Seven tips for frugal, healthful food shopping
Each week a nutritionist from University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week, Rachel Ernzen writes about smart shopping.
When looking to cut food costs, time really is money. Investing the time to understand your spending habits, local food markets and options for discount purchases can make you a smarter shopper. Here are some tips for keeping good food on your plate and money in your wallet.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. Peek at what you already have available and try not to stray from your shopping list. If staying out of the store keeps impulse buys at bay, try home food-delivery services.
- Learn more about how you spend your food dollar. Scan your latest grocery bill: What items do you spend the most on? Is this a food staple or splurge? Are there cheaper alternatives? Take a pass on prepared sweets and snacks.
- Commit to checking your local grocer’s weekly specials before you shop. Consider buying in bulk and stocking up on versatile sale items that store well (dry pasta, canned goods or frozen foods). Think beans, rice and veggies. If you are unsure which fresh foods are best bought organic, access the Environmental Working Group’s wallet guide at: www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.
- Clip coupons. Reach for the newspaper or go to www.coupons.com, www.livingonadime.com or www.smartsource.com for discounts. Many grocers now offer coupons through your cellphone. For more information, explore www.cellfire.com. Couple the coupons with a store’s circular sales and/or double/triple coupon offerings, and you can save a bundle.
- Compare prices in the grocery aisle. The more processed the food, the more expensive it is. For example, a whole chicken will cost less per pound than pre-seasoned, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. While price per pound or price per unit should be evaluated, weigh the labor, yield and possible waste. Back to the chicken example: If you eat white meat only, swapping pre-seasoned breasts for a bone-in version may be a more cost-effective option.
- Try bulk cooking and be sure to use leftovers. Check out some ideas on this site: www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. Surf the Internet for simple recipes using ingredients you have, check out a cookbook from your local library or share recipes with friends and family. Try www.thenourishinggourmet.com recipe index or www.cheapcooking.com.
- Reach out to resources. Call your local food bank to learn more about public programs such as produce drops in your area (Maryland Food Bank, www.mdfoodbank.org).