People often think that "healthy" foods can be expensive, but the truth is that some of the most nutritious foods can also be the cheapest -- and the most delicious.
What's more, foods that are good for your body also tend to be good for the environment, from less processing to fewer food miles.
We've identified four simple tips to save over 50% off your monthly food bills. This factors in the ratio of what Americans spend on produce, meat, and other grocery products, plus how much we usually eat out at restaurants. Follow these ideas and you'll not only save money, but you'll get started eating healthy and eco-friendly.
Already a frugal foodie? Read on, we've got something for you too.
1. Go seasonal.
Savings: 30% to 60% off buying produce year-round.
If you're looking for fresh raspberries in January, you'll have to pay as much as $6 for a half pint of bland berries flown in from Guatemala.
But if you buy them in July, U.S.-grown raspberries will cost you just a couple of dollars. They'll also be fresher, taste better, and contain more nutrients.
Take advantage of summer's bounty (while going easy on your wallet) by stocking up on all the delicious veggies and fruit overflowing at the markets now: corn, lettuces, summer squash, berries, and peaches. Try buying extra and stocking your freezer to enjoy your local produce mid-winter.
2. Buy in bulk.
Savings: 40% to 50% off regularly packaged items.
Many stores offer bulk bin items, and it's a great way to save a ton of money. Groceries cost a lot less when they aren't wrapped in fancy, expensive packages. Savings average 40% to 50%, but can be far higher.
For example, a regular package of oats at the grocery store costs around $2.94/lb. Buy them at a bulk foods store and you'll pay $0.66/lb, almost 80% less.
Buying items with less packaging also helps the environment by reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill. Buy your grains, nuts, beans, and spices in bulk if you can. Store your grains and nuts in glass jars in the fridge to keep them fresher longer.
3. Buy generic.
Savings: Average 40% off national brands.
Whole Foods' "365 brand of garbanzo beans costs $1.69. The competitors' brands on the next shelf cost up to $3.99. eNuff said.
4. Eat at home.
Save: 80% or more.
It's not a big surprise that it costs a lot more money to eat out than to eat at home. But have you ever sat down and really crunched the numbers?
You might be alarmed by the results, which generally average anywhere from a savings of $20 to $100 a week if you brown-bag it.
But besides saving you money, cooking your own meals gives you a huge health advantage since you control exactly what goes into your food. Plus, it usually doesn't cost that much more to double a recipe when you've already got most of the ingredients on hand. So make a double batch of your dinners and bring the leftovers to work for lunch.
You can visit bankrate.com's lunch savings calculator and do the math yourself: Input your numbers on what you're spending now for lunch, how much you'd be spending if you made it at home, and you can easily figure out your savings.