It is possible to eat healthfully on any budget. The trick is to shop effectively and use all the resources at your disposal to keep your budget and bank account intact. Follow these tips to successful budgeting and shopping.
1: Plan your meals for the week. Taking the time to plan out your meals for the week is the key to staying on budget and getting the most bang for your buck. Use a blank calendar for the month and pencil in what you plan to cook for each week. Try to include at least one “meatless night” in your plan to help keep costs down. Place the calendar on your refrigerator and you will know each day what is on the menu. Now you can pull items from the freezer in the morning so things are ready for that evening. A little planning goes a long way when feeding a hungry family on a budget.
2: Use Coupons, Membership/Discount Store Cards and Supermarket flyers. Using these free resources to help plan your meals and create your list is the most effective tool you have. Coupons are available online, through most Sunday newspapers, in supermarket flyers and from retailer websites. If you like a certain brand and buy it frequently, check out the brand’s website. In most cases they will have free coupons, offer free samples and recipes. Check your local markets for 10 for $10 deals on items to stock up on.
Note: Check out the list of free coupon sites right here at www.goodfoodforkids.org to jump start your planning. Many stores offer loss leaders, or deals that are so good that they are willing to take a loss on them to get you into the store. If you plan your meals around these you can save a lot of money.
3 : Create a smart shopping list. One of the biggest pitfalls of straying from your budget is not making a list. Breaking a list down into categories is the most effective way to stay on track at the market and guarantee you a successful trip.
4: Buy budget superstars: dry beans, pasta and whole grains keep for a long time and cost as little as 25 cents per serving. They are packed with protein and fiber. If your budget allows choose whole wheat pasta.
5. Shop for what is in season! You will find the best selection and lowest prices on seasonal fruits and vegetables (ex: apples in the fall and berries in the summer). Check out our list of “What’s in Season Now “.
6: Use your freezer. Considering buying in bulk if you can store, cook or freeze the items easily or split the items and cost with a friend. Keep in mind that frozen fruits and vegetables are as nutritious as fresh and often go on great sales. Look out for any that have added sugar or salt.
7. Buy the store brand. You will get the same or similar product as the higher priced national brand at a more reasonable price.
8. Buy fruits, vegetables in their simplest most basic form. Pre-cut, pre-washed and ready to eat options are convenient, but they add $$ to your checkout total.
9. Don’t buy prepared drinks. Soda is expensive and unhealthy. Switch to water with lemon or lime. If you want something a little more flavorful, consider substituting iced tea, or powdered drink mixes that let you add your own sugar. A serving of home made iced tea costs about 3 cents per serving.
10. Shop the top and bottom shelves. The items the supermarkets most want to sell are between keen-and-shoulder-height. The most expensive items are at chest level. So look up to the ceiling and look down to the floor for the more reasonably priced options.
11. Buy day old bread or bread on sale and freeze it. You can save as much as $2.00 a loaf on top quality brands that are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Note: Discounted breads are usually in near the dairy displays in the markets.
12. Buy plain whole wheat bread and plain cereals. Jazz them up at home with jams or fresh and or dried fruit.
13. Track your bill! Be sure your discounts and coupons are being applied and items are rung up correctly. If you missed a discount at checkout the customer service desk will be happy to give you a refund.
Time saving tip: Avoid going down every aisle to find what you need. Take some time to learn the layout of your local market.
Money Saving tip: Never shop hungry. It will discourage impulse buying. Grab a snack or bring a bottle of water with you to the store. It will keep your hunger in check until you get home.
Extreme savings tips:
When regular shopping isn’t enough, consider using salvage grocery stores or even food pantries. There are thousands of food pantries in churches and other service outlets across the country.
Find a list of salvage groceries at www.extremebargains.net .
For a list of food pantries, go to www.foodpantries.org
By: Cathy McConville