Healthy food can fit into a tight grocery budget.Can your supermarket make you fat? That depends on where you shop for groceries, according to a new study. Shopping at deep-discount supermarkets, especially if they're far from home, is linked to higher body weight and more belly fat than buying groceries at neighborhood markets closer to home.
The researchers say this is may be because people who trek to discount supermarkets tend to shop less frequently, and stock up more nonperishables and less fresh produce.
Then there's the belief that healthy food is more expensive than junk food. That depends on how you calculate the cost, according to a new USDA report. If you consider the cost-per-calorie, fruits and vegetables are pricier than proteins, grains, and junk food. However, if you look at the cost per edible weight or per portion -- more realistic measures, say USDA researchers -- fruits and veggies are a smart buy.
Regardless of where you grocery shop, use these 5 budget-friendly strategies to buy healthy food every time:
1. Never shop hungry. It's not a myth -- hunger activates the part of your brain that responds like Pavlov's dog to tempting pictures and descriptions of food. That's why a stroll down the cookie aisle lands all those sweets in your cart when you shop just before dinner!
2. Pay with cash, not credit cards or debit cards. You'll make 30% fewer unhealthful impulse buys at the grocery store. (Look! MoonPies!)
3. Buy local and seasonal. You can save big-time bucks buying cherries in summer and butternut squash in winter (instead of vice versa), especially if you buy locally grown produce. Seasonal isn't possible everywhere, but get just-picked fruits and veggies whenever you can; they pack a big flavor bonus, so you're more likely to eat 'em.
4. Be choosy about organics. Buying organic versions of these 12 fruits and veggies (the Environmental Working Group's famous "dirty dozen") is worth it because they practically inhale pesticides: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale. But save your organic money on these, which aren't prone to pesticide residues: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocados, asparagus, peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, and watermelons.
5. Snap up bargain frozen foods. Save money -- and avoid dreaded fruit-and-veggie rot in the fridge -- by buying frozen green beans, corn, peas, asparagus, raspberries, collard greens, squash, and more when they're on sale. Flash-frozen produce is more nutritious than wilted fresh, and it's usually more healthful than canned, which can be loaded with sodium (veggies and beans) or sugary syrup (fruit).
6. Buy canned wild salmon. Can't swing $30 a pound for the first-run of wild Pacific salmon? Wheel your cart to the canned-fish aisle -- salmon packed in tins and pouches is usually the wild type for a fraction of the cost of the fresh stuff!
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