For Immediate Release: March 30, 2011
Contact: Mya Rae Nelson 202-328-7744

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Mean an Empty Wallet:
Four Tips To Be Both Frugal and Fit

Woman Grocery ShoppingWASHINGTON, DC – Concerned that rising food prices may lead Americans to pinch grocery pennies by skipping healthful, cancer-protective vegetables and fruits, experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) today outlined four ways shoppers can make budget-friendly choices without sacrificing health at the supermarket.

Although higher fuel prices and recent cold snaps that hurt the harvest south of the border mean many Americans are paying more for food, “Shoppers can still choose a wide variety of vegetables and fruits and keep their budget lean,” said Alice Bender, AICR Registered Dietitian. “By comparing prices, doing a bit of meal planning and staying flexible, Americans can fill up their grocery carts with healthy foods – and save money while they’re doing it.”

Dollar-Wise for Healthy Ways

AICR’s advice for making low-cost but healthy choices is based on recent data from the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) comparing cost of vegetables and fruit on a cup-for-cup basis.

1. Get Them Fresh, Frozen or Canned – But Get Them

Plain frozen vegetables and fruits are often cheaper than fresh and are quick and easy to prepare. For instance, fresh green beans cost $1.03 per cup, while frozen whole green beans ring up at only $0.57 per cup.

Frozen vegetables can be steamed in minutes with little preparation. Frozen produce is as nutritious as fresh and will keep in the freezer for several months without going bad.

“Canned vegetables and fruits can cost even less,” says Bender, “but be sure to look for those packed in juice or water, not high-sodium brine or calorie-rich syrups.”

2. Shop Sales and Seasons

Imported or unusual foods and out-of-season produce can hike up the grocery bill. An imported kiwi fruit will cost $0.82 cents per cup, while a seasonal U.S. grown apple costs only $0.28 cents per cup.

Take advantage of weekly and seasonal specials to stretch your fruit and vegetable dollar. Spring is a great time to look for fresh strawberries but wait for mid-summer for fresh blueberries or melons.

3. Plan and Prepare

A grocery list means you’re less likely to fill the cart with impulse purchases and unhealthy choices. Plan what you’d like to eat for a week with some staple recipes and think in general terms:

  • Monday: Bean and veggie chili, corn bread
  • Tuesday: Baked potato topped with leftover chili and side salad
  • Wednesday: 3 oz fish, steamed vegetables, rice
  • Thursday: Stir fry veggies with lean beef or chicken and leftover rice
  • Friday: Low sodium canned minestrone soup with added frozen vegetables and whole-wheat bread and reduced fat cheese

Use your list, but select the specifics when you’re at the store so you can take advantage of specials.

Another tip: Try cooking a few dishes from scratch to stretch a buck. For example, frozen French fries costs $0.41 per serving. For half that price you can have a fresh potato ready to eat in minutes. You’ll save fat, salt and money. And when you do cook, double the recipe and freeze meal-sized portions of leftovers to save time and money.

4. Lighten Up on Meats

Choosing leaner meats and substituting plant sources of protein can mean serious savings. For example, a high fat sirloin steak averages $5.67 per pound, while lean boneless chicken breast costs $3.21 per pound. Compare that with $1.25 per pound for dried kidney beans, and you can muscle up your protein dollars.

Protein on a Budget
Protein source
Price per pound
Portion size
Price on your plate
Protein on your plate
Choice Sirloin Steak
$ 5.67
3 oz
$ 1.05
22 grams
Boneless Chicken Breast
$ 3.21
3 oz
$ 0.60
25 grams
Canned Kidney Beans
$ 0.68
1 cup
$ 0.38
14 grams
Dried Kidney Beans
$ 1.25
1 cup (cooked)
$ 0.20
14 grams


Bender says you can make these savings add up even more – and reduce your risk of many cancers – by following AICR’s New American Plate way of eating: Let meat take up one-third or less of your plate and fill 2/3 or more with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.

Other ways to cut your food budget while maintaining your healthy eating habits

  • Plant a vegetable garden for inexpensive vegetables in your back yard all summer long.
  • Pack a healthy snack to avoid the temptation to buy pricy, often less healthy, commercial snacks.
  • Eat first. Grocery shopping on an empty stomach increases the chance that you’ll impulsively buy more food than you need.
  • If you’re planning to shop at the local farmers market, wait till the afternoon when the sellers may cut a bargain on produce.

Let these AICR suggestions help you get the best nutrition for the best price.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

All active news articles