A family of four on a liberal food plan can spend as much as $1,150.00 a month on food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cost of Food at Home analysis. With some simple planning, you can still eat a healthy diet and save almost $400.00 a month on your grocery bill following a low-cost nutritional meal plan as advised by the USDA.
Breads and Grains
Breads and grains should provide the bulk of your calorie intake. You need six to eight servings of breads and grains a day when following a 2,000 to 2,400-calorie diet, general calorie needs for most healthy adults. Save money buying day-old bread and baked goods and storing it in the freezer until you're ready to use it. You can also save money and reduce your sodium intake by buying regular rice and oatmeal and plain pastas instead of instant varieties and mixes. Bulk items also tend to be a better bargain. Select whole grain breads, brown rice and whole wheat pastas to maximize your nutritional intake.
Vegetables are low in calories and high in essential vitamins and minerals. A balanced meal plan for most adults should include 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.To reduce your grocery bill, buy large bags of frozen vegetables. When buying fresh vegetables, look for seasonal varieties. Instead of using bags of prepared salad mix, buy a head of lettuce to make a salad.
Fruits, like vegetables, are nutrient rich and low in calories. Aim for 2 cups of fruits a day. Save money on your grocery bill buying fruits in season, such as apples and pears during the fall and winter months, and peaches and plums during the summer months. Canned fruits packed in water or juice and dried fruit can also be a budget-friendly, healthy fruit choice.
Milk provides calcium and vitamin D for strong and healthy bones. A healthy diet should include three servings of milk a day. Nonfat dried milk is the least expensive form of milk at the grocery store. Mix it with water as directed and store in the refrigerator overnight for cold milk in the morning. Larger containers of milk, such as gallon or half-gallon size, also tend to be a better bargain. To lower your fat and calorie intake, choose low-fat or nonfat milk.
Meat and Beans
Meat and beans provide protein, B-vitamins and iron. Most adults need 5.5 to 6.5-oz. of meat or beans a day. Meats can be a costly grocery bill item. Save money buying sale items. Beef chuck and bottom round roast tend to be cheaper cuts of meat and are also lower in fat. Buying a whole chicken and cutting it into parts can also save you money. When following a low-cost nutritional meal plan, make more meatless meals using beans and peas. Beans and peas cost much less than meat and provide the same nutrients but less fat. A 1/4-cup serving of beans equals 1 oz. of meat.