DETROIT – At Prince Valley Market on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, the shelves are fully stocked and the options are plentiful.
Customers say they’re paying close attention to how much things cost everywhere.
“Prices are real high,” said Dora Hopkins of Southfield.
Hopkins makes it a priority to buy healthy foods but is careful to compare prices.
“It’s good for my health. Certain things are just high, you know, then I try to find something that could be lower-priced,” said Hopkins.
That’s a great approach said Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Henry Ford Health.
“I hear all the time, people saying that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, and I don’t buy it for a minute. I think there are all kinds of ways that we can eat healthier and not spend as much money,” said Thayer.
With grocery prices continuing to rise dramatically, many families are having to make hard decisions about what to buy. We asked Thayer to go shopping with us to share her tips and tricks for saving money on healthy foods.
She said saving starts before you leave home.
“Planning ahead of time is the number one way you’re going to be able to save money in the grocery store, and it’s also the one that people don’t do,” said Thayer. “They’re more likely to do it on the fly.”
Thayer recommends planning your meals for the week, checking what you already have at home, and then making a shopping list.
“Putting that down into a grocery list will not only help you make better purchases in the store, but not over-purchase and waste money on food that you’re not even going to eat.”
Two other top tips:
“You’ve heard it before, don’t come to the store hungry. You’ll start buying things that you had no intention of buying,” said Thayer. “And number two, try and come alone. When you come with other people, you’re more likely to get talked into buying something else.”
In the produce aisle, focus on whole fruit versus already prepared options. Thayer quickly found a prime example of the potential savings.
“This whole watermelon is $7.99 versus this half a watermelon, which is $8.84 versus this (small) container, which is $5.02.”
With fruits and veggies, don’t assume pre-bagged is a better deal. Do the math!
We found individual halos were four for a dollar -- making them 25 cents each. The three pound bag of halos was $7.99, which sounded like a savings, but when we actually counted, it only had 16 halos in it, making them 50 cents each!
That big of a difference even surprised our expert.
Thayer says you can also save by purchasing non-organic produce.
“Many people think they’re doing their families good by buying some vegetables that are organic. The reality is from a nutrition perspective, they’re the same, yet organic cost a whole lot more,” said Thayer.
Thayer says onions and potatoes are an inexpensive way to stretch meals all year-round.
“A good way to add some flavor without using salt in some of your more savory items and potatoes -- great source of things like vitamin C and potassium,” explained Thayer.
Moving to the cereal aisle, we discovered bagged Raisin Bran was a better deal than boxed.
“We found that the bag of cereal is 27 ounces for $5 versus 25 ounces for six dollars. So save $1 and get a little bit more,” said Thayer.
With the oatmeal, bigger was also better. A canister and a box of ten individual envelopes were almost the same price, but the canister had three times the number of servings.
For grains in general, Thayer said the healthier whole wheat option is often the same price as the less nutritious version. That was true for the pastas and the breads we checked.
Cooking oils tend to be pricey. Thayer said canola oil and olive oil are both good sources of monounsaturated fat, but canola is a much cheaper option, especially for baking or stir fry.
“In this case, it’s a little over two dollars, versus a little over six dollars for the olive oil,” explained Thayer.
When it comes to meat, shopping the sales is key. Thayer also recommends serving more “meatless meals” and watching your portions.
“You only need about three ounces or the size of the palm of your hands,” said Thayer.
Frozen fish is another healthy cost-saving option.
“Tilapia tends to be a lower priced fish. And again, it’s a very lean source of protein, delicious in a lot of different things. Salmon tends to be the one that people go to and sometimes you can get a really good price on the salmon especially when it’s frozen,” said Thayer.
If you’re often throwing out fresh produce that goes bad before you can use it, head to the freezer section.
“Buying it frozen is a good way to save some money because we can pour out what it is we want and then put it back into the freezer for another time,” said Thayer.
When it comes to healthy drinks, Thayer recommends sticking to tap water and low fat dairy.
“One place to save money in the grocery store is to not spend it on beverages. You can spend a lot of money in the beverage aisle and not get a whole lot of nutrition in the process,” said Thayer.
Finally, use caution with bulk buying. People often think they’re saving money buying healthy foods in bulk, but Thayer stressed, you need to do the math and make sure you’re actually able to use that food up before it goes bad.
While it takes a little more planning and time to save at the grocery store, Thayer said, it’s time well spent.
“People are starting to make decisions, and hopefully more informed decisions, about what it is that they’re purchasing.”