Now that budgets are tighter, it may be time to rethink your grocery buying power. Here are some tips to stretch your dollar without skimping on your health.
Plan ahead. Create a shopping list before you leave for the grocery store … and stick to it. It’s easier if you don’t shop when you’re hungry or stressed. You’ll be less likely to purchase those tempting cookies, cakes, and chips.
Know where to look. Shop the perimeter of the store where most non-processed foods are found – dairy, meat, produce, and occasionally, the frozen food section. When you do shop the interior of the store, look for the most economical and nutritional foods on the bottom or top shelves. Don’t believe it? Take a walk through the cereal aisle. Chances are you will have to reach up or bend down to reach the old-fashioned oatmeal, Grapenuts®, Shredded Wheat®, or hot cereal.
Beware of convenience – many breakfast bars are packed with sugar and fat.
Make your own fast food. Many foods can be made ahead of time. For instance, a 2-pound bag of brown rice costs about $2 and makes 20 servings. Each serving costs just 10 cents. Cook the entire bag, and store the rice in the refrigerator. You can easily add cooked brown rice to soups, casseroles, or wrap rice in a whole-wheat tortilla with refried beans and cheese for a fast, inexpensive, high-protein, high-fiber meal.
If your schedule and budget allow, double your favorite casserole, meatball, chili, or other recipe. Eat half now and freeze the rest. Cooking this way saves prep time, energy costs, and gives you a fast meal to pull out of the freezer later.
Stock up. When you find a deal, buy as much as you can afford to store.
Make the most of your leftovers. After many meals there are leftovers to handle. Why not incorporate them into the next meal? Leftover vegetables can be added to eggs for a frittata or veggie omelet; leftover fruit can be folded into batter for muffins, quick breads, or pancakes. Add leftover meat to salads, soups, or casseroles.
Skip prepared or processed foods. Price differences can be found in the produce aisle when you compare baby carrots to whole carrots and in the meat aisle when you compare the cost of a whole chicken to its assorted parts. Often it’s more economical to buy whole foods and take the extra effort to prepare the foods for cooking or storage yourself.
Make your own mixes from scratch. The Internet abounds with recipes. A make-your-own mix can be used to make everything from biscuits to waffles. Using whole grain flour makes the mix more nutritious. Use dry milk for baking; it saves money without affecting the flavor and texture of most recipes.
Be creative with protein. Beans and legumes increase the protein content of casseroles and soups less expensively than meats. Nuts, eggs, and soy can also be used as alternate sources of protein. When you buy meat, buy tougher cuts and cook them slowly until the meat falls off the bone.
Using these tips, you can shrink your budget without sacrificing nutrition when times are tight.