Weekend: Some tips to help eat better on a budget

Eating healthy can be expensive, which is true with food prices going up. How can a family make it on a limited budget? Check out these shopping tips.

• Plan meals in advance. By spending 30 minutes a week planning out meals and snacks, a family could save up to $10 a week. Doesn’t sound like much, but think: over the next 52 weeks, that’s $520.

• Check freezer, fridge and cupboards. Check produce or leftovers in the refrigerator to see what needs to be used before spoiling. Plan meals around those foods.

• Look for sales or visit the local farmer’s market. Know the prices of the foods your family normally buys. Try buying foods in season; they have better prices and fruits and vegetables will be fresh, tasting better.

• Read sale fliers. Plan meals around what the store has on sale for the week.

• Check unit prices. The unit price tells how much per unit, such as ounces or pounds.

• Read signs carefully. Sometimes the store signs can be misleading. Is it really a deal, or is it the item at the same price?

• Buy only what is needed. If storage is a problem, buy in smaller amounts. This will save a few dollars, especially if not eaten before it spoils.

• Compare prices. Check national brands against store or generic brands. We all have our favorite brands of food items, but it is amazing the difference in fat, sugar or sodium evident in the food labels.

• Avoid impulse buys. Shoppers spend about 54 percent of their total grocery bill on things that aren’t needed.

• Don’t pay for convenience. Buying things already chopped will cost double the amount. Plan prepping time either after the store visit or on the weekend.

• Shop at a good time. Plan to shop when the store is not crowded and you’re not feeling rushed. The longer you’re in the store, the more money is spent.

• Eat first and shop alone. Shopping when hungry tends to bring out the impulse buying. Remember, shopping alone means we buy only what is needed.

• Buy fewer “empty calorie” foods. Avoid purchasing sodas, chips, cookies, and candy. Not buying these items will help on the food budget and waistline.

• Meatless Mondays. Plan meals without meat; use eggs or beans in dishes.

• Buy in bulk. Buy meat in bulk when the price is right. Divide into packages or brown meat ahead of time; this will cut prep time in half.

Sounds overwhelming, right? Make a grocery list and stick to it. Write only the items needed for the week from your menu-planning session.

Know the layout of your store — this will save you time and money. By shopping in the outer aisles, you will be buying the healthier foods.

Use a calculator to keep track of spending. Another thought: use cash instead of a check or debit card to keep from overspending.

There are many ways to put your food dollars on a budget. It may take awhile to figure out what works, but meal planning will make for quicker prep time and making a grocery list will help us to stay on track.

What’s the benefit from all this? Healthier meals, along with time and money saved.

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