How to Eat Right on a Budget
By ALLISON STOWELL
You've set the goal to eat better in 2015. Now you just need to get to the supermarket and buy the foods that will help you stay on track. But before you head out the door, consider these tips for saving money and ensuring that your new, healthful diet doesn't break your budget.
Start with a plan
Saving money at the supermarket begins with the right planning. What and how many lunches will you need to pack for yourself or your family? What extra activities or events are happening that will require particular foods to be on hand? Do you need to prepare for busy days that will make cooking challenging? Mapping out your week is critically important for saving money because last-minute convenience items or takeout orders are costly and generally not healthful options.
Check your pantry and freezer first
After thinking about your week and what meals will work best, review your pantry and freezer for items you already have on hand. This very important step ensures that foods you already have are used, reduces your weekly grocery bill and keeps your freezer and pantry clean and organized. This is especially critical for your freezer, since we always have the best intentions when we freeze leftovers or fresh ingredients. But if you don't use of them, they will go bad.
Stick to your list
OK, you have your money-saving list and are ready to head to the store. But remember: Stick to the list! Tempting deals and displays abound in just about every corner of the supermarket. Don't forget the work you already went through to identify the foods you need -- not want. Many stores have sales that last longer than a week: Note these specials and incorporate them into future lists.
Spend on the things that matter most to you
Look for the best deals at the market for the foods on your list, but keep in mind that there may be some foods you spend a bit more on simply because they are important and worth it to you. For example, maybe you prefer meats that are produced a certain way, but are comfortable with a less-expensive whole-wheat bread that meets your needs.
Buy seasonal and local
No doubt one of the best ways to save money at the supermarket is to buy in-season produce and local items that have fewer production costs involved, which means less expense passed on to you. Not only is this practice good for your wallet, it supports your local economy and is great for the environment.
Turn to private labels
Save money by choosing high-quality private-label items that meet your needs. Remember that these items are generally produced by a national brand, but sold under a private label. Taste and quality, therefore, compare well with national brands.
Buy in bulk and store correctly
Buying in bulk often saves you money, but make sure that you store bulk items correctly when you get home. If not, then they're no longer a good deal. It's actually wasted money if the food goes bad. This is where your clean, organized, not-too-full pantry is helpful. Remember to label and date anything that goes into the freezer.
You’ve put so much effort into planning and shopping -- now cook! Skip this step and you've just wasted a lot of money and time. If you've prepared well, then you only need to cook on the days that you actually have the time to do so. Remember to store leftovers properly so you have fresh food for future meals.
Eat the right portions
The final piece of advice for helping you stay on budget and meet your health and nutrition goals is to eat the right portions. It's pretty easy to understand why this saves you money, but it's an important piece that many overlook.
Readers -- Do you make a list before you go to the grocery store? Do you plan out all your meals for the week? Do you buy in bulk? Do you have any money-saving tips that aren't mentioned above? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Allison Stowell, M.S., RD, CDN, is the registered dietitian for the Guiding Stars Licensing Company, a company devoted to helping you find the good, better and best choices at the supermarket. A working mom of two, Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits by stressing conscious eating, improving relationships with food and offering a non-diet approach for reaching and maintaining ideal body weight.