Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Use these tips and materials to make healthy choices while staying within your budget.

Create a Grocery Game Plan

Before heading to the grocery store, developing a “game plan” can help you get organized and save money. It also allows you to rethink your food choices and pick healthier options.

List Your Weekly Meals
Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make this week. Buying for the week means you’ll make fewer shopping trips and buy only the items you need. Here are some basic tips for creating your menu and grocery list:

* Look in your freezer, cabinets, and refrigerator. Make a note of what you currently have on hand. You can save money by using these items in the upcoming week’s meals.
* Use a worksheet to plan your meals and figure out what items you need to buy.
* Create a list of recipes to try. Find new ideas for healthy and low-cost meals based on what you have on hand, foods your family enjoys, and foods that are good buys.  Be sure to include some family favorites along with the new recipes.
* Think about your schedule. Choose meals you can prepare easily on your busiest days. Save recipes that take longer for days off.

Make a Grocery List
Stay organized with a grocery list to avoid buying items you don’t really need.

Grocery List Basics:

* Use your list of weekly meals to create a list of foods and beverages you will need to buy. Don’t forget to include foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk that might not be part of a recipe but are basics for healthy eating.
* You can write your list on scratch paper, enter it into a computer or a free mobile app.
* Keep an ongoing grocery list in your kitchen, computer or a mobile app and add items as you run out.
* Try organizing your list to make shopping quick and easy.

Save More at the Store

The smartest shoppers know that saving money is more than luck. When shopping for groceries, it’s about having a game plan and making smart decisions about what to put in your cart.

Stretch your dollar with these helpful tips:

* Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
* Read the sales flyer. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
* Use coupons – but only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale. For more on couponing, check out Save More at the Grocery Store .
* Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.
* Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
* Grab from the back. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
* Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
* Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.

Shop Smart to Fill Your Cart
With a game plan in place, you’re now ready to shop! To get the most for your dollar, follow the tips in this section as you shop at your favorite food store or farmer’s market.

Where can I shop?
There are many places where you can find good deals, such as:
* Grocery stores
* Ethnic markets
* Dollar stores
* Retail supercenters
* Wholesale clubs
* Farmers markets
Also, ask friends and family where they shop and find their best bargains.

Understand the Price Tag

There is much more to a price tag on the grocery shelf. First, there’s the retail price. This is the price you pay for each item. But have you ever looked at the unit price?   The unit price will tell you how much an item costs per pound, ounce, quart, etc. Get the inside scoop on the unit price below, and try these tips at your next grocery visit to maximize your savings!

Read the Food Label

Food labels tell you the nutritional content of a food item. You can compare two different items by using the Nutrition Facts label to choose the healthier option.

For more information, visit Choose My Plate.

Photo: Andrew Filer