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Is the rising cost of food making it hard for you and your family to eat healthy these days?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many challenges for those of us trying to support our health. From lockdowns to concerns about health and finances, we have faced obstacles that have made it harder to exercise, manage stress and even sleep. Another 2020 obstacle? Rising food prices.

If you feel like your money doesn’t buy as much as it used to at the supermarket, you’re not imagining it. Compared to 2019, food prices increased 3.4% in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with beef and veal having the largest relative price increase. Other foods that have seen a rise in price are eggs, fish, cereals and baked goods. The cost of produce such as potatoes, onions and carrots has also increased year to year.

How can you eat healthier despite rising food costs?

Your go-to healthy foods may be more expensive these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on eating healthy. While your budget may cause you to limit or avoid buying some healthy foods, you can still support your health while being mindful of rising food costs with a few tweaks to your grocery selections. Here are some tips for buying healthier foods on a budget:

  • Choose frozen, canned or dried produce. It may surprise you to learn that frozen, canned or dried fruits and veggies can be just as nutrient-packed as their fresh counterparts. As long as the food doesn’t have added salt, sugar or sauces, keeping those options in your freezer or pantry can provide you with healthy food options that cost less. As an added bonus, you won’t be pressured to eat the produce before it goes bad because the foods have a much longer shelf life.
  • Try canned seafood. Canned seafood, like tuna and salmon, may not look as pretty as a fresh filet but it is often just as nutritious – with a much lower price tag. Just choose options that do not have added salt or aren’t packed in oil and you will have a convenient protein source loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids right at your fingertips.
  • Opt for less expensive cuts of meat. If you need your red meat fix, choose leaner and less expensive cuts like eye round or flank steak. Pay attention to portion size, too. A serving of beef is approximately the size and thickness of your palm. You can make your meat purchase go further by adding other foods on your plate rather than letting the meat steal the show. Include lots of veggies and some whole grains to round out your meal.
  • Skip convenience foods. You pay a price for convenience so if you want to be able to afford healthy foods without breaking the bank, do things yourself. Buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself may be less expensive than buying it cut, boned and skinned. A head of lettuce is often cheaper than ready-made bagged salads. If you want baked goods, not only can baking them yourself make them healthier, but you’ll also probably save money in the process.

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Date Last Reviewed: November 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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