How to Save Money While Eating Healthy

Eating healthy foods is not just a great way to take better care of your health, it is also a great way to save money. Some may think that it is more expensive to eat healthy as some health-food stores can sell their products at a premium and organic produce is often more expensive than traditionally grown produce. However, healthy foods typically cost far less in the long run -- if not on the actual grocery bill than on the amount you spend on health care.

If you aren't sure how to save money on healthy foods, here are a few tips to help you cut your food budget without having to sacrifice quality:

Shop at the Farmer's Market

The farmer's market is typically much cheaper than a grocery store because it cuts out a step in the farm-to-table process. There's no middle man to get the products: You buy them directly from the farmers themselves. You also don't have to pay for the usually built-in cost of transporting the products.

Shopping at a farmer's market also helps you to ensure the quality of your food. It's much easier to determine how food is grown when you can ask questions directly of the source.

Join a Cooperative

If going down to the farmer's market and trying to sort through all the booths just isn't your thing, try joining a cooperative instead. You are still buying directly from a local farmer, but you'll have the items shipped directly to your home.

With most cooperatives, you save money because you are pre-ordering and buying in bulk. You pay a certain amount at predetermined times -- monthly or quarterly, for example -- and you receive a shipment of produce that samples the season's harvest.

Buy in Season

No matter where you shop, if you learn to buy produce in season, you will save a lot of money. When food is sold out of season, much more money is spent on growing it (the use of greenhouses and chemicals), treating it (preservatives to ensure it doesn't spoil), and shipping it (usually from far away, tropical places where it can actually be grown at that time of year).

Buy foods in season and the savings from growing it will be passed along to you.

Plant a Garden

Of course, you can save quite a lot of money by cutting out all middle men entirely and just growing the food yourself. Your sweat equity can save you hundreds of dollars a month (depending on where you live and how much produce you eat), and you can ensure the quality of your food by overseeing what methods are used for growing it.

If your neighbors also garden, you can save even more by splitting the amount you grow and setting up a trade system. That way you can get rid of some of your extra harvest and get other items that you might not have grown in return.

Eat Less Meat

The cost of a pound of beef is far more than the cost of a pound of beans. Simply eating less meat will help you save money and may help you to eat a more healthy diet. Swap meat for other low-cost sources of protein, such as beans, grains, tofu, or even nuts.

If you are worried about reducing animal protein, try eggs instead. They offer many of the same health benefits of meat (like the rich supply of iron and B vitamins), but they are very inexpensive.

Eating healthy doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. You can save a lot just by eating in season or eating less meat. Shop at a farmer's market or co-op or plant your own garden to save even more. You could pay a fraction of the cost for your groceries and reap the savings throughout the years on your health-care costs.

What other ways do you save money on healthy eating? Share your ideas in the comments!

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