Tips for healthy eating on a budget
By making a few, simple alterations, you can stick to a budget and still make great tasting, healthy meals!
- Eat with the seasons
For the best value, focus on local produce that is in season. While strawberries in January may sound appealing, you’ll pay more for out-of-season produce. In the winter, go for apples, oranges and pears. In the summer, load up on berries, cherries and watermelon.
- Set up a pantry of canned goods
Canned goods offer an excellent value for consumers. They are low-cost and have a long shelf life. Canned beans are an excellent low-cost source of protein and canned fruit and vegetables are an easy way to get your daily five servings of fruit and vegetables when these items are out of season. Remember when choosing canned foods select no-salt varieties and fruit packed in juice versus syrup.
- Create meals around sale items
When planning your menus, check weekly sales circulars to find the best values. For example, if chicken and squash are on sale, create meals based on those items. Or buy extra of those ingredients and freeze them for later use.
- Buy staple items in bulk
You can save money by buying frequently used staple items in bulk. Keep in mind that the large size is not always the best buy. To determine if the large size is a value, check the unit price (the cost of the item divided by the unit of measurement). Also, try buying larger pieces of meat and then cutting them yourself and freezing them for later use.
- Don’t buy more than you can use
This applies especially to fresh produce. While the larger package may have a lower per-ounce cost, if you can’t use it all before it goes bad, then it is not the best bargain. No matter how great the bargain may seem, do not buy the food item if you will not eat it! Make sure to ask your produce clerk or in-store dietitian for selection, storage and preparation tips!
- Plan for leftovers
Plan ahead and you’ll get several meals for the price of one. For example, buy a pork roast for Sunday dinner and save half to use later in the week for a pork stew or freeze it for another week. Cook half a head of cabbage to accompany the pork roast and use the other half to make coleslaw later in the week. You’ll save money and time. Another idea: Toss leftover vegetables into a pot of chicken stock and add a can of beans for a hearty weeknight soup.
- Buy less expensive cuts of meat
Less expensive cuts often are as tasty as more expensive cuts, but they will require a little more tenderizing. They also may need to cook longer, which make them suitable for soups and stews and slow cookers.
- Try a “meatless” meal idea
Meat is one of the higher-priced ingredients in many meals, so try a meatless meal to save money. Meatless meals made with beans and whole grains are delicious, fillingand good for your health. Dried beans are a great protein source that can be used to make chili, soup or even burritos.
- Create your own convenience snacks
Instead of paying more for single-serve convenience items, create your own. Buy large bags or boxes of whole grain crackers, raisins, whole wheat pretzels, baby carrots or trail mix and create your own packaged snacks by filling them into small plastic bags. And remember that fresh fruit like apples, bananas, plums and pears are a healthy and inexpensive grab and go snack idea.
- Never go to the grocery store empty-handed
Always make a weekly grocery list and stick to it. It can be tempting to buy more than you need, but if you plan menus and make a weekly list, you will save money in the long run. Plus, you’ll avoid having to make mid-week trips to the grocery store to pick up missing ingredients, which will also save money on gas.
- Try store brand items
Store brands often are a better value than name brands. Even though they generally cost less, they still taste the same and have the same nutritional value as name brands. Remember to check the unit pricing to determine the best value for specific items.
- Use coupons wisely
You definitely can save money by using coupons, but only if the coupon is for an item you normally buy. If you are buying something just because you have a coupon for it, you may be wasting money. Even with a coupon, some brands may be more expensive than store brands. Check to be sure the coupon is really saving you money.
For more healthy eating tips and recipe ideas, visit us at shoprite.com/wellness or visit your in-store dietitian to help you put a plan in place.
Sarada Bernstein MPH, RD is a Corporate Dietitian for ShopRite Supermarkets.