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3 tips to help you eat better and still save money

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Half of people who made New Year's resolutions for 2020 said they want to eat better, according to data from Ipsos for Urban Plates. But New Year's resolutions are notoriously hard to keep, and even one month in it can be tempting to abandon a new way of eating.

This particular resolution can be challenging to keep because buying whole or unprocessed foods, or foods without pesticides, can be expensive. In fact, 41% of consumers said the cost of eating better keeps them from taking care of their own health, according to Nielsen data. Organic products are indeed significantly pricier than regular ones. For example, certified organic eggs cost 122% more than the average retail price for eggs, according to Nielsen data.

If you're committed to keeping a new diet but are spending more than you'd like to on healthier foods, try some of these expert-approved strategies:

Don't use a recipe

Cooking at home as opposed to dining out means you'll end up with a healthier diet, according to a 2015 study by US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

If you're a novice cook, it can make sense to look at recipes for guidance. Financially, however, this can be a mistake. Daniel Gritzer, the managing culinary director of the food blog Serious Eats, told Grow the easiest way to save money on food is to ditch the recipe: While recipes provide "inspiration and instruction," they often result in food waste.

"There are inevitably portions of the required ingredients that remain unused when the recipe is done — half a bunch of parsley, most of the remaining carrots from the bag, three-quarters of the box of chicken stock," he told Grow. "If we move on to the next recipe, which often doesn't call for the same stuff, those leftover ingredients languish in the fridge and then get tossed out."

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Instead, give yourself leeway to experiment with ingredients and mess up. Ultimately you will sharpen your skills as a cook and save some money.

"Cooking is a skill that will pay dividends for the rest of your life," Gritzer told Grow. "It gives you control over what you buy, how much you pay, and what you eat."

Eat less meat

Meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, Melissa d'Arabian, host of Food Network show "Ten Dollar Dinners," told Grow. That's why she suggests "going meatless" once a week. "For instance, I will make quiche," she told Grow. "Eggs are a really inexpensive protein so I can make quiche once a week and feed my entire family for five bucks."

You can also replace meat with a plant-based alternative like beans. Freelance writer Andrée Pagès saved $2,800 in six months by adopting a vegan diet and says she often bought organic, canned beans or dried pulses like lentils, which are significantly cheaper than meat.

"A can of organic beans might cost you 15¢ more, for example, but organic meat and fish would also cost you dollars more per pound," she wrote for Make It in 2017.

Cooking is a skill that will pay dividends for the rest of your life. It gives you control over what you buy, how much you pay, and what you eat.
Daniel Gritzer
Managing culinary director of Serious Eats

Buy generic

Sales of private label (also called store-brand or generic) groceries rose 3.7% from 2018 to 2019, according to Nielsen data. This is because consumers are growing more attached to the brands associated with their favorite grocery stores.

Store brands are often cheaper than the brand-name version. For example, a 16-ounce pack of Walmart private-label bacon is $3.58, while a 16-ounce pack of Oscar Mayer bacon is $5.98. At Target, a 25-ounce bottle of private-label olive oil is $5.99, but the same amount of olive from California Olive Ranch is $10.99.

Stores are also expanding their private label offerings to include not only budget-friendly options but premium products as well. So you can purchase a higher-quality product without spending much more.

By getting creative with your ingredients and opting for store-brand products, you can stick to your New Year's eating resolutions and still not spend a ton of money.

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