Just one more tool to help keep those unhealthy foods out of your kitchen & more healthy foods into your mouth: pairing down your grocery budget. If you only had $160 a month to spend on groceries, do you think you would learn to shop, cook, and eat better? With many convenience foods, we’re paying for packaging and processing that adds fat, sugar, sodium, and calories. So they are more expensive and not necessarily good for us. Try the experiment for yourself, living on $40 a week for food. Here’s a few ways to help you do it:

1. Go international. Spices boost flavor, have their own other health benefits, and keep extra sodium and fat away. If you shop for them in the international section, they can be cheaper than in the traditional spice aisle.

2. Look for in-season produce. Besides all the other reasons we’ve talked about before for buying fresh, local produce, it also exposes you to new foods and can force you to get creative.

3. Eat meatless or meat-light. It’s better for your bottom line, especially when it comes to processed meats, which do mostly harm and not much good.

4. Make your own dressing and stock. Most commercial brands have unwanted preservatives, among other things. You can whip up a cheap and healthy salad dressing with oil and vinegar. And if you are going to make a meat purchase, get a whole chicken instead of the expensive skinless breasts, and use the remnants to make stock for soups, without the added sodium.

5. Give up the $3 cup of coffee on the way to work. You can make it cheaply at home and just 5 times in your work week is already $15 out of your weekly budget. For that $15, you could buy in bulk: 1 pound of black beans ($0.88) + 2 pounds apples ($1.98) + 5 heads garlic ($1.29) + 1 pound brown rice ($0.50) + 2 pounds eggplant ($1.58) + 1 loaf bread ($1.69) + 6 ounces cumin ($1.00) + 3 pounds frozen ground turkey ($3.00) + 1 dozen eggs ($0.99) + 1 head green-leaf lettuce ($1.49) + 1 pound bananas ($.49) for example. (This of course depends on the typical sale prices in your area.)

So what’s going to be in your next shopping cart?

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