Want to stay on a budget? Well, you don’t have to sacrifice good food. With a little advanced planning and creativity, you can eat balanced, healthy meals. Here are 10 tips for smart shopping from Cleveland Clinic Preventive Cardiology dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.
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1. Shop for non-perishable items online
Products like protein bars and dried fruits are ideal for buying from online retailers like Amazon.com. It saves you money because you won’t have to pay food tax. And if shipping is free, that’s an added incentive. Just be sure to check expiration dates.
2. Buy perishable foods in quantities you’ll use
Spoiled food that’s tossed into the garbage is no bargain! Look to frozen fruits and vegetables, which are less perishable and allow for portion-controlled servings, unlike canned foods.
3. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season
You’ll not only save dollars, you’ll also enjoy the most wholesome food on the market. And buying locally grown produce helps stimulate your local economy. You can also freeze into smaller portion sizes.
4. Buy meat and cereals in bulk
Each stroke of the knife in processing costs more at check-out. Buy fresh pork loin and slice it into low-fat loin chops at home. Buy a roast and cube it into chunks. Buy a chicken and cut it up at home. (Consider beans as a low-cost protein source.) Buy oatmeal in bulk and avoid added sugar and salt in individual flavored packs.
5. Be an informed shopper. Stick to your list and beware of BOGOs
Impulse buying at the grocery store leads to the quick demise of your food budget! And forgo “buy one, get one free” offers. Either you’ll wind up buying foods you won’t eat, or you’ll pay an inflated price for the “buy” item to cover the cost of the free one.
6. Limit your purchase of ready-prepared foods
Go to the deli or refrigerated sections for ready-made foods only on occasions when you’re willing to pay more for the convenience. You pay a higher price to have someone else prepare the meal.
7. Clip coupons with caution
Coupons may persuade you to purchase items you generally wouldn’t buy. But if the coupon is for an item you can use, look for stores that give double-coupon redemption for extra savings.
8. Use your imagination with leftovers
Create soups, casseroles and brand-new dishes with your leftovers to avoid tossing out unused food. If you run short of ideas, browse websites for recipes; just key in your leftover ingredients.
9. Look for outlet stores such as day-old bakeries
Prices are reduced by more than 50 percent from store prices. Bread products freeze well and are versatile — they can be used in sandwiches, in recipes calling for breadcrumbs, and for stuffing.
10. Avoid portion-controlled snack packs
Not only are they more costly, they may not save you calories, either. Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean sugar-free, and vice versa.