Have you been to the grocery store lately?! It is unreal how much food costs. With the price of produce and other healthy foods inflating every year, finding room in one's budget for them is sometimes not, for many, a priority. Comparing the cost of fresh veggies to packaged ready-made meals, such as Hamburger Helper and canned soups, made for whole families makes it very difficult to choose healthier options. The consequence: many Americans are overweight/obese, and severely lacking in many nutrients. It has become a real problem, and I see these consequences every day! I realize it isn't everyone's priority, but it is certainly mine, to eat as healthy as possible on a regular basis, despite the outcome at the register. I would rather spend a little more up front for my food, and stretching the food through the week, than take the "easy way out" for cheaper, easier individual meals, compromising my health, and have to pay for medical bills down the road for more doctor visits and medicines to keep cholesterol managed and cardio risks at bay.
There is hope, however. It doesn't have to be expensive! Planning and strategizing is crucial to stretching your dollar AND eating healthy. Take a look at these tips to be budget friendly, stretch that dollar, and have healthier outcomes!
2. Shop for produce that is in season- fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to cost less because there was less work involved to get them to grow/harvest. These foods tend to be more naturally nutritious and healthful, as they are not being tampered with genetically to grow out of season. Click here for a chart depicting in-season produce year-round!
3. Avoid pre-packaged items when possible- the price of a product tends to reflect, once again, on the labor it included to get it to consumers. Instead of buying that 3-pack of assorted, beautiful bell peppers, compare what it would cost to buy what you need individually.
4. Know the lifespan of your food- Typically fresh greens need to be used first over longer-lasting vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes (roots). Be savvy with expiration dates/use by dates, especially with meats/dairy. Less food in trash = less money down drain
5. Make a menu- What is on the menu this week? Have a plan. Let your plan reflect what needs to be used first (see #4).
6. Have foods that can be used as leftovers for another day- ex: Buying a larger pack of meat may cost a dollar or two more, but can get you more meals through the week = savings.
7. Couponing/ Grocer Specials- Every little bit of savings helps! Check for coupons for any foods on your list.
8. Be a smart shopper- compare prices, even in produce.
9. Needs vs. Wants- ask yourself, "Will this food help me be healthier?", "Do I need this, or just WANT it?" If eating healthy is a priority, treat it as a priority and save the "wants" as an occasional treat if your budget permits!
10. Know what you have- Check shelves/refrigerator; don't buy things you already have by mistake
11. Avoid junk food and convenience food isles- shopping mainly on the outside of the grocery store was one of the best pieces of advice I ever received. What's on the outside? FRESH produce, meat/fish, dairy... and less of the temptations:
- breads, pastas, candies, chips, cake mixes, and so many others that like to hang around...on my waist line...
- Ready-to-eat meals/sides that only last 1 day/1 use. Ex: Microwave meals, soups, mac-n-cheese...foods you can make yourself that will last longer