Food costs have skyrocketed in the past year, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up healthy food. With just a little foresight, there are ways to deal with this increase. Here are some tips for maintaining a nutritious diet without breaking the bank.
Take inventory. Before heading to the store or submitting your online grocery order, shop for your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Take inventory and first plan to make the recipe using what you have on hand.
The most important tip is to take inventory and plan your menu accordingly. Have you ever thrown away a bag of saucy spring salad mix? Welcome to the club! It’s happened to most of us at some point, but it’s putting money away.
Prioritize the perishable. Be careful not to use spinach or other greens that spoil quickly. Toss greens into a soup or pasta sauce to use them up and add nutrients to your meal at the same time. Check expiration dates on perishable foods like yogurt and prepare meals around those foods first. For example, you can use up the yogurt in breakfast parfaits for the family.
Planning your meals, starting with what you have on hand, helps reduce waste and therefore saves money. But you might also consider changing what’s on the menu entirely.
Eat less meat. Meat is expensive. Beef, chicken and fish can run up the grocery bill faster than anything else. Adding more protein-rich plants to your plate can help. That means using beans instead of meat a few nights a week—and thinking of ways to add more produce to your diet overall. This will automatically help increase your fiber and antioxidant intake.
“Meat and meat products aren’t going down in price, so think about including more plant-based foods in your diet,” recommends Chicago-based chef, author and food photographer Sarah Haas, RDN. “Whole grains, canned/frozen/fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes are all great options.”
Although egg prices have more than doubled across the country, eggs are still one of the least expensive sources of protein you can buy. Consider enjoying them for dinner at an inexpensive eatery like Eggs in Purgatory. This recipe is made with canned tomatoes and is a great base to add veggies to your fridge like zucchini, peppers and spinach.
It’s out of the list. Make a detailed grocery list and stick to it. Shop online (if you get free shipping) or visit the store as soon as possible. Most of us don’t know to go to the supermarket hungry because it’s a recipe for impulse buying. However, studies show that the longer you stay in a store, the more you buy. Organize your list by food aisle or category to save time at the store, avoid backtracking—and make sure you have a snack before shopping!
Shop the sales—and stock up. Take a few minutes to peruse the weekly online ads for your favorite supermarket. It can help to get deals delivered to your email as a reminder. Many sales are seasonal, and you may notice how some stores offer similar sales on a monthly cycle. Take note and buy accordingly.
Haas reminds us to check out the items on sale and build meals around those foods first.
And don’t forget the staples. “If those shelf-stable basics are on sale, buy extra! Think rice, beans and canned goods that can last at least a year if unopened,” he suggests.
Use coupons wisely. Physical coupons are great but not always available. Clip digital coupons to save time and money at the register—and remember, coupons are only a good idea if you’re buying food you’ll actually eat. Although they exist, there aren’t many coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables or fresh meat, poultry or seafood. Instead look for household items like detergent and toothpaste along with frozen or canned goods, yogurt, eggs and other healthy foods.
Buy in bulk – if it makes sense. This trick is simple, but it only saves money if your family can eat the food before it expires. Large containers of olive oil or nut butter can spoil, and huge boxes of cereal can go stale if not used in time.
Switch things up
Be flexible. If you have a recipe that calls for ground beef but ground turkey is on sale, substitute ground turkey. There are a wide range of options that work well. If your recipe calls for chicken breasts but sells chicken thighs, consider swapping. Whether you’re making a stew, baked chicken, or soup, chicken thighs add even more flavor to the dish, so don’t be afraid to try something different!
Grow and re-grow plants and more. With clean water and sunshine, you can grow a variety of foods indoors. We all know how expensive those little packages of fresh herbs can be. You might be surprised how easy it is to grow them yourself.
Common herbs, including basil, parsley, mint, and oregano, grow in plain water—no soil or pot needed. Simply place the remaining fresh herb stems in a jar of fresh water and place them in a sunny location such as a windowsill. Use as needed and refresh the water regularly.
You can also regrow flavor-packed green onions using the same method. Place the white root ends in a glass or fresh water and watch them regenerate in seven to 10 days. This is a fun project for the kids to handle, but it also saves you from buying green onions again.
While some of these tips may seem small, it all adds up in the end. Use these little tips to save big over time.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleeping habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.