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Queen of Free: Eat healthier without overspending

You can find many options to eat healthier in the new year without spending too much.

INDIANAPOLIS — We've all seen grocery prices going up as supply chains struggle to keep pace with the pandemic. And that can feel like a hurdle to eating better as part of your new routine in the new year. 

Cherie Lowe, the Queen of Free, told us on 13Sunrise this week that making wiser choices for your body doesn't necessarily mean making unwise choices for your finances. You still have plenty of options to eat healthier in the new year without spending too much.

Granted, you may end up paying slightly more at the grocery store by starting to eat healthier at home, but eating at home will still save you a lot of money over eating take-out meals.

In her weekly blog, Cherie shared some basic strategies to eat well and still save.

Avoid too much fresh produce 

We tend to fill our refrigerator with A LOT more fruits and vegetables than we can eat before some of it spoils. This wastes space, food and money. So be realistic about what you can consume. For snacks, look for fruits and veggies with a longer shelf life.

Shop with a plan

Make a meal plan and a grocery list before you head for the store. Your shopping will be easier and more effective. Even if you scribble your list on the back of a receipt in the parking lot before going into the store, Cherie said you'll have a more cost-effective trip.

Pay attention at check-out time

Your grocery store is probably understaffed and overworked right now. It's easy for mistakes to happen. So pay close attention while staff is ringing up your items. Some new kids may be working their first job, so be nice. "Ask questions and advocate for yourself," Cherie said, "but don't be a jerk."

Focus on meal prep

"Going to the grocery store is an investment in time and stress right now," Cherie writes. You want to be sure to plan something quick and easy for when you first get home and unload, and not let your empty stomach let you order pizza as you put away groceries! Take some time to chop fruits and veggies between the grocery bags and the fridge. They will take up less refrigerator space and cut prep time for future meals. You will thank yourself later in the week.

Skip old recipes

Some simple research can yield a myriad of ideas. Meal box subscriptions are nice, but why buy the box when they provide the recipes you can buy and make for a fraction of the cost? Cherie downloaded the budget bytes app. It's full of great recipes with healthy options and adjusts to how many people you're cooking for. It's a free site but could be worth the one-time $3.99 to get the ad-free version. New recipes are released every week, so it keeps your rotation fresh.

Avoid the grocery/restaurant paradigm

We think very little about spending $40 on a dinner out with a family of four. Then we flip through packages of meat to find one in the back of the bin that's five cents cheaper. Realize that shopping at the grocery store may be a bit more expensive right now, but it's still cheaper than dining out. It doesn't hurt to watch every penny. 

Watching your health and your wallet can take time, but it's well-spent because both will improve in the new year if you pay a little closer attention to what you're putting in your mouth and your cart. 

Watch Cherie's 13Sunrise segment in the video player.