Eating/Shopping Healthy on a Budget – CLG Workshop at IHouse

Author name
Lizzy Huang

I enjoy grocery shopping and cooking. But it gets challenging when I’m under a tight budget. It’s even trickier if I’m dedicated to eating healthy when I have a tight budget. At this week’s CLG workshop, we have invited Duke Student Health Nutritionist Toni Ann Apadula with host Șeun Bello Olámosù to answer questions about eating and shopping healthy on a budget.

Balance Your Plate
To eat healthy, we need to know what nutrition our bodies need and what to shop in order to balance the nutrition.
•    Â½ of your plate: fruits and vegetables – for vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and carbohydrates.
•    Â¼ of your plate: grains – for fiber, B vitamins, and carbohydrates. We should try to choose whole grains and vary the types at each meal.
•    Â¼ of your plate: protein – for protein and fats and are also good sources of iron.
•    Some healthy fat – for essential fats that enable your body to work properly. Fish and nut are good sources.

Plan before Shopping
Now we have ideas what we should include in our shopping “baskets”, we can plan our shopping trip. Toni gave us some suggestions how to make the most of our budge and avoid impulse purchase.
1.    Make grocery lists based on what you already have in your fridge. Grocery list apps like Shopshop are good helpers.
2.    Review supermarket/grocery stores specials and coupons. Loyalty cards can save us a lot.
3.    Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry; it’s easier to overbuy.

Shopping Strategies
It is noticeable that fruits/vegetables and protein are the two most expensive categories. Let’s see what options we have to eat healthy while stay within our budgets.
•    Fruits and Vegetables. We should try for different colors in this category. The fresher, the more pricy they are. Therefore, frozen vegetables may be a good compromise between price and freshness. Canned fruits/vegies can be an option, as long as they’re rinsed to reduce salt before cooking. Usually, seasonal fruits/vegetables ( will be under a cheaper price.
•    Protein. Try to choose a leaner option. Animal protein is more expensive compared to dairy/nut based protein. Plant based protein and eggs are least expensive. Canned meat or beans can also be an option, especially for some special recipes.
•    Organic vs Non-organic. If you worry about food additives, pesticides, and other substances added in your food, you may consider choosing organic products. But organic food also causes higher expense. Toni suggested we follow the “Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen” rule. We’d better invest some dollars on the organic counterpart of the “Dirty Dozen”.

Finally, use these tips for an inexpensive and healthy shopping.
1.    Compare unit price instead of retailed price. Larger sizes often get lower unit price and are relatively cheaper.
2.    Look at lower and higher shelves. Stores tend to place more expensive items at the eye level.
3.    Read nutrition fact and ingredient labels for better consideration. The ingredients are listed in the order from the most amount to the least amount.
4.    Consider store brands if the nutritional values are similar.
5.    Consider products that are close to the best-buy dates. They may be cheaper than usual but still buyable. The exact food storage timeline can be tracked using the USDA App “FoodKeeper”.

Have run out of cooking ideas? No worry. These two cooking websites, Cock’s Corner and Supercook provide recommendations on recipes based on your fridge leftover. Don’t have time to cook? Check out this sample weekly menu for dining on campus and the guideline for eating healthy on a fast food style. After attending this workshop, I hope everyone will find an economic option for their eating style.