Editor’s note: Marisa Moore is a registered dietitian and media spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also the owner of an Atlanta-based food and nutrition consulting business. She is on Twitter.
Now, more than ever, families are looking for ways to put healthy food on the table without breaking the bank. Maintaining a budget begins before you even set foot inside the supermarket. Here are some tips to use before, during, and after your next shopping trip to save a little cash.
Start by taking inventory of what you have on hand and plan your meals based on that. It’s estimated that a family of four throws away an average of $500 a year in spoiled food alone!
Shop with a list
Use a shopping list to avoid bringing home extra items and staying in the store too long. Studies show the longer you’re in the supermarket, the more money you spend. Get in and get out.
Eat before you shop
Avoid food shopping when you’re hungry. It’s a budget-buster that leads to buyer’s remorse.
Shop by what’s in season
Seasonal produce is less expensive and usually tastes better. In the fall and winter, focus on fresh sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, pears, apples and citrus. In the warmer months, go for berries, melons and green beans. Year-round: Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. Just be sure to select the ones without any added salt or sugar.
Make extra servings of freezable meals like pasta, soup or casseroles
This is like creating your own microwavable frozen entrée without the high price tag, the excess sodium, or a trip to the store.
Use less meat
Evidence continues to mount on the benefits of plant-based diets. Go meatless at least once a week. When you do serve meat, stick to small portions to save money and keep meals healthy. Opt for inexpensive proteins like beans, peanut butter, eggs, canned tuna and sardines, which are all inexpensive yet incredibly nutritious sources of protein.
Minimize food waste
Clip your bags, keep nuts in the fridge, and only purchase as much food as you and your family will eat before it spoils. This will keep your hard-earned money out of the trash can.
Cook at home whenever possible
It generally costs more money (and calories) to dine out. While it’s easy to grab a meal on the run, you pay for that convenience. Take your lunch to work and save dining out for special occasions.