We’re approaching the end of January, and it’s around this time that many of us begin to fully realize just how much money we’ve spent over the holidays. Sure, it was a great, glorious Christmas, but now that those credit card bills are due, it can be an overwhelming reality check that can lead us to having to rein in our unnecessary spending for a while. While that often includes cutting back the entertainment budget or avoiding buying things we “want,” but don’t really “need,” the cutting back also can extend to our food budgets, as well. We may not dine out at restaurants as frequently for the next few weeks or months, or we may just grab something quick from a fast food restaurant to avoid spending a lot of money at the grocery store all at once. While that may be a temptation, it’s important to realize that, even on a tight budget, it’s possible to buy healthy foods for yourself and your family as long as you’re willing to do a little homework.
Registered dietitian Heather Pierce with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center says there are some tips and strategies you can follow to maximize both your spending and how healthy you’re eating. “I often hear people say that eating healthy is just too expensive,” Pierce said. “Honestly, that’s up for debate. If you shop at a higher-end health food store, it certainly can bump up your grocery total. But, eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank, and lots of foods that are good for you can be found at your average grocery store for less than you might think. It just requires a bit of a change in thinking and meal planning,” she explained.
“You want to start by planning your meals ahead of time, which means putting them down on paper before you go shopping,” Pierce continued. “You may even want to consider dishes such as casseroles or stews that you can stretch into more portions and more meals. Before you head to the store, be sure to check the pantry and refrigerator to make sure you don’t already have some ingredients on-hand. This can help you plan certain meals around ingredients you already have, too,” she said.
As for those grocery trips, Pierce says consider buying in bulk. “Whenever you can, try buying family packs,” she said. “Typically, this will save you a few bucks on the smaller, individual servings of items because you can simply divide the family packs into the smaller portions you’ll need. For instance, a quart of yogurt is about $5 for six servings, while individual yogurt cups can run you $1 each on average. This works for meats, such as ground beef and turkey, too. If you use lunch meats, consider buying a whole turkey breast and cooking it in your crock pot. Once it’s cooked, you can slice it up for sandwiches, saving yourself a little money there, as well,” she explained. “You also can consider shopping online and picking your items up if your store offers that service for free. This will save you from impulse purchases, and it’s actually easier to compare unit prices and make sure you’re getting the best deals,” she added.
Pierce adds that some basics won’t set you back much at all. “Take for instance an ordinary potato, which can be found for about 44 cents each, or beans that can be had for about 25 to 30 cents per serving. Healthy fruits such as bananas often can be found for less than 30 cents each, with bagged apples coming in at around 40 cents each,” she said. “It’s really about finding those deals and avoiding the traps of expensive junk foods and snacks. You don’t have to shop at a trendy health food store to eat healthy. With a little planning, thought and price hunting, you can find healthy foods at any grocery store that will accommodate just about any household food budget,” she added.