Years ago, when I made the decision to become a vegetarian, I prepared answers for all the replies I knew were coming:

We have canine teeth for a reason.

You won’t get enough protein.

I give it two months.

(That last one was from my best friend. Supportive, huh?)

I wasn’t prepared for one of the most common replies I got, though:

Wow. That’s going to be really expensive.

At the time, the way I looked at it was: If I’m no longer spending money on meat…won’t I have more money for other things…?

That turned out to be true – kind of.

The thing is, I found myself spending more money than I was saving on good stuff (fruits, veggies, lentils) and not-so-good stuff (frozen pre-packaged meals, tons of pasta, sugary crap).

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to shop more wisely (and still be able to pay rent).

1. Learn to cook.

Sure, you could make life easy and go out to eat at some fancy health food restaurant (or even a fast food joint that serves decent salads), but think of how expensive that will get if you do it for even one meal a day?

Shoot, even one meal a week!

Learn to cook your own healthy meals and save money on eating out.

2. Get cozy with your freezer.

After you learn to cook, learn how to properly freeze leftovers so you can get more than one meal out of each recipe.

3. Don’t get TOO cozy with your freezer.

Frozen diet dinners are convenient and, depending on the brand, fairly inexpensive (especially when you factor in manufacturer coupons and grocery store deals like 10 for $10); however, they’re usually heavy on sodium and light on vegetables.

The occasional frozen dinner won’t send you spiraling into dark, preservative-filled abyss, but relying on them isn’t healthy.

4. Buy frozen fruits and veggies.

OK, yes, we’re back to getting cozy with the freezer again.

Fresh produce is FANTASTIC, but buying frozen fruits and vegetables generally is cheaper and:

  • There’s no major rush to eat it before it goes bad, so you avoid wasted food (and money).
  • Unlike canned fruits and vegetables, frozen produce typically provides the same (or better) nutritional value.

So, find a balance between fresh and frozen.

5. Give up bottled water.

Get a Brita, PUR, or whatever water purification system tickles your fancy and stop buying bottled water at work (or even cases at the grocery store).

Not only will you save money, but you’ll help keep the planet a little cleaner, too.

6. Buy locally and seasonally.

Produce that’s in season (growing naturally at a certain time of year in your area) and grown locally can help you save money because you’re not helping to cover the costs of shipping it all over the globe to your local grocer.

Plus, you help out local farmers.

7. Coupons, coupons, coupons!

You can find coupons in your Sunday paper, newspaper inserts from local grocery stores, and the Internet.

What say you, readers? How do you save money on healthy foods?