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5 ways to eat healthy for cheap

By Robert Elsenpeter, Contributing writer
Published On: Jan 26 2012 01:30:51 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 15 2013 02:09:20 PM CST
groceries

iStock/YinYang

Most people have two similar goals -- to save more money and lose more weight.

But take a look around the grocery store, and you quickly come to a reasonable conclusion: It's cheaper to chow down on a box of Ding Dongs than eat a bag of salad.

True, that's an apples-to-oranges comparison, but let's be honest: We all know it's better for you to eat apples and oranges than Ding Dongs (with all due respect to the good people at Hostess).

But eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive. You can transfer that excess weight from your belly to your wallet by making some simple changes.

Water faucet

No. 5: Switch to tap water

No one could possibly argue that a can of soda is healthier than a bottle of water. Obviously, the healthier choice is water. But it isn't just health that matters. Some 12 packs of soda can cost as much as $5.

Bottled water might seem like a good alternate, but it is still very pricey, and you're really not doing yourself any nutritional favors.

Bottled water comes from the same sources as municipal water, meaning it just comes from someone else's tap. If you want another layer of protection, use a water filter. A $7 Brita filter cleans 40 gallons of water.

Sure, a cup of water doesn't taste like a cold Coke, and sometimes you need that drink. But it doesn't have to be the cornerstone of your diet. Make the bulk of your fluid consumption water and have soda as an occasional treat.

coupons in sales ads advertisements with calculator and scissors

No. 4: Watch the ads

Grocery stores do a great job of letting you know when they have sales. Not only does a flier probably come in your Sunday paper (if you still get one), you can find them at the front door of the store.

If you're an Interweb type (you are reading this online, after all), your local grocery store probably has its current ad online.

The point is this: Use those ads, and not just to find out if barbecue chips are cheaper this week than sour cream and onion. Find out which fruits, vegetables and lean meats are on sale.

While you might have always bought the same things, check the ads and step outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you always buy fish sticks. This week, if halibut is on sale, give some of that a try.

hard-boiled eggs cut in half

No. 3: Eat more eggs

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At least so says every diet book, website or episode of "Oprah" we've ever laid eyes on. But if it's so important, why are we digging into a giant bowl of Supr Frooty Oats-n-Marshmallowz every morning? Because they are easy to make and they taste really, really good.

A better option is found under your local chicken.

Eggs are loaded with vitamins and protein, and cost around a dollar a dozen.

But won't eggs jack your cholesterol to the moon and lead to your untimely death? No. While eggs take a bad rap for hurting your cholesterol levels, they are not tied to blood cholesterol.

And eggs aren't just for breakfast. Nowhere does it say that you can't scramble up a bunch for dinner.

frozen vegetables food

No. 2: Buy frozen fruits, vegetables

No one will dispute that fruits and vegetables are good for you.

Fruits and vegetables provide you with tons of vitamin, minerals and fiber. And while fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly visually appealing -- and absolutely worth your time and money to buy -- sometimes you're better off buying frozen.

Nutritionally speaking, there is no discernible difference between fresh and frozen. But it isn't just the price of a bag of frozen blueberries versus a pint of fresh where you see the savings.

In addition to upfront cost, frozen takes less time to prepare (they're already cut and washed), you won't waste money if they aren't eaten before they go bad and you can buy them in bulk in keep them in your freezer.

grocery list with money

No. 1: Make a plan

Before you step one foot in a grocery store, decide what you need to buy. That is, do some meal planning (with an eye toward healthy ingredients) and then design your list around that plan.

When you get to the grocery store, stick to your list. That is, don't be tempted by the candy aisle and skip the chips -- you save money and empty calories.

Try not to bring your kids with, either. They're going to want the sugary treats with cartoon characters on the label. While Dora is great for helping us learn Spanish and all, she isn't the best representative of the yogurt industry.

Also, before you go to the store, eat a meal. Don't go on an empty stomach, or you'll be more likely to buy some really unhealthy treat that costs way more than you want to spend.

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