10 Tips to Follow the DASH Diet on a Budget - dummies

10 Tips to Follow the DASH Diet on a Budget

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

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

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 the newspaper for sales, store specials, and coupons and making a list of all 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.

Choose unprocessed foods

Unprocessed (nature-made) foods are cheaper and more nutritious than processed (man-made) foods. They also give you a lot more control over the ingredients. Avoid anything that comes in a box 90 percent of the time.

The golden rule is to buy and eat more nature-made food than man-made food.

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 zipper bags and freeze. 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 big-box 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

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. 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 pre-cut fruits and veggies) can really add up at the cash register. They 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.

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 veggies and herbs

Whether in a plot in your backyard 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 food and freeze some for later use in individual containers. Also, try incorporating leftovers into your meals. Cook a meal once and utilize it in a variety of ways for a few other 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) as well as eggs and peanut butter, which are low-cost items available year-round.