Shopping for healthier food choices for your family while staying within your food budget is something everyone can do. Not only is it better for your body and long term health, you can make delicious meals that everyone will love and you will be teaching your children from a young age what good food choices look like.
Here are some very basic tips to help get you started:
1. Planning out your meals for a whole week will save you time and money. Having a list of ingredients for your meals is a good tool to utilize when grocery shopping. Sticking to the list is essential for your budget. See if you can find coupons to go with your items on the list. Look online at your grocery store’s coupons.
2. Avoid pre-packaged, processed foods – not only are these more expensive, they are usually higher in sodium, fat and chemicals and low in nutrients. Home cooking is not only healthier, it’s also cheaper. Eating real foods give you more bang for your buck as they have much higher nutritional content and fill you up.
3. Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money. You can purchase assorted grains, beans, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, flours and even spices in the bulk isle of the grocery store. You can choose any amount that you want and bulk food sections give a lower price per quantity ratio while saving on excess packaging. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club also offer even bigger bulk buys on many items you may use.
4. To save the most money, make meat more of an accent in your meal instead of the focal point. Animal and fish protein is the most expensive part of your budget and if you can make some meatless meals each week and reduce the portion sizes of it in other meals, you will save lots of money on your grocery bill. Beans, peas, lentils, eggs, dairy and nuts are all high in protein and there is also protein found in fruit, veggies and whole grains, too.
5. When buying fruits and vegetables, try to buy locally grown foods when in season for more savings. When local produce is abundant and cheap, you can stock up and freeze for winter eating. Fresh fruit makes a great snack and buying by the pre-packed bag instead of individually is less expensive. Frozen fruits and vegetables can often be less expensive when fresh and local is not in season, plus they are picked at the height of ripeness and flash frozen so the flavor and nutrients are preserved.
6. Condiments add flavor and interest to your dishes and makes preparing different types of ethnic meals quick and easy to do. Keep a selection of dried herbs, spices, curry powder, marinades, vinegars, tomato and soy sauces, as well as stock cubes or powders in your pantry.
7. Use the internet – If you have ingredients you want to use up and are not sure what to do with them, type the ingredient names into a search engine along with the word ‘recipe’ and you will get many great recipe ideas.
8. Use your crock pot – One pot meals generally save on prep time and cleanup and often make great leftovers for future meals during the week. Use small amounts of less expensive cuts of meats for the crock pot (or go meatless) and add extra vegetables and beans to bulk up the dish, add more nutrition and stretch the meal further.
9. Cut down on the amount of snacks you buy. Make some with your kids instead! Kids love to bake and you can incorporate healthier ingredients into the treats so they will have more nutritional value but still taste great. Also, eating fruit as a snack is quick and easy and so good for you!
10. Time saver: If short on time to cook often, pick a day or evening to prep ingredients with your family for the meals that week and store in the fridge. Cook enough whole grain to serve with several different meals that week. You could also cook several casserole type dishes all in one day and freeze for future meals. Also, see #8.