Eat Healthy Without Busting Your Budget

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dollar billsMost of us want to have a little extra cash left after we’ve paid for life’s essentials. We want to sock some money away for our children’s college fund, save a bit here and there for a vacation, or just have a little extra on-hand for that “rainy day.” And how about all those presents we need to buy with Christmas just around the corner? One thing we can do to have discretionary income for these things is to keep our food costs down. Food costs are a major expense, and can be a drain on our budgets. Fortunately, with just a little thought and planning, there are a lot of ways we can control these costs. Below are some “food budget survival tips” that can help:

  •  Buy fresh produce in-season. Check out farmers’ markets where the produce is fresher and often costs less.
  • Off-season produce is less expensive if you purchase canned (in water or its own juice) and frozen; and you won’t waste money having to throw away spoiled food. Canned and frozen are nutritious as well.
  • Purchase milk (fat-free or 1%) in large containers that generally cost less than milk in smaller-sized ones. Non-fat dry milk is the cheapest way to purchase milk.
  • Look for sales and clip coupons. Keep coupon and sales info in your purse, wallet or somewhere handy so that you don’t forget them when you go shopping.
  • Shop at large grocery stores that provide more choice and often sell items at lower prices.
  • Buy store brands; they are usually cheaper than, and just as good as, brand name products.
  • Take advantage of in-store promotions.
  • Look for “unit price” noted on the display shelf, usually just below the product. This tells you the cost per a specified amount for different brands of the same item, so you can more easily determine which is the least expensive.
  • Foods such as legumes and whole grains are much less expensive protein sources than meat, plus they come with plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber for good health. Also consider nut butters, such as peanut or almond butter.
  • Extend meat by putting it in casseroles and stews. These types of dishes (as well as other foods high in fiber and water, such as fruits and vegetables) can fill you up with nutritious food at little cost.
  • Buy non-perishable foods in bulk, and freeze unused portions for future meals.
  • Clearly label foods in the refrigerator and freezer, so that you use them before they spoil.
  • Go the “whole” way. Buy a whole chicken, cut it up and freeze what you don’t use for future meals. This is generally less expensive than buying pre-cut chicken parts.
  • Serve appropriate portions to avoid waste.
  • Promptly refrigerate leftovers and reuse within a few days.
  • Plan ahead so that you buy only what you need for meals, to avoid waste and unnecessary purchases. Check for items you already have on-hand, then make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Don’t go shopping hungry, or everything will look good and you’ll buy more!
  • Buy at a supermarket, rather than a convenience store, whenever possible to pay lower prices.
  • Spend smart- for the cost of bags of chips, boxes of cookies and candy you could buy lots of fruit and veggies!
  • Bring your lunch to work, rather than eating out – it’s healthier too! (Check out my October 31, 2012 blog “Brown-Bagging It” for tips on preparing your lunch and bringing it to work.)
  • Be a homebody – cook at home more often and eat out less. Check the Internet for fast, easy, healthy recipes. Studies show that meals eaten away from home contain significantly more fat, calories and sodium. Eating at home also gives the family an opportunity to spend more time together.

With just a little planning and shopping smarts you can eat healthy without ravaging your bank account. And that can be the beginning of a happier New Year!

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