By: Judy Porter
We all have to eat. Most of us want to eat better, healthier and cleaner without increasing our grocery bill. According to the most recent Gallup poll, Americans spend on average $151 a week on groceries. Today, we spend an average of 13.3 percent of our total income on foods prepared at home and from restaurants. An interesting fact, is that the more Americans make, the less they spend on groceries. The bottom fifth of earners spend a whopping 12 percent of their yearly budget on food at home, compared to 9 percent for the middle fifth and 6 percent for the top fifth. So, where do you fall? Are you spending more or less than the average? Saving money while still providing healthy meals can be quite the challenge with today’s rising food costs. Spending less on food means you’ll have more for the fun things in life like vacations and hobbies. If you want to improve in this area then try some of the following tips:
1. Get organized. Planning is the key to success in almost everything in life. Take a moment to do two things.
• Compile your family’s top ten favorite healthy meals and snacks. Most of us consume the same meals and snacks over and over.
• Create a master grocery list of all the ingredients required to prepare these meals. There are many new Apple and Android apps out there that can assist you with this and will even organize a list according to the aisle-by-aisle layout of grocery stores. (See apps listed on page 23.)
2. Take time on the weekend for food prep. I have found that by spending a little time prepping food on Sunday makes it easy to throw together quick, healthy meals during the week when I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. In addition, I save money because convenience items cost more! Here are a few staple items that will make it easy
for you and your family to eat like a superstar all week long:
• Quinoa, barley, brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc.: Cook one or two grains to use as side dishes for the week. Most cooked grains can be safely stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for five days without losing quality.
• Lentils: The great thing about lentils is they don’t need to be soaked and they cook in about 15 minutes. Lentils are a great source of folic acid,magnesium and fiber, all of which support heart health. They are also high in iron and protein which can help supplement or replace the lean meat in a meal at a very low cost. I like to add lentils to my salads, soups and sides.
• Hard-boiled eggs: Eggs are a very economical protein source. Boil up a dozen so you can grab one for a snack or toss into a salad.
• Soup: I love making a batch of soup on Sunday. I just throw whatever vegetables I have (or a bag of frozen veggies) in a pot with some vegetable broth then add some cooked lentils, quinoa and some spices. It’s a great way to use up extra greens or vegetables that I have leftover from the previous week.
• Trail Mix: Try mixing up some almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and a few dark chocolate chips (>60 percent cocoa). Place in an air tight container and grab a small handful as a snack. You’ll feel like you’re getting a treat but what you’re really getting is a power punch of nutrients.
• Preparing Fruit: Purchasing what’s in-season will cost you less. So, I look for sales and that will be our fruit selection for the week. I try to get a good variety of colors so we get a good mixture of anti oxidants and phytonutrients. Cut or wash fruit so it’s ready for eating. I make sure they are in a location that at eye level in the refrigerator because we’re more likely to grab them as a snack if they’re not hidden.
• Chopped Veggies: Carrots, bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, etc. Spend time peeling and chopping them and then store them in Tupperware containers so they’re easy to grab for lunch, dinner and snacks.
3. Shop in bulk for items that you use daily and in high quantities. This is where a membership to a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club can come in handy. Make a list of toiletries, paper products, cleaners, medications, dietary supplements and pet items that you use routinely. Depending on your budget, purchase enough to last one to six months. For example, I discovered that we use approximately six rolls of toilet paper every two weeks in our household of two adults and two children. Therefore, I will purchase a 12-roll pack each month. The key to saving money in these wholesale supermarkets is making a list of items you will use over time and that will not perish. It’s important to go in with a plan and stick to it.
4. Stock up on sale items that have a long shelf life. Buy several and score big savings!
5. Think large. Single–serve items tend to be more expensive than larger serving sizes. Make your own single-serve snacks by buying large containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, cereal, etc. and portion them out in small plastic bags or containers.
6. Shop generic. Generic labels are not as fancy as brand-named products. Often times the same manufacture of a brand-named product makes a generic with the same ingredients. Some generics to try include:
• Over-the-counter medication: The FDA requires the same active ingredients in the generic as the patented medication that they replace.
• Cereal: Compare ingredients.You can often spend half as much on the generic version.
• Sugar, flour, salt, spices: The government requires the same production safety and storage standards as they do for the brand-named products.
• Frozen fruits and vegetables: Commonly made by same manufacturers of brand-named product just different labeling.
7. Use coupons. Clip coupons from the Sunday paper or print free online coupons. Do an Internet search of the stores that you shop most for digital and free printable coupons. In some cases you can load the coupons directly to your savings card. Using coupons in conjunction with sales can add up quickly so again load up if the product has a long shelf-life. Lastly, try loading one of the money saving apps
on the next page to your smart phone.
Do you have any ideas on how to stay healthy while spending less? Comment below!