Quality food doesn’t have to come with high prices. Some shoppers may opt for low-cost foods with little nutritional value. But being a frugal gourmet need not harm your health. The following tips can help protect your wallet AND your waistline.
Step One: Know Your Numbers
Determine your food budget for one month. Then divide that number by four, and you'll have an idea of how much you can spend per week on food. By keeping this number in mind, you'll be less likely to splurge on restaurant dining and impulse grocery purchases.
Step Two: Plan Ahead
The more often you shop, the more likely you are to go over budget. Instead, plan a full week's worth of menus in advance. Take stock of the groceries you already have on hand in order to avoid unnecessary purchases. Make a list of the items you will need, and when shopping, purchase only the items on your list to drastically cut the cost of impulse buys.
Step Three: Don't Fall Prey to Mind Games
Shopping on an empty stomach or when you're low on energy makes you more susceptible to impulse purchases; avoid shopping when hungry or tired. In addition to factoring in your mood when grocery shopping, consider store geography. Frequent the perimeter of the grocery store, where fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are typically found. Avoid the store's center, where processed and junk foods are more commonly found.
Step Four: Remember that Less Is More
When shopping, look for items that contain as few artificial ingredients as possible, and stay clear of items that are high in sugar and salt. Instead, look for items that are the real deal, such as 100% whole-grain or 100% fruit juice.
If you're worried about spending money on vegetables only to have them spoil before being used, take heart. In general, frozen vegetables are nearly as nutritious as – and in some cases more nutritious than – fresh vegetables. And they last longer, too!
Step Five: Get Everyone Involved
Rather than buying prewashed, precut produce, make healthful eating a team effort. For example, ask children to wash fruits and vegetables while you do the chopping and slicing. Not only will you cut costs, but your children will learn about proper portion sizes and wise nutrition habits.