Eating healthy can be difficult, especially when you're on a tight budget. Health food stores have a reputation for being more expensive than places like Kroger or Walmart, but is that really the case? I decided to see if health food stores really are more expensive.

I had to grab a few things from the store, so I went to several big box and health food stores around Bloomington to compare prices. If I couldn't find the exact same brand or product, I looked at the most similar option I could find.

What I found

apple, peach, pasture, sweet, juice
Anna Arteaga

Here is my grocery list:

Gallon of milk, loaf of bread, bananas, apples, potatoes, cereal, pasta, tomato Sauce, oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs 

And here's what I would have spent at each store:

Kroger: $30.36

Target: $31.88

Lucky's: $33.75

Bloomingfoods: $36.14

Based off of the totals, it looks like Kroger and Target were cheaper. However, there are a few additional points to take into consideration.

Organic or not?

apple, vegetable, pasture, peach, tomato
Kayla Cain

I went to the big-box stores first, and nearly all of the items I looked at were non-organic. As I searched through the two specialty stores (especially Bloomingfoods), I realized this decision was going to throw my numbers off.

Some items I had to choose organic because there wasn't a non-organic option available. From Bloomingfoods, nearly half of the items on my list were either organic or locally grown, including apples, bananas, potatoes, pasta, and tomato sauce. 

Let's look at the numbers again

Kayla Cain

Lucky's was about 10% more than the cheapest option, and Bloomingfoods was about 20% more. If I had been looking at the organic options from Kroger and Target, the totals would have been about the same. 

If you're not interested in buying organic, you will be able to save some money by shopping at Kroger. If you prefer locally grown or organic produce, shopping at Bloomingfoods isn't costing you much more (if at all).

There are also some benefits to shopping at local health food stores that you won't find elsewhere.

Support your local community

tea, coffee, beer
Kayla Cain

Lucky's has a program called Bags for Change. For each reusable shopping bag you use, you can either take 10 cents off of your total or donate that 10 cents to a local charity and Lucky's will match your donation. 

Choosing to purchase your groceries from Bloomingfoods helps the local economy thrive. This local company is a co-op, which means that the owners are members of the community.

Bloomingfoods also offers higher salaries and better benefits to its employees than the big-box stores. You'll always find employees with a smile on their face to help you out there.

Look out for special deals

Kayla Cain

Lucky's also offers great specials every weekday, including 2 slices of pizza for $2 on Mondays (my favorite, of course). If you shop on Double Ad Wednesdays, you'll get the sales from the current week and the previous week, so it's the best day to shop if you're looking to save money.

Shopping at health food stores (especially local options) brings a more enjoyable and personal shopping experience than the big box stores.

You'll always find friendly faces and feel good about the company and community you are supporting by shopping there. It may cost you a few more bucks depending on what you're buying, but it is totally worth it.