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Nutritionists explain how to shop for inexpensive and healthy foods

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Some people are trying to eat healthier in the New Year. But healthy food can oftentimes be seen as too expensive or difficult to prepare, especially with supply chain issues and inflation prices.

Contrary to common belief, there are a lot of healthy food options and ingredients that weren't affected by inflation.

It's recommended to keep an eye out for sales and deals at stores to plan your meals around, as prices often fluctuate.

One great tip is to look for store-brand items. This way packaging and shipping costs are avoided which is what rose the price of a lot of items with inflation and supply chain issues.

"Inflation is on everybody's mind right now," Natural Grocers Public Relations Manager Katie Macarelli said. "We hear the price of eggs going up, dairy, all of those things."

Nutritionists recommend shopping in bulk to avoid rising costs. Bulk foods are most of the time cheaper than packaged brand foods.

"We have our entire produce department and always buying fresh or frozen are going to be your best opportunity to get the most affordable pricing," Natural Grocers Director of Nutrition Education Karen Falbo said. "This because when we make our meals it's gonna be a lot more cost affordable than buying packaged foods, even though they're marketed to be cheaper."

Bulk items can consist of nuts, rice, pasta, whole grains, legumes, quinoa, oats, lentils, beans, dry goods, and even unpopped popcorn.

"These are really affordable, staple foods that you can plan meals around," Natural Grocers Director of Nutrition Education Karen Falbo said. "Even consider snack foods. A large bag of popcorn is 3 something where you can make it yourself and 3 dollars can make 6 bags of what you would've purchased."

You can use these items to make any inexpensive but healthy meal. Such as grain bowls, burrito bowls, stews, and overnight oats.

"Ground meats are more affordable than steak for example or a roast," Falbo said.

Another tip is to supplement basic meals with produce or frozen vegetables and fruits.

"Things like dried fruit and nuts are much more affordable in bulk than in packaged products," Falbo said.

These items didn't rise much with inflation and pack a lot of nutrients.

"Produce is a great bang for your buck," Macarelli said. "Your apples, oranges, all those basics for lunch box items. Also peanut and almond butter fresh ground so you're not gonna pay for the jar and packaging."

Another way to make healthy but inexpensive meals is meal prepping. You can make just about anything and portion it out to make it nutritious but easy on a tight schedule. You can even make it in large quantities and freeze it so it's ready to go.

"One of the key ways to manage a grocery budget is planning," Falbo said. "If you do a little planning ahead it can really help you save and counter the effects of inflation. If you have a plan and you stick to it, then you know what you're gonna spend, you can plan your budget for the whole month, and also then you can incorporate healthier foods."

Nutritionists recommend thinking outside the box and looking up recipes using bulk ingredients.

"There are a lot of affordable items in the bulk section and really nutritious foods that people are unfamiliar with," Falbo said. "They're not hard to make."

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Natasha Lynn

Natasha is a reporter for Good Morning Colorado during the week and on weekends.

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