Shopping for nutrient-dense foods can get expensive, but you can trim your grocery budget without resorting to a diet of ramen noodles (although with the addition of a few fresh or frozen vegetables, even ramen noodles can be a little healthier). Limit your consumption of cheap highly processed foods (like boxes of macaroni and cheese or dinner mixes) that are high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. Choose nutritious foods that can be stored for long periods of time in your kitchen or pantry (good for stocking an emergency food pantry, too). Here are a few healthy items to buy in bulk.
Dehydrated Dry beans:
Dry beans (navy beans, pinto beans, black beans, etc.) are cheap, full of protein, and contain phytochemicals that are good for your health. Dehydrated dry beans will last for at least a year if you keep them in a dry place. They're perfect for stretching your food dollar when you use them as the main source of protein for a meal instead of meat.
Raisins, prunes and other dried fruit last for up to a year in unopened packages. They're often kept fresh with a process called nitrogen flushing
. Keep them in airtight containers in the refrigerator after you open them. Dried fruits
aren't as rich in vitamin C as fresh fruits, but they still contain many nutrients and contribute nicely to your daily fruit and vegetable intake.
Raw Nuts in the Shell:
Raw nuts that still in the shell contain the freshest monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
, which are good for your heart. Nuts also contain other polyphenols
that may have health benefits. Raw nuts will last for up to a year in a cool dry part of your kitchen, as long as you leave them in their shells.
Canned Vegetables and Fruits:
You can buy almost any type of fruit or vegetable in a can or jar and it will last up to two years. Canned vegetables suffer from some nutrient loss compared to fresh produce, but they're still good for you. Read the Nutrition Facts Labels
to look for excess sodium and added sugars.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruits:
Frozen vegetables and fruits are usually much lower in sodium than the canned versions. Eat them within six months for maximum flavor. There's a wide selection of frozen fruits and vegetables, from the least expensive plain bags of carrots, beans, corn or peas to more exotic blends that come with their own sauces (look for excess sodium and calories). Some vegetables are sold in steamer bags that you pop right into your microwave, and taste just as good as fresh. They're more expensive, but may be worth buying a bunch when they go on sale.
Skinless Chicken Breasts:
Buy bags of frozen chicken breasts
or tenders to keep on hand for making chicken soup (or add more chicken to canned low-sodium soup), make a chicken stir-fry, or cook them up to make chicken sandwiches.
Bottled Fruit Juice:
Fruit juice that has been bottled will last for several months on your kitchen shelves as long as you don't open them, but they'll only keep for about a week in the refrigerator after they are opened. Fruit juices are rich in vitamins. Just look for 100-percent juice, not juice drinks that are mostly sugar.
Canned Tuna and Salmon:
These ocean fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein and will last up to one year on your pantry shelf. There are different varieties of tuna, including pink, albacore and yellow fin tunas. Traditional salmon
comes with the bones (adds calcium
) or fancy salmon without the bones. They're perfect to have on hand for sandwiches, salads and recipes.
What Not to Buy In Bulk:
Foods that are higher in fat may not be good candidates for buying in bulk because the fats go rancid once they're exposed to air. Roasted seeds and nuts go stale after a few days once the containers are opened so keep them refrigerated. Vegetable oil should be kept refrigerated too. If you don't use a lot of oil, don't buy it in large amounts.
Oats and flour must be stored properly in dry airtight containers for optimum freshness. Oatmeal is only good for about three months and flour for six months. Don't buy more than what you need. Fresh and fruits and vegetables only last a few days, even in the refrigerator. However, you can eat what you can and freeze the rest.
It's a great idea to stock up on bulk or sale items whenever you can, but don't buy more than what you'll consume. Bulk foods aren't a bargain if you throw them out.
I've got more money saving tips! Read more: Save Money On Groceries. You can also keep your diet "green" with my tips: How To Shop For Sustainable Foods. If you're not sure how to plan your diet, start with this balanced meal plan.