Amanda Reichardt, Contributing Writer
- Take a look at grocery store flyers, coupons, and loyalty or membership programs. Use these promotions to create cost-saving healthy meals during the week.
- Write a shopping list ahead of time. The bulk of your budget should be spent on fresh produce, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy items. To cut costs, include ingredients that can be used for multiple meals. Making a list can help to prevent impulse buying.
- Try to go shopping when you are not hungry to avoid impulse purchases.
- Avoid rushing through the store so you can compare costs and read labels.
- When purchasing produce, choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. In season produce tends to be cheaper because it is currently more abundant. Plus, they are at their peak flavor!
- Try frozen fruits and vegetables! The nutrient quality is comparable to other produce because of new freezing techniques like flash-freezing. Be sure to check the Nutrition label to avoid added sugars, which appear as listed ingredients that often end in –
- If you want to purchase organic, The Environmental Working Group is your new best friend. They publish a list of produce called the “Dirty Dozen” which are produce items that tend to have higher pesticide residue than other items. They also publish the “Clean 15” which is produce items with the lowest pesticide residues. These lists can help you prioritize which organic items to purchase.
- Meat tends to be one of the more expensive items on grocery lists. You should always purchase meat on sale, because even if you don’t eat it right away you can freeze it for a later date!
- Try meatless meals throughout the week by replacing half the meat in a dish with beans, soy, vegetables, nuts, quinoa, lentils, tofu, eggs, tempeh, or chickpeas.
Grains and Dry Goods
- Stock up on grains and dry goods when they are on sale because they typically go rancid quickly. These items tend to be inexpensive and provide many nutrients.
Take a Gander
- Look at the top and bottom shelves because more expensive foods tend to be at eye level.
- Read the smaller number to the left of the price on the price tag. The lower that number is, the more money you will save down the road, because that is the cost per pound. When that number is low, try buying in bulk to cut-costs. Also, use it to compare costs between brands.
- Shop the perimeter because fresh produce, meats, dairy, and breads tend to be around the outside perimeter of the market. This prevents impulse buying of processed foods located in the middle section.
- Pay attention at checkout to be sure prices are rung up as advertised.
- Try to avoid already prepared items, because the extra labor ends up increasing the price.
- To prevent your purchases from going to waste, cook, seafood, meats, and produce early in the week and save heartier items for the end of the week. Leftovers are great for lunch and can be revamped into new meals like casseroles, sandwiches, or soup.
- Store foods according to when you purchased them or by expiration date to be sure you eat the oldest first.
Supermarket Dietitians are becoming more popular. If your local store has a dietitian, try to pop into their office if you have any nutrition-related questions. They can help you when purchasing food for various conditions like food allergies, diabetes, and special diets such as lactose-intolerant, low-sodium, or gluten-free. They can show you some new foods and ingredient substitutes you may not have considered. Plus they may offer classes on food safety, cooking, and nutrition.