You may want to make nutritious food choices at the grocery store, but are concerned about the expense. Luckily, if you plan ahead and follow some simple guidelines, it’s easy to stick to a healthy diet. Here are some tips to get you started.
• Plan ahead. Make a list of groceries you need before you leave home. It is helpful to organize your list into sections based on the layout of the store. Purchase non-perishable items first, then refrigerated and frozen items, and deli foods last.
• Don’t shop when you are hungry. You are more likely to make impulse purchases on less healthy food when you are hungry.
• Check for supermarket specials. Use coupons and plan your shopping trip around what is on sale. Purchase sale items in large quantities and freeze them. Fruits, meat and bread can be frozen for up to six months.
• Purchase generic brands. The nutritional quality of generic brands is equivalent to name-brand foods.
• Buy locally grown fruits and vegetables in season. When fruits and vegetables are shipped from a long distance, the transportation costs make them more expensive. Produce is usually less expensive when it is in season. When fruits and vegetables are not in season, frozen produce can be a well-priced alternative.
• Buy whole produce. Prepackaged produce, such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables, are generally more expensive than whole produce. Wash and cut the produce yourself when you get home.
• Skip organic foods. They are more costly, and the nutritional content is equivalent to non-organic foods.
• Cut back on meat. Meat is generally more expensive than other forms of protein, so try to make meatless meals once or twice per week. Eggs, beans and legumes are healthy, less expensive protein options.
• Learn to read food labels. Purchase bread made with 100% whole grain that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Look for “low-sodium” or “no salt added” canned vegetables and soups. Choose low-fat dairy products. Limit foods with trans-fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup.
• Pay attention to unit price. The unit price is an easy way to find the best deals. When comparing two different brands, the unit price will help you to choose the cheaper option.
• Buy snacks in bulk rather than in individual packages. Make your own snack bags of whole-grain crackers, vegetables, nuts or dried-fruits by portioning them into sandwich bags at home.
• Drink milk and tap water. Save money by avoiding bottled water, soda, juice and sports drinks.
• Prepare home cooked meals. Eating at home rather than at a restaurant not only helps to save money, but also usually results in eating less salt, fat and calories.
It is possible to eat healthy and nutritious foods while sticking to your budget. Becoming a smart and savvy grocery shopper takes some work, but the health benefits and cost savings are worth it.