8 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

To help raise awareness about food insecurity and nutrition in California, CCA Health California is sharing budget-friendly tips to eating healthy. 

Food is not only a staple of our health and well-being. We also use it to celebrate our cultures and traditions, connect with families and friends, and find joy in hobbies like cooking and gardening. But, in California, one in 11 people – over 3.5 million people – experiences hunger. Food insecurity has been linked to diet-related diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and diabetes and, for older adults especially, it can lead to malnutrition, chronic diseases, and vitamin deficiencies. 

CCA Health California, a Medicare Advantage Plan that serves San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties, works with providers and community organizations to offer high-quality social support services, in addition to medical and mental health care, because its leaders know that access to nutritious food is critical to help members stay healthy, connected, and well. 

“At CCA Health California, we support our members’ medical, behavioral, and social needs. One critical element to immediate and long-term well-being is having access to nutritious foods, and part of our mission is to ensure that members can regularly access it, whether it’s through a local food bank or by providing tips for eating healthy on a budget,” said Wil Yu, General Manager for CCA Health California. 

To help raise awareness about food insecurity and nutrition in California, CCA Health California is sharing budget-friendly tips to eating healthy. 

Have a Plan for Perishable Items: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are essential to healthy eating, but if you don’t have time to eat them before they spoil then it’s money wasted. When picking produce, choose some pieces that are ready to eat immediately, and some that need a few days to ripen. Also, consider less expensive, but still nutritious, options like bananas as having a regular spot in your daily diet. 

Buy Non-Perishable Items in Bulk: Canned or dried items like beans and rice are great options to buy in bulk. Although the cost up front might be higher, the total cost over weeks or months can be significantly lower. Some other less obvious bulk-buying options include oats, popcorn kernels, whole wheat pasta, and healthy cooking oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, or sesame oil. You can also include canned vegetables, just be sure they have no added salt. 

Consider Plant-Based Proteins and Frozen Meat: Meat and seafood are delicious and nutritious options for proteins, but there are many plant-based options that are more affordable and have longer shelf lives. Tofu has fiber and is known to help lower some types of cholesterol. Beans and legumes are a powerhouse source of protein and fiber. Some great options are lentils, split peas, black beans, and kidney beans. For meat-based protein, buying meat in bulk or on sale and freezing unused portions or buying frozen meat will be most cost-effective. Chicken breasts are a great source of protein. 

Buy Generic: You’ve likely heard this before, but buying generic can save a substantial amount of money. Two key tips to consider when purchasing generic brands: check the ingredients and make sure they are similar to the name-brand you enjoy, and compare the price by ounce. The reason you want to shop by ounce and not just price is that oftentimes the generic can be a larger portion, and might at first appear to be closer in price than what the real savings are. 

Shop Your Kitchen First: Before you head out to the store, take inventory of what you already have. Check to see what fruits and vegetables might be spoiling soon and plan a meal around them, or only purchase sides to supplement the food still in the fridge. All the work you put into saving money on your shopping trips goes to waste if you don’t actually eat the food! Also, think about what you throw out most often and make a conscious effort to find a replacement that you or your family might be more likely to consume. 

Swap and Save: Next time you have extra food that might go bad before you can eat it, offer it to a neighbor or friend – and they might do the same for you! You can also pre-plan food swaps so you can take advantage of lower prices of bulk items. For example, if you buy an extra large bag of apples, ask your neighbor to do the same for oranges and then split them. This works the same for vegetables, proteins, and other healthy options.

Know your Local Shops: Look for sales and find the local markets with the best prices. In some places that might be your local grocery store, while in others it might be the big, wholesale markets or the smaller bargain outlets. Check out store circulars and coupons – just be sure to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, and other healthy options and limit processed foods.

Use Local Food Banks: Food banks not only help individuals and families access healthy food, they also offer resources such as food demonstrations and recipe guides. CCA has partnered with Second Harvest of Greater Valley and Stockton Emergency Food Bank. To find a food bank near you, click here

CCA Health California operates Medicare Advantage plans in San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties, offering benefits and services designed for high-need individuals. The plan works closely with members, providers, and community organizations to coordinate high-quality, patient-centered care that addresses the social factors that impact health, and empowers individuals to make choices that align with their values and preferences. To learn more, visit ccahealthca.org.

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