By Katie Boscia, RD
The new year brings motivation to eat healthier. Yet many of us struggle with our options as we find ourselves recuperating from holiday spending. After all, eating healthy is expensive, right? Wrong! Many good deals can be found at the grocery store with some planning and strategy. Here are some tips to help budget your dollars.
- Make a list and stick to it. Extra or unnecessary items can easily be avoided if you go to the grocery store with a prepared list. Keep a running grocery list and add items to it as you run out of them. Develop a meal plan for the week and make a list of ingredients you’ll need to make each meal. Don’t make any impulse purchases, and stick to what you wrote down.
- Check for sales or specials and use coupons. You don’t have to star in the TV show Extreme Couponing to save some money at the store. Make a list of your grocery staples, such as bread and milk, and keep an eye on the weekly ad section of your local paper so you can stock up on these items when they go on sale. Also, be sure to sign up for store reward or loyalty programs for added savings.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Craving food and walking around in a grocery store don’t mix. This can lead to impulse buys, which are usually less nutritious foods that cost more money.
- Look above and below your natural line of vision. Foods that are higher in price are usually at eye level. Look on top and bottom shelves to see if there are cheaper items.
- Buy produce in season. Fresh produce in season will be easier to find and cheaper. Otherwise, look for frozen fruits and vegetables, which will be nutritionally comparable to fresh foods. But before throwing them in your cart, make sure your frozen produce items don’t have any added salt or sugar.
- Buy from bulk bins. When buying in bulk, buy only staples that you’ll use in large quantities such as rice, beans, pasta, lentils or frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid prepared foods. Pre-washed, pre-cut or individually packaged foods are usually more expensive than those you have to prepare yourself.
- Buy generic. Store brands are usually comparable to the more expensive name brands. Compare labels to make sure you’re getting similar items.
- Buy produce that lasts longer in the refrigerator. Carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage will last the longest, and you can usually buy some of these in larger quantities.
- Check the unit price. The unit price or the price-per-serving will help you compare products properly. One brand may look cheaper, but when you look at the unit price, you find that per serving, it’s actually more expensive. Get the most bang for your buck!