Welcome 2019! The New Year has begun, and regardless of whether you made resolutions or not, you may be interested in learning more ways to feed your family healthy on a budget. Healthy eating takes practice, and learning to shop using a budget is a honed skill. Putting both together may seem like a daunting task. I hope to give you some ideas to make it easier.
Prepare for going to the grocery store
Before you venture to the store, plan on spending a little extra time looking at food labels and comparing costs between products. Just running in to pick things up may mean you can’t devote the time needed to shop the most beneficial for health and budget.
Make a grocery list and remember foods in season tend to be cheaper than out of season items. I think it is a good idea to leave yourself a little wiggle room for specials or new ideas that come to you while shopping. However, keep this in check and don’t stray too far.
Shop the ads, know what is on sale, and where. Does the store you are going to match ads? Do you need to visit more than one store? Make a plan before you start.
Clip paper coupons or download digital coupons to add to your savings. Be careful, make sure the brand you choose with the coupon is cheaper than the other brand with no coupon. Don’t be tempted to buy something just because you have a coupon or just because it is on sale, unless you have a planned use for it.
Make sure you eat before going to the grocery store. People do more impulse buying when they are hungry, because everything looks or sounds good. Overeating before heading to the store may not be a good idea either. A friend once told me that if she overeats before grocery shopping nothing sounds good. As a result, she does not buy everything she needs.
Shopping at the grocery store
Once you are at the grocery store do the bulk of your shopping around the inside perimeter. Look for in season fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, lean cuts of meat, low fat milk for children and adults over the age of 2, etc. There are a few items around the perimeter that may have unhealthy options. For example, the bakery offers doughnuts and fresh baked bread. The healthier choice would be the bread. The deli offers bologna and turkey. The healthier choice would be the turkey. Be smart about the extra choices around the perimeter of the store. When you do venture to the aisles, look for low sodium canned goods and vegetables, no added sugar canned fruits, frozen fruits or vegetables, and baking supplies (whole grain flour, cornmeal, spices).
Look at prices, and unit prices (e.g price per ounce). Sometimes the larger packages of items are lower in cost, and sometimes they are not. For example, a gallon of milk may be $2.49, and the ½ gallons on sale for .88. In this case, two ½ gallons would be cheaper than buying a gallon. To cut cost try store or generic brands of foods especially when the ingredients are the same.
Keep in check the number of snacks and treats you buy. Some may be expensive and have little nutritional value. Think about snacking on fruits, vegetables, popcorn without butter, or whole grains with peanut butter or low fat cheese.
Preparing meals at home
At home have an idea of when and how you are going to use the foods you bought. Foods can go bad quickly so make sure you get your money’s worth from them. Stretch your food dollar by using leftovers in other recipes, for instance, last night’s leftover roasted chicken may be todays chicken in your tacos. Sometimes you can freeze your leftovers for another meal later.
Meat, many times, is our most expensive ingredient. You can try low meat or no meat dishes by using low fat cheese, peanut butter, eggs, or dried beans as your protein source.
There are many ways families have put healthy eating into their meal planning while staying on a budget. What are some of the tricks and tips that work for you? Please comment below.