What if I said you could save more than $500 a year by buying more fresh fruits and veggies? As a registered dietitian, I’ve heard all kinds of excuses for not eating healthy, the most common being it’s too expensive. But a recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows how that belief doesn’t hold water.
After reviewing almost 40 different popular snack and side dish items, of which half were fruits and vegetables, CSPI learned that the average price per serving of a fruit or veggie snack was a mere 34 cents, while the less than healthy, processed snack cost 67 cents, almost twice as much. For meal-time side dishes, a similar difference was seen. One serving of a healthy veggie side dish was about 27 cents compared to 31 cents per serving processed side dish.
A few cents here and there may not seem like much, but let’s do some math. Say you have a family of four. If everyone swaps out one processed snack and one processed side dish per day for a healthy fruit and/or veggie one, over the course of a year you’ll save a whopping $540!
In addition, and not surprisingly, the fruits and veggie offerings have far fewer calories, less fat and less sodium/sugar than their prepacked counterparts. For example, 1 ounce of pretzels has 110 calories and 450 milligrams of sodium compared to 25 calories and 55 milligrams of sodium in 1/2 cup of baby carrots. One package of M&Ms has 240 calories, 10 grams of fat and the equivalent of 7 1/2 teaspoons of added sugar while 1/2 cup of grapes has just 30 calories, no fat, and no added sugar.
I know there are times when you just want chocolate and an apple won’t cut it. There’s no need to eliminate your favorite less-than-healthy snacks altogether. The idea is simply replace a couple of servings a day to both save money and eat more nutritiously. Healthy guidelines recommend the average person on a 2,000 calorie diet eat 2 cups a fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day, but very few of us actually do so. The results of this report can be a great motivator to help you up your intake and meet more of your nutrient needs.
While the recommendations may sound daunting it can be easy to add more fruits and vegetables to your day.
- Slice half a banana and put it in your morning cereal
- Mix 1/2 cup of berries into your yogurt
- Have 1/2 cup baby carrots with your lunchtime sandwich
- Snack on sliced peppers with hummus
- Have a veggie-filled salad before your meal
- Have 1/2 cup of roasted broccoli as a side dish
- Have a baked sweet potato as a side dish
Buying more fresh produce can still cause your grocery bill to climb if you’re not careful. Keep these tips in mind to control your spending:
- Shop seasonally. If you buy strawberries in New England in December, you’re going to pay around $4 a package. In the summer, however, that same package can be less than $2.
- Do some work yourself. Sure that bag of pre-cut and washed broccoli and cauliflower looks appealing, but not for $5 for about 3 to 4 servings. You can easily buy a whole head of cauliflower and a pound of broccoli for about $3, from which you’ll get closer to 8 servings
- Check out the discount rack. If your store has a place for slightly damaged produce, take a look. Slightly bruised apples can be salvaged into yummy homemade applesauce. Bananas past their peak make delicious breads and smoothies.
Now you have no excuse for not eating your fruits and veggies.