Eating Healthy on a budget
Health & Nutritionist
Downsizing, unemployment, salary freezes and rising food and gas prices makes it difficult to keep your grocery budget in check.
Often it seems that the healthier foods are also the more costly. Eating healthfully does require more time to plan, shop and cook foods but in the end you will be able to bank the benefits—health wise and in your pocket. Here are some tips to help stretch your food budget (and time) without compromising good nutrition.
First, make a menu.
Planning out your meals for a week lets you know what you need to shop for and what needs to be thawing. Use the grocery store sales flyers to help plan your meals around what meat is on sale. Try cooking once and eating twice. Consider making double your usual main dish and freezing half of it for another time. Meats and casseroles freeze well and make a quick meal when you are too busy to cook from scratch.
When you cook a meal, plan for leftovers.
Make a dish for one meal, cooking extra meat, then save some of the cooked meat back for a remade leftover dish. Use extra steak or chicken for fajitas, a stir fry, or a soup; crumble extra hamburger and use for tacos or chili; use extra pork roast and make sweet and sour pork or BBQ pork sandwiches another night.
Shop with a list.
Seems simple, but a lot of extra money is spent on impulse buys. Use your weekly menu and the store ad to organize your list. To get through the store quickly, organize your list by the aisle layout of the store you usually shop at. Use coupons. You can find coupons in newspapers, magazines, or my favorite way-online. Check out coupons.com or smartsource.com or couponbug.com for free coupons.
Choose coupons for foods you normally eat.
Coupling coupons with items on sale is a good strategy for saving maximum money. Some stores will double the value of the coupon, so check that out as well. Have you checked out store brands? Look at the nutrition label, not the fancy packaging. Often store brands are identical to the brand names and cost less. Keep in mind that foods placed at eye level are the most expensive, so check out the higher and lower shelves. When shopping, focus on the outer aisles. Produce, meat and dairy are found on the outer aisle of the stores. More expensive, more processed foods take up the bulk of the center aisles. But don’t forget to check the aisles for things like canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans, rice, pasta, and oatmeal. Tempted to buy the giant bag of cereal? Keep in mind that bigger is not necessarily cheaper. Check the price per ounce on the shelf label to get the best price. Jumbo size containers are never a good value if you can’t use it all before it expires or goes stale. Check prices on convenience items like shredded cheese. Usually it is cheaper to buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself, but from time to time the grated is cheaper. Likewise, baby carrots are more expensive than regular carrots; instant oatmeal packets cost more than regular oatmeal. “Special” foods cost more.
Buying sugar free or fat free products is often more expensive. All foods can fit into a healthy diet in moderation, just read the nutrition label. Often, there is little nutrient difference for the price. And finally, when you cook, mind your portions. Plan for 4 ounces of meat per person for a main dish. If you are making a soup or casserole, consider cutting back the meat in the dish or replacing it with beans.