I'm a Dietitian & Buying This Helps Me Save Money & Eat Way More Greens

It’s simple but it has made a big difference in my meal planning. 

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

It may not surprise you to hear that there are ample health benefits associated with eating more vegetables. In general, they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, which can help with everything from eye and skin health to lowering inflammation levels and reducing chronic disease risk. Dark leafy greens are an especially nutrient-dense veg, packed with brain-healthy folate, bone-building calcium and inflammation-fighting antioxidants. In short, greens are a food we could all benefit from eating more of.

a bowl of kale topped with Parmesan cheese
Jason Donnelly

Pictured Recipe: Kale Salad with Balsamic & Parmesan

While eating more leafy greens sounds good in theory, it can be a bit difficult in practice. For starters, they don't last very long in the fridge (think: typically about a week). This can make it hard to use them up in time—and you won't reap the health benefits if the greens end up in your compost bin. Another great option if you struggle with food waste is to buy frozen greens—which is a product I love and almost always have in my freezer. But lately, there has been one product that's made it easier for me to eat more fresh greens and also helped me cut down on food waste: bags of pre-prepped kale.

While I love spinach and lettuce (and regularly buy both), kale has been my go-to at the grocery store because it lasts longer than those more tender greens, usually closer to two weeks. One storage tip that has helped me extend their life even more is storing them in a resealable bag that with a paper towel in it. The paper towel helps absorb some of the moisture that might lead your greens to rot (just make sure to swap out the paper towel every few days). This tip even works with other leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and herbs, too.

Sure, pulling kale off the stem and tearing or cutting it into the desired shape isn't labor intensive, but having prepared greens at-the-ready makes it even easier to use them up. All I have to do is open the container and I can directly add them to my soup, salad or smoothie. And if I'm really in a pinch, whatever's in the bag of kale that needs to be used ASAP can be sautéed down with olive oil and sliced garlic to make a delicious side or snack.

The bottom line

A healthy eating pattern can look so different based on your food preferences, health goals, cultural background and more—that's part of what makes food so fun! If you're trying to eat healthier, focus on finding little things that can help save you time and money to make preparing meals realistic for you. For me, bags of prepared kale have been super helpful. If you're looking to up your intake of greens, try to pick up a bag the next time you're at the store to see if it's helpful for you, too. For more of my beginner- and budget-friendly cooking tips and recipes, check out the other articles and galleries in the Thrifty series.

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