Eating healthy on a budget may seem impossible, but there are many ways you can buy healthier foods for your family and still save.
With so many health-conscious shoppers these days, groceries are making extra efforts to emphasize healthy selections.
And the first step to eating healthier is to make sure you're buying healthy foods.
Both Kroger and Whole Foods Market have introduced scoring systems that make it easy to find if a food is good for you.
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Whole Foods uses ANDI, which stands for "Aggregate Nutrient Density Index." Foods are scored on a scale from 1 to a high of 1,000 based on their nutrients.
Kroger offers the NuVal nutritional scoring system that scores foods on a scale of 1 to a high of 100.
At Wal-Mart stores, healthy foods are designated with a "Great for You" icon. If your insurance is through Humanity and you join the HumanaVitality program, you're eligible to receive discounts on "Great for You" foods. Learn more at HumanaVitality.com.
Meijer, meanwhile, offers a meal planning service online at Meijermealbox.com to help you shop for healthy, delicious and low-cost meals. The site will even match up printable coupons with your recipes, so you can print out a grocery list for your trip.
Another online option is eMeals, which sends you dinner recipes as part of a grocery list coordinated with weekly sales at selected stores. Learn more at Emeals.com.
Now with an idea of what to buy, you can use coupons to help find savings. Coupons are so widespread now that you'll find them even in natural foods stores.
Whole Foods offers The Whole Deal newsletter in the front of stores that is full of savings that can be combined with manufacturer coupons to help you save more.
Lexington's Irene Gamez recently took part in a tour of Whole Foods that emphasized healthy values and said she was excited the grocery will soon be accepting mobile coupons as part of a pilot test.
But even without coupons, there are ways to make sure you're saving when you buy healthy.
Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk can save lots of money. You can purchase grains, nuts, rice, pasta, seasonings and flour in just the quantities you need.
Kelly Anne Beile, marketing team leader at Whole Foods, suggests bulk foods as a great way for kids to make their own trail mix for healthy treats.
Buy in-season fruits and vegetables: Foods sold in-season taste better and are cheaper. You can even think ahead by freezing them to enjoy during the off-season. Search the bargain produce shelf at stores to get deals on ripe fruit.
Whole Foods even has a value basket of cheese that contains smaller pieces left over from cuts.
Don't buy pre-cut vegetables or fruits: It's typically more expensive to buy pre-cut items since you're paying for someone's labor.
Jessica Powell of Wilmore recently accompanied me on the Whole Foods tour, and she said she finds it relaxing to cut and chop her own fruits and vegetables.
If you don't want to spend the time cutting, consider buying a food processor to make that a much easier task.
Check out store brands: Store brands like Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value or Kroger's Simple Truth Organic & Natural Food are almost always cheaper than mainstream brands.
Be sure to take advantage of in-store resources, too. Whole Foods has a healthy eating specialist, Lindsay Bruner, who assists shoppers and offers healthy eating tours. Learn more at Wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lexingtongreen.
She said shoppers often come to her concerned that eating healthy is time-consuming and expensive.
"It can be, but it doesn't have to be," she said.