As food and gas prices continue to rise, grocery bills are taking a bigger bite out of the household budget. When consumers have to worry about food costs, they may also struggle to maintain a healthy diet. However, it is still possible to have nutritious meals on a budget. Here are some suggestions to keep your both your waistline and your food bill trim.
1. Keep a grocery list. A grocery list allows you to minimize gas usage from extra trips to the grocery store or the need to stop at convenience stores that may sell that forgotten gallon of milk at a higher price.
2. Buy only what is on your list. Stores strategically place items at the check-out lanes or at the end of aisles to promote impulse buys.
3. Buy generic. Many generic and name brand food items are actually the same and simply have different labels on the packaging.
4. Minimize processed and prepared foods. Processed and prepared foods including mixes and frozen entrees have a higher markup. Processed foods also often have a number of preservatives and additives to increase shelf life.
5. Make your own individual food packs. While they may be convenient, individually packaged foods are more expensive than bulk items because of the packaging. You can easily repackage food at home into smaller reusable containers which is also more environmentally friendly.
6. Buy produce that is in season. With warm weather here, a larger variety of fruits and vegetables is now available.
7. Shop when you are not hungry. People fall prey to impulse goods and tend to buy more when they are hungry.
8. Shop the periphery. Grocery stores usually place perishable items like produce, meat, and dairy along the outer ring of the store and canned, processed, or dried goods in the aisles in the middle. Avoiding the inner aisles will help you avoid foods that are more processed.
9. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Stocking up on only items that you know you will use will keep costs down. Bear in mind that sometimes generic items are still cheaper than name brand foods even with a coupon.
10. Buy at farmer's markets. With fewer transportation costs and middleman markups, local farmer's markets can provide fresher produce at lower prices.
11. Prepare for temptation. Always keep a bottle of water and healthy snacks like nuts and fruits with you. If you already have food and drink with you, you are less likely to stop at a fast food restaurant or buy chips, cookies, or candy from the vending machine.
12. Drink water. Filling up your own water bottle is cheaper and healthier than buying other beverages. Several different types of water filters are available that can be purchased inexpensively to filter water from your own kitchen sink.
13. Eat fruit instead of drinking juice. Eating an orange and drinking a glass of water is healthier than drinking a glass of juice. The fruit will provide fiber in addition to the vitamins and minerals that are found in juice. The fiber will also help to fill you up.
14. Eat less meat. Meatless dishes are cheaper to prepare. Beans and legumes are an alternative to meats as a good source of protein. Instead of meals based on meat as the main entrée, recipes that use meat as an ingredient like spaghetti, casserole, or salad are also cost effective.