Purchasing is key to eating healthy on a budget
A 2014 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report shows that a family of four spends on average $167 per week on groceries. Many families find it hard to stay within a modest budget as food prices and other household expenses continue to rise. Pre-planning meals, having a grocery list and looking for discounts are tips for saving money on your grocery bill. “Purchasing” is another trick to help stay within your food budget without giving up the tasty and healthy foods you enjoy.
Before you begin your shopping trip, make sure you are not rushed or hungry. Both hunger and stress can tempt you to purchase items not on your grocery list, which can lead to overspending. If you have to shop when you’re hungry and rushed, stop and look at your grocery list before adding the bag of nacho chips or the king sized candy bar to your shopping cart.
Another “purchasing” tip is to stay out of the aisles that contain items not on your list. Do most of your grocery shopping in the outside aisles of the store where the produce, meat and dairy are displayed. Buy store brands when they are cheaper. If you are not certain you or your family will like the store brand as well, buy one can to try before buying several and then finding out you do not like the taste. Some stores display the unit price of an item on the shelf tag. Use this information to select the item with the best price. Be aware of unit prices when purchasing items in bulk. Just because the larger packages look like a better value doesn’t mean they are cheaper per item than a smaller package.
When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, choose the ones that are in-season. The price of some produce such as carrots, apples and bananas remains consistent most of the year. Buy only the amount of produce you can use within its fresh period. Some produce stays fresh longer than others, so eat the produce that spoils faster such as berries or lettuce. Use frozen and canned fruits and vegetables after you use up the fresh. Canned and frozen vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and contain the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy diet. Convenience foods such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables, individual-sized yogurt, and instant rice save time, but usually cost more than those that require more time to prepare.
Sticking to a food budget is easier when you purchase only what’s on your grocery list, buy store brands and purchase canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes in your area that teach you tricks and tips for eating healthy on a budget.