06/25/2013 at 02:00 PM EDT
A couple weeks ago, Good Morning America
asked if they could interview me about rapper Papa Joe's dramatic weight loss. Joe's story had a unique twist – he had lost 250 pounds in 18 months eating a healthy diet of food he bought exclusively at his local 99-cent store
I've long said that cost doesn't have to be a roadblock to eating well, but Papa Joe's claim surprised even me. Up until recently, I imagined dollar stores full of off-brand cookies and potato chips, coffee mugs with misspelled sentiments, and milk that was almost certainly expired.
Lo and behold, I was way wrong!
When I went to do some research at my local 99 Cent store to prepare for my GMA
interview, I was more than a little surprised by what I found.
Sure, there were the same aisles of the off-brand sugary snacks I remembered, but when I walked just past those, I found a grocery and produce section that rivaled my local supermarket chain for a fraction
of the price.
Not only that – healthy options were everywhere! Almost all my staple fridge foods were there: low fat and nonfat dairy including Greek yogurt, milk (not even close to its expiration) and light (brand name!) cheese.
Many of my staple pantry ingredients were there: whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, canned beans (organic!), and steel cut oats. Their produce section seriously impressed me, too: large ripe avocados, grapes, apples, mangoes and plums, and peppers of every color.
Every single thing was $0.99 or less. I brought in $40 in cash, and came out had a full cart of healthful food for the whole week – and some change left in my pocket!
I have to give major kudos to Papa Joe for bringing his discovery and weight-loss journey to the country's attention: not only does cost not have to be an impediment to eating healthfully, you can actually save a fortune by shopping wisely! I urge you to check out the dollar stores in your area and see what they have to offer.
Above, I've included some snapshots of some of my healthy, quality dollar store finds – Tweet me yours @harleypasternak.
Check back every Wednesday for more insider tips on Hollywood's hottest bodies – and learn how to get one yourself! Plus: follow Harley on Twitter at @harleypasternak
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