Budget Friendly Eating and Shopping
Updated: May 23
One of the biggest issues with incorporating whole, nutritious, and healthy foods into your diet is that they can often rack up the cost of groceries up significantly. However, if a sustainable and healthy way of eating is your goal, there are ways to shop that can be budget-friendly. Transitioning towards a “healthier” diet can have different meanings for everyone. However, the end goal is always a diet that fuels your body without harmful additives, hormones, or sugar. In order to make that change, it is first important to note the factors that might inhibit someone from being able to attain such eating habits.
Food security can seem like a daunting, labeling word. However, the truth is that in North Carolina, 1 In 7 people face food insecurity. This means that 1 in 7 people lack the financial resources for food at the household level. Even then, people not facing basic food insecurity might also lack the chance to include healthier foods in their diet because of time, lack of knowledge, or extra money. Food insecurity is related to health concerns like obesity, physiologic adaptation to periodic food deprivation, disordered sleep, depression, and anxiety. Recognizing food insecurity in your life and that of your community can give you a better understanding of your current eating habits.
 Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study. 2019.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 112, Issue 5, November 2020, Pages 1160–1161.
Hidden hunger, a term used to describe when the food that people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements, is even more widespread than food insecurity! It affects about 2 billion people worldwide (or 1 in 3 people). Most likely, a significant amount of people living here in Union County can resonate with hidden hunger.  Hidden hunger can easily be overlooked because of its prevalence in modern-day society. Much of the cheapest, most accessible food lack the 19 necessary nutrients that our bodies need to function and maintain a healthy balance.4 When food prices rise, people tend to continue to eat staple foods while cutting their intake of non-staple foods that tend to be richer in micronutrients. Hidden hunger plus food insecurity can cause a serious lack of healthy foods in your diet, which has been proven to affect both physical and mental health.
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Video: What is hidden hunger?
 K. von Grebmer, A. Saltzman, E. Birol, D. Wiesmann, N. Prasai, S. Yin, Y. Yohannes, P. Menon, J. Thompson, A. Sonntag. 2014. 2014 Global Hunger Index: The Challenge of Hidden
Hunger. Bonn, Washington, D.C., and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Concern Worldwide.
Knowing about food insecurity and hidden hunger can make you aware of the issues that affect food culture and eating habits of Americans and yourself. Trying to battle such systemic issues can seem difficult, yet if given the chance, working towards a healthier diet even in small ways can have amazing benefits. So, here are some tips for shopping for more whole, healthy foods while considering food insecurity, budget restrictions, and hidden hunger.
o Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first: Most meats, fresh vegetables, and dairy lay on the outskirts of the layout of a store. If you find yourself choosing too many processed items or your cart lacks whole foods, work your way around the outside first.
o Download grocery store apps and sign up for programs: Many coupons and offers can go overlooked in apps. Having easy access to these savings on your phone can be a good way to save money on frequent trips and entering your number for stores’ programs can also be a way to save extra money.
o Shop Frozen produce: Frozen foods can oftentimes be cheaper and more abundant than buying fresh produce. This is an alternative to spending more on fresh vegetables or fruits, which have to be consumed within a certain time frame.
o Shop local farmer’s markets/ stores: Farmer’s markets can sometimes be an alternative to commercial grocery stores, where local farmers sell their produce. Small, local grocery stores (like Wow in Monroe or Pepero in Matthews) can also have different varieties of produce for different prices.
Health Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this writing are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Food Council of Union County. We are grateful for these articles and research done by the Wingate University GPS 220 students. Although these students researched their topics, they are not medical providers. Any information presented is for educational purposes only and does not substitute professional health or medical advice.