Sunday, January 18, 2009

Running the Numbers at Wal-Mart and Target

After a 50.1-mile week (even without a long run), it is my rest day, which means my physical activity for today will consist of approximately 30 minutes of an ab routine...and grocery shopping. As a runner, I try to fuel myself properly, but there is a common misconception that eating healthy costs more. For today's post, I'd like to prove that wrong.

Inconspicuously toting my cell phone with me, I took a variety of photos of common staples in a runner's diet. I went to both Wal-Mart and then Target, at which I gathered a number of price comparisons and deals that could help you readers save money on good food.
Note: Depending on the time of year and Wal-mart/Target you go to, prices may vary.

Energy/Nutrition Bars
These bars pack a number of essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention they are very convenient. They're great snacks for runners who lead busy lives and can take advantage of easy, portable food.

1st Recommendation: Buy them in packs, not individually - they're usually much cheaper in bulk.

2nd Recommendation: At my local Wal-Mart, the energy bars in the grocery section of the store were about $0.40 cheaper than their identical counterparts in the health/beauty section (i.e. $4.97 versus $5.37). There was also less variety of the cheaper bars, but if you're not very picky, this would be the way to go.

3rd Recommendation: If you are not as busy, you can make your own granola/energy bars at home. This is likely the cheapest option if you can afford the time.

Wal-Mart Prices: (Grocery section) Box of 6 Clif bars: $4.97 (~$0.83/bar)
Box of 6 Luna bars: $4.97 (~0.83/bar)
Box of 4 Kashi Go Lean Crunchy bars: $6.12 (1.53/bar)

Target Price: Box of 6 Clif Z-Bars: $3.49 (~$0.58/bar)


Fruits and vegetables, depending on the season, can be expensive. However, during my investigation, I found some deals that I could definitely foresee saving a lot of money on.

1st Recommendation: Try to buy in-season fruits/vegetables, since they're usually cheaper. During more temperate seasons, you can often find great prices at your local farmer's market on many goods.
2nd Recommendation: Although this is not price- or savings-related, it's something you can keep in mind while purchasing fruits and vegetables. Aim to buy a variety of colors that indicate a variety of nutrients. Buy darker assortments of salad because in the case of green, leafy vegetables, the greener it is, the more nutrition it has. Opt for red or purple grapes instead of green, because as the derivatives of red wine, they also contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which is believed to be heart-healthy.

3rd Recommendation: If your favorite fruit is out-of-season, sometimes you can also find it in the freezer section (for example, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, diced peaches, etc.).

Wal-Mart Prices: Apples: $1/lb. (of golden delicious and gala varieties)
Strawberries: Under $3.00/16 oz. carton
Bird's Eye Valley Fresh Vegetable Steamers: $1/12 oz. bag


Of course, runners need protein to help build lean muscle mass and to recover after hard workouts in which we demand a great deal of our muscles.

1st Recommendation: Vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore runners alike need sources of protein. So don't skimp on this vital aspect of nutrition, regardless of your dietary specifications. For those who don't eat meat, reach for alternative protein in the form of nuts, peanut butter, tofu, tempeh, dairy products, whole grains, legumes, soy meat, and/or whey protein shakes.

Wal-Mart Prices: Skim Milk: $1.13/quart
Silk Soy Milk (light, chocolate, and original): $2.74/quart
Blue Diamond Oven-Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt: $3.97/8 oz. container
Smart Balance Omega Chunky Natural Peanut Butter: $2.73/16 oz. jar


You can't forget about the carbohydrates us runners so love to eat. Whether it's preparing us for a grueling race or replenishing our glycogen stores after a hard workout, carbohydrates are a must-have for any runner.

1st Recommendation: When it comes to cereals, look for the key words "whole grain," "bran," or "oats." Yet remember, though, that bran cereals, while high in fiber, are not whole grain. On General Mills' cereals, look for the Whole Grain Label. Also, if you so adamantly resist replacing your sugary Lucky Charms, mix it with healthier alternative cereals or have it every once in a while. You can also mix cereal/granola and fruit with your yogurt to make a delicious treat.

Wal-Mart Prices: Kashi Go Lean Cereal: $2.98/box
Quaker Instant Oatmeal: 2 for $5.00 ($2.50/box)
Nature Valley Oats & Honey Granola Bars: $3.78/value pack box with 24 bars (~$0.16/bar)

Target Prices: Kashi Honey Oat Waffles: $1.99/box of 6 waffles
Kashi Strawberry Flaxseed Waffles: $2.14/box of 6 waffles

Long Run Fuel

For distance runners and marathoners, long run fuel is often used for runs over 75 minutes. Some consume specially-made products, such as Clif Shot Blocks or Gu, to replenish glycogen stores. On a budget, these kinds of items can add up in excessive costs.

1st Recommendation: One can use gummy bears or other candies on long runs, which are often cheaper alternatives.

Wal-Mart Prices: Haribo gummy bears: $0.97/bag
G2: $4.98/pack of 12 12-fluid oz. bottles
If nothing else, I hope my small-scale investigation made you more price-savvy and knowledgeable about the many possibilities healthy eating has, even on a budget. Cutting costs does not have to mean cutting nutrition.


  1. you need to update this thing!

  2. No way! Gummy bears!?!? That is so cool. I love gummy anything, and this is the first time I've heard of using this on a long run as fuel. Sign me up!!!