DASH Diet For Dummies
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Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. This article shares ten simple tips to get you eating the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet) way without depleting your bank account.

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Plan meals and snacks for the week

Decide which recipes to make based on your pantry and freezer staples. Then prepare your grocery list by checking for store specials and coupons and making a list of all of the items you intend to purchase.

Use your grocery store loyalty cards for extra rewards. Also, eat before you shop to keep from buying foods that aren’t on your list.

Include canned and frozen fruits and vegetables

Canned vegetables are often higher in sodium, but they’re economical and convenient. Rinsing them can lower total sodium content, or you can choose reduced-sodium varieties. Canned fruit is just as nutritious as fresh. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also convenient and budget-friendly.

Avoid frozen packages with sauces, and read labels for added saturated fat and sodium. Avoid fruit that is canned in syrup; opt for fruit canned in its own juice instead.

Purchase in bulk

Buy in bulk, especially when stores are having promotions. Foods such as meat, pasta, rice, and canned goods are easy to stockpile because they last a long time in the freezer or pantry. If they’re on sale, buy as much as you can afford and store them until the next big sale.

Buy a side of beef or a family pack at the grocery store or meat market. When you get home, split it into two or four servings and freeze in resealable freezer bags. This way you’ll have better quality meat that will last you a long time. You can also purchase whole-grain breads that are on sale and freeze some for later use. They’ll keep for up to three months in the freezer.

Consider shopping at discount stores as well. Some stores offer deep discounts, and many have their own store brands. Most of the time you get an equal-quality product for so much less.

Select in-season produce and store it properly

Not only is in-season produce more readily available, but it also has a better flavor and is more budget-friendly. Buy some fruit that still needs time to ripen if you don’t plan to use it right away. Be sure to store fruits and vegetables properly to avoid waste. Items such as grapes, berries, and cherries should be stored in the refrigerator, and washed when ready to eat.

If you have the space in your freezer, buy extra in-season produce and freeze some so you can have it on hand in the off-season months. Berries, for example, are super easy to freeze. Just rinse, let dry, then place into zippered freezer bags (these come in handy for a frozen sweet treat or for yogurt smoothies).

Buy store brands

Buying store brand items can save you quite a bit of cash without sacrificing important nutrients. When you compare different brands of canned vegetables or cottage cheese, for example, odds are the store brand is more economical for the same good quality.

Skip convenience foods

Convenience foods (think precut fruits and vegetables, sliced fresh chicken breast, premade kebabs) can really add up at the cash register. Some can also be very high in sodium (think frozen dinners and meals-in-a-box). Preparing items yourself inevitably saves money and is usually healthier. Sometimes the time savings is worth it, but you’re paying more for more prep.

Buy food from local farmers

The best-quality produce comes from your local farmers because the food doesn’t have to travel very far to get to your table. Find out about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in your area, buy into a farmer’s crop for the season, or hit up a nearby farmers’ market.

Grow your own vegetables and herbs

Whether in a plot in your backyard, a pot on your patio, or in a community garden, you can grow fresh, flavorful, and inexpensive produce for your meals. Fresh herbs, tomatoes, spinach, salad greens, onions, and peppers are the easiest for the novice gardener to grow. You can even grow herbs in a pot on the kitchen counter.

Cook at home

Eating out can be expensive. Save money by cooking meals at home. Prepare bigger batches of some food items (such as grain dishes or vegetable soups) and freeze some for later use in individual containers. Also, try incorporating leftovers into your meals. Cook a meal (or ingredients such as lentils or roasted vegetables) once and use it in a variety of ways for a few days.

Go meatless once a week

Buying meat, poultry, and fish for every day of the week adds up. Try eating more plant-based protein (beans, peas, and lentils) with vegetables, as well as eggs and peanut butter. These low-cost items have a long shelf life and are available year-round. Because DASH includes small portions of lean meats overall, you can stretch a 4-ounce portion of lean beef, pork, or poultry to create servings for four people.

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