make $40,000/year that is roughly $1,800 per year on eating out. Can you cut back on eating out? If so, you can free up money for a lot more than just groceries!

Here’s a fun fact, only 23% of people between the ages of 18-29 are likely to have dinner at home 6-7 times per week (Source).  That’s sad!

2 – Meal Plan & List.

One day each week sit down and plan out what you and your family will eat the following week. Plan dinners, lunches, breakfasts and even snacks. Then write out a grocery list that corresponds with what you need. Stick to the list to avoid impulse buys!

This may take some time at first, but with practice, it will become second nature (or just use Fit Womens Weekly).

3 – Shop local

Buying local provides you with what’s in season which is often times the best bet for produce deals. Check out local farmer’s markets (yes even in the winter) or Google if you have a local produce store. We have the Vegetable Bin here in Charleston which hands down offers the cheapest produce in the area.

Some markets might be more expensive, but sometimes it’s worth it to support local. Plus if you budget correctly, you might just find room!

4 – Go Old. 

In most grocery stores, they will mark down produce as it becomes bruised. There is nothing wrong with these misfit veggies and fruits! In fact, sometimes they make the best smoothies. Bring them home, wash, cut them up and stick them in the freezer for smoothies/shakes. The same goes with meat, after a few days meats will get marked down. Most often mark downs happen Friday mornings!

5 – Don’t Go Organic With Everything.

Yes, organic can get expensive. Not everyone is able to buy organic veggies, and the study above didn’t take organic into consideration. Don’t feel bad if you can’t. But if you’re able to get organic with some items go for the Dirty Dozen. These are the foods most likely contaminated with the most chemicals and pesticides. Then there are the Clean Fifteen… the fifteen fruits and veggies likely to be fine just as is.

6 – Fast Food Doesn’t Mean Cheap Food

Sure you can go spend $5 on a meal at Chick-Fi-La or you can spend $10 at the grocery store. However, did you know that for $10 you can create a meal for 5 people? It’s possible. I promise.

7 – Commit

Sometimes shopping at more than one place is the best way to save some cash. It might mean having to drive an extra mile but it can be worth it. For example, I shop at Trader Joes for certain items, then go to Whole Foods for certain things (milk and nuts) then head to the normal grocery store to finish off. But I will admit, I’m blessed. These three places are all next door to each other. I could literally walk from one to other. But if that’s not possible for you, check out websites like Amazon for great bargains.

Additional Fun Reads: 

What about you? Where does grocery shopping fall on your list? 

For us, it’s very high up. We purposely don’t eat out often (maybe 1x/month) so that we can buy high quality foods. We don’t have television (aka cable) and we try not to spend money on daily purchases like coffees and such.

But Dan says it’s not because we budget but because we’re cheap… he’s right. But I’m not cheap when it comes to what I cook for dinner.


  • YES YES YES! I hate that myth that “healthy food is more expensive.” Eating out and eating fast food is WAY more expensive.

    However, the bigger issue is that nobody knows how to cook healthy food. I think when I become famous and fabulously rich my charity project is going to be free community cooking classes and giving away some cooking utensils. I say that jokingly but I think it would go a long way, and if I were ever in that position, I’m totally going to do it!

    • That is a great idea!! I’ll do it with you 🙂

  • I think sometimes healthy food can be more expensive, but I also think you can budget for it and if you make it a priority it is worth it. I mean, it’s your health. There is only one you, why put crap in your body all the time? People seem to defend snack machines but you can buy a piece of fruit in the grocery store for less than $1 and that’s what a big of chips costs. Fruit makes a great snack.

    Also, you can find coupons on healthier foods too- a lot of coupons are on junk, but I have bought Greek yogurt (Fage brand, Clay’s favorite) with coupons and today Harris Teeter’s site had an e-coupon for $3 off 2 of the Peanut Butter & Company PB’s. Some websites like the Ezekial bread will send you coupons if you email and ask too.

    • Oh I Love PB & Co!! I have a few jars now! I agree, you have but one body. Make it a priority to keep it healthy.

  • KarenG in France

    I feel that buying healthy food is an investment in your health. Eating out is so expensive and packs on the calories. I prefer to know what goes into my food. In France, I go to the farmer’s market every Saturday and stock up on foods and veggies, have all the staples delivered from an on line supermarket twice a month, and then just to go the super market once or twice a week for fresh meat or fish. I also make a major effort to eat leftovers, saves a lot of money.

    • That sounds amazing. I bet the food there is fresh and delicious! Leftovers are so helpful!

  • I think what is missing is that you live in an area where there are likely farmers markets and local growers where you can buy locally grown food. You also have the ability to go to multiple stores.

    People who are working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet and raise kids, probably don’t have the time to shop at multiple stores to find the best deals. These people may not have the time to get to the nearest farmers market when it is open. For instance, my town’s is Wednesdays from Noon – 6 pm.

    While I am a firm advocate of eating healthy, there are some situations that are beyond other people’s control and it is more than just the money aspect. In college I did research for a local food bank, and when state assistance was distributed some stores in those areas actually raised prices (because they knew they would be getting business no matter what), sad but true.

    • Kelly, you’re right there are always exceptions and we discussed that in the podcast. I am very lucky to have markets and stores near me, available when I need them… not everyone does. That is very sad that some stores would do that! Blows my mind.

      • My apologies, I was reading via my phone with my sick toddler near me so I didn’t get a chance to listen to the podcast, I will definitely listen after bed time!

        It is very sad, the research was so eye-opening and made me have a new respect for people who are able to eat really well in those situations, because sometimes it seems as if they are set up to fail which is so sad.

    • Dan

      Hi Kelly… just like Taylor said, you’re right. Things are always unique to each situation. I’m so surprised there is no farmer’s market on the weekend… they are missing out on a ton of business by only doing weekdays.

      That’s crazy about the local food bank. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the future as our food landscape changes across the world with price and availability.

      • Dan – you are right. Not one situation is like another, and I think that is what makes it so hard to give communities overall help. The farmers market hours drive me crazy. As a stay-at-home mom, I can make it, but even people who can afford to go and live nearby might not be able to make it just because of normal work hours + travel time.

        I sure hope this changes and all communities are able to get food that is healthy for a reasonable price!

  • Kim

    With 2 teen-age boys, grocery shopping is high on my list. We eat in most of the time because it is easier. Even on vacation we usually stay someplace with a kitchen and just eat out a couple of times.

  • I read about this and am still semi skeptical…only $1.50?! I agree that it is more affordable than pepole think but $1.50 seems a realllyyyy low to me.

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