Although the economy appears to be improving, many still follow a strict budget when it comes to food. The complaint I often hear is, "Eating healthy is expensive". While healthy food prices can't necessarily compete with the dollar menu at the local fast food place, there are plenty of ways to save money while making the right choices for your health and performance both now and long-term. Here are 15 ways (in 3 areas) to keep your stomach full and your wallet too.
Sorry but yes - you really do need to do a little planning. It is likely that you plan for other things in your life - laundry, kids carpooling schedules, deadlines at work or school - and planning for meals should be one of those. Here are few ways to make meal planning easier and result in bigger cost savings:
1. Before you leave for the grocery store, check your fridge and cupboards for what you already have on hand that you can use.
2. Make a list of meals based on weekly store specials. Use online websites such as AllRecipes.com for meal ideas based on what you find is on sale.
3. When planning meals, try the "flexitarian" lifestyle: go meatless 2-3 nights per week. That can save you big dough.
4. During the week, keep a running grocery list on your fridge and jot down items when you run out.
5. Once you have made a week's worth of meals, keep that list. Pretty soon you will have 4 weeks of planned meals and suddenly you have a monthly menu of go-to meals.
6. Stick to a list when shopping and be sure to eat a snack before you go. Hungry shoppers typically overbuy on the not-so-great options.
7. Only use coupons for what you normally buy. Buy One Get One free canned diced tomatoes is a great deal...unless you have never used this item or know how to cook with it.
8. Shop the perimeter of the store to fill up on the "good stuff" first.
9. Keep an eye out for bargains located near the ends of the aisles and on upper and lower shelves. These items are often not name brand, but are nutritionally equivalent to their brand-name counterparts.
10. When comparing prices of items, look at the unit price on the shelf tags below the items. Compare per ounce, pound etc. to get a better idea of true savings.
11. The more prepared an item, the higher the cost. So skip the prepared snack trail mix bags and buy a box of snack-size bags plus large containers of the ingredients to make your own. I follow this rule to make my own granola - huge money saver!
Food Prep at Home
Once you get home, you're not quite finished. Do a little organizing to save time and help encourage you to eat all those good and cheap foods you just bought.
12. Freeze large packages of raw meat in small, single-size portions using saran wrap or aluminum foil and freezer bags.
13. Clean and cut any veggies that will be eaten within a few days to encourage snacking on these items.
14. When cooking, always make double - or triple - and freeze the extras.
15. When you have time, brown meat and cook chicken ahead of time. These items can be frozen for use in meals later - a huge time saver!