Several months ago a friend reworked her home budget into a more in-depth view of spending. Instead of posting the total credit card bill, she broke it down into categories: Gas, vet, clothing, etc. After doing this with the 4 credit cards (and one debit card) she had, she hit the grand total button….
“My food bill is taking a HUGE bite out of my budget!”
As more and more of us are paying closer attention to nutrition, we are also starting to clearly see the pink elephant in the room: eating well can be expensive – really expensive. It’s great news that we are following the advice of our health care professionals and shopping the perimeter of the grocery store first, purchasing more fresh fruit and vegetables, cutting out the prepackaged and processed meals and junk food, and seeking more organic products.
But, what do we do with this pink elephant? Whether or not you are a coupon clipper, there are a few easy, quick things you can do to “eat well on the cheap”. Not only can you get your food bill under more control, but you can save time as well.
#1 Stick to Your Grocery List
The more prepared you are the easier it is to avoid impulse shopping. Here’s a tip: Type up a list of the standard items you buy every week and print several copies. Each week post a copy on the refrigerator. Add the additional items you need as the week goes by. Come food shopping day, your list is already done and you can bypass those impulse buys.
#2 Cook Once Eat Multiple Times
This not only helps with cost, but also saves an amazing amount of time. Most meals don’t take more time to cook in larger volumes – and buying larger quantities can be cheaper. Cook and double (or triple) the quantities. Divide leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch and freeze a dinner or two for the days you are pushed for time. One-pot dishes such as soups, stew and stir-fries are perfect meals for leftovers.
#4 Buy in Bulk
Discount or club stores offer great bargains. Think large quantities and dividing them into portion sizes when you get home. This will avoid spoilage and makes it easier to prepare meals. Cereals, brown rice, whole grain products, beans and nuts can be purchased and stored in airtight containers. Some perishable items can be divided and individually stored in your freezer, like meats, cheeses, frozen vegetables and bread. Produce can also be a great deal, but you need to plan your immediate meals to avoid spoilage.
#5 Purchase Generic Store Brands
This one gets tough out of habit, but you can find generic food just as good as the name brands – especially in basic foods such as rice, beans, pasta, and frozen vegetables. Again, look for larger quantity deals at your supermarket.
#6 Buy Produce in Season
Produce is generally cheaper when it is in season. Look for Farmer’s Markets – locally grown and sold produce tends to be less expensive than the grocery store. Buy the bags for produce like apples, oranges, potatoes and onions. The price per item is less by the bag than when purchased individually. And think about some of the fruit that can be frozen when in season and make great desserts and smoothies in the winter. Don’t forget to check the freezer isle off-season. Frozen vegetables are equally nutritious and less expensive sold in large bags.
#7 Find Cheaper Protein
A good acidic marinade overnight will turn a tougher cut of meat into a nice bite. Leaner cuts of beef tend to be less expensive and also contain less fat. These cuts are tasty in small bites thrown into a casserole or stir-fry. This not only stretches savings, but also helps with portion control by adding whole-wheat pasta or rice and some veggies. Go vegetarian once or twice a week. Beans and lentils are inexpensive, highly nutritious and easy to prepare. Stock up on dried and/or canned. You’ll not only save money, but calories too.
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Information provided on this website and in the Doctor’s Blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please consult your health care professional for evaluation of your individual case.