Fiscally Healthy: Eating Your Vegetables Saves You Money

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Various vegetables and fruit on a counter
By Lacie Glover

When it comes to health and finances, not everybody gets the connections with vegetables:
  • Eating plenty of vegetables is good for your body, and in a way, your body runs like a bank account: Calories are deposited, and calories are spent. Too many calories spent, and you're hungry and overdrawn. Too many calories deposited, and you're bloated and eventually overweight. Of course, we would all rather have an extra bulge in our bank accounts than at our waistlines.
  • Eating plenty of vegetables can also be good for your real-life bank account by saving you money in the long run over a diet packed with junk.

For many habitually healthy eaters, a fast-food hamburger can feel like a brick in their stomachs. When compared to how it feels to eat clean and green and thriving on natural foods, the difference can seem like night and day. Fruits and vegetables have essential dietary fiber that helps your body run optimally and vitamins and minerals that help make you feel great. Sure, you could just buy a bunch of pills and supplements to get most vitamins and minerals, but spending a lot of money on supplements is a great way to go broke. Besides, you'll sell yourself short on more than just fiber.

The term "micronutrients" refers to small nutritional compounds that can't be categorized as carbs, protein or fats. Micronutrients encompass vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are compounds such as antioxidants, carotenoids and polyphenols. The protective benefits of phytochemicals are just beginning to be researched, although emerging data strongly suggest that many have preventive powers when it comes to cancer and other diseases. Since almost every disease costs money -– and almost any kind of cancer will cost thousands –- this is one way to protect your health and bank account in the future.

Unlike phytochemicals, which generally aren't available in pill form, vitamins and minerals of almost any kind can be bought in bulk. However, not all delivery systems are created equal. Most vitamins and minerals are absorbed better when eaten in whole food form, according to current research. Plus, synthetic supplement versions of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin E may cause health problems down the road that are both painful and costly.

Weight Regulation

It's no secret that obesity has been linked to a litany of health problems, but lesser known is the cost of those diseases. Costs linked to obesity in the U.S. are estimated at $147 billion annually, according to the federal government. Not only that, but normal-weight individuals also tend to make more money than their overweight and obese counterparts and take fewer days off from work. Also, overweight and obese people have higher premiums for both life and health insurance.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Eating lots of vegetables can help you lose weight. Research has shown that people who weigh less tend to eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis than overweight individuals. Maybe it's because you can eat a much higher volume for relatively fewer calories by eating filling, low-calorie vegetables –- or even high-calorie vegetables for that matter -– but vegetables also have staying power that other foods don't. Amelia Eisen, a San Francisco health coach who specializes in healthy eating on a budget, tells her clients to stock up on vegetables. "Since they contain high amounts of nutrients, fiber and water, they will satiate and hydrate you, keeping you fuller longer, so you will inevitably eat [less] and spend less on food if you eat more vegetables."

To save money buying vegetables, try these tips:
  • Shop at local farmers markets. When you buy local, costs are always lower because the food doesn't travel as far.
  • Find recipes before shopping, and stick to the ingredient amounts so you won't buy more than you need.
  • Make big meals and freeze leftovers for later. Most vegetables freeze well.
  • Stick to in-season vegetables, which are always cheaper.
  • Chop and freeze vegetables, which are cheaper than prechopped, frozen vegetables.
  • Grow your own vegetables.
To save even more, go vegetarian one day a week. You'll save money without missing out on a lot of protein, and you'll be cutting your saturated fat intake.

10 Strange and Sneaky Supermarket Savings Strategies
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Fiscally Healthy: Eating Your Vegetables Saves You Money
This may seem distasteful, as many Americans believe it unsafe to eat marked-down meat close to its sell-by date. The truth is, supermarket chains mark down meat up to 75 percent several days before the sell-by date. If you're prepared to cook (or freeze) the meat as soon as you get it home, there should be no problem. Naturally, look at it and smell it when you get home. If you have any doubt, toss it. And don't buy meat after the sell-by date. I have been buying meat this way for several years with nary a problem. Two good websites can help quell your unease about this: (which also has an iPhone app) and
 Before Thanksgiving is the best time to pick up frozen turkeys. I always buy two, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Just before St. Patrick's Day is often the best time to buy corned beef, and hams are rarely cheaper than before Easter.
As well you know, after a holiday, stores mark down the Easter candy, the Christmas gifts and the Passover and Hanukkah fixings. These are great opportunities to pick up foodstuffs that usually only grace holiday tables, to enjoy at other times.
Often, stores anticipate greater demand for ethnic foodstuffs than their patrons deliver. Take advantage of your neighbors unadventurous palates by exploring the world of flavors available at the local grocery store. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have an ethnic grocery store near you, many unusual foods will be substantially cheaper than at chain supermarkets. I love to go to ethnic grocers; not only do they offer samples of unfamiliar foods, but people are generally willing to explain what to do with these new (to me and you) items. Also, seafood can be considerably cheaper. Last weekend, live Maryland blue crabs were $3.99 a pound -- that's cheap even in Maryland. And you can buy fish heads and other cuts of fish to flavor stocks and chowders.
Most stores with bakeries bake more than customers will buy. One store near me always has a section of not-as-fresh breads and sweet items 50 percent off. At these prices, those are often more cost-effective than homemade.
At the back of the store, groceries hide shelves of dented or unlabeled cans and smushed boxes -- but there's nothing wrong with the contents. A few months ago, I bought a case of pasta at 11 cents a box. In some towns, small stores buy the dented and older inventory of the chains. The main caveat for dented cans is never buy a can that is bulging or that is punctured or pierced; both can signal dangers such as botulism.

Free, of course, is the ultimate savings option. Some rare stores will give you an item for free if it rings up on the register at a different price that that listed on the shelf. Just a few weeks ago, I found frozen stuffed cabbage, originally $18 for $3.99. However, it still rang up at the higher price. The clerk checked, found I was right, and it was taken off my bill for the inconvenience. This doesn't happen often, but it pays to keep a rough idea of what prices items are marked at so you can dispute the register if a price comes up wrong.

Store usually just want to get rid of these unpopular items, and they may never been seen again. Sometimes, they are products discontinued by the manufacturer. They seem to be more frequent in the frozen food aisle, in my experience.
Milk or butter are rarely marked down, but sometimes stores have gourmet cheeses at half-price. With good cheeses often going for more per pound than high-end cuts of beef, this is a fine thing for cheese lovers.
With prices for some produce also running as high per pound as meat, it's good to know that some stores mark down their uglier, older fruits and vegetables. While those may not be pretty enough for a star turn at the table when you're entertaining guests, they're more than good enough for supporting roles in stews, sauces, soups, compotes and cobblers. You can also be bold and ask -- in a nice way -- what happens with this unlovely produce and see what that gets you.
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