Good food is pricey, and it's not getting any cheaper. But you can scrimp on food without compromising health. Follow these simple rules and feed your family well, for less:
1. Plan ahead. If you buy on impulse, you'll always spend more than you expected. Instead, craft a menu for seven day's worth of meals, then create a shopping list from that. And don't forget snacks and beverages, which can add up fast. Make your shopping list detailed, but keep it flexible enough to account for deals. Instead of "apples, oranges, and bananas," for instance, just list "fruit," then see what's on sale at the market.
2. Be a clipper. You can save a lot more money than you think by clipping coupons. Go through circulars in the papers, and stash coupons in a large envelope that you can take to the store. Then plan your meals around what's on sale. You can also do an online search for the items you purchase most often. Also try: Mambo Sprouts (mambosprouts.com), an online newsletter and coupon service that specializes in natural products.
3. Go vegan. Animal protein is expensive on any budget, and most of us eat too much of it anyway. At least two nights a week (or more), make your meals meat-free. Veggie burgers are pricey, but organic beans, lentils, and legumes are inexpensive, fiber-rich sources of protein. When you do eat meat, think of it as an addition to meals, rather than the center of the plate-add it to stews, casseroles, or stir-fries that emphasize vegetables.
4. Shop around. You can save substantial amounts by shopping at more than one store. One place may have the cheapest organic produce, while another offers great deals on packaged goods. So get to know where the deals are, and watch the savings add up. Start with the store that has the best prices on the items you purchase most frequently, and then supplement as needed with trips elsewhere.
5. Love leftovers. Avoid waste by planning menus around repurposing food. For example, a roasted chicken might become chicken salad the next day. When you make a soup, casserole, or other one-dish meal, freeze extras for last-minute meals (cheaper than takeout) and cost-saving brown-bag lunches.
6. Buy in bulk. Bulk beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and other items are cheaper than packaged options. Also, skip single-serving items. Buy larger containers, and portion off smaller servings. And don't forget that buying in bulk isn't limited to packaged goods. If you see a great deal on blueberries, buy them and freeze them for later use.
7. Keep it simple. Stick to the basics-inexpensive proteins (lean meat, beans, chicken thighs); less pricey produce (carrots, broccoli, bananas, apples); and bulk grains. Choose lower-priced nuts and seeds, such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds. And skip bottled drinks and juice boxes in favor of pitchers of iced hibiscus or green tea. Or stick to water. It's better for you anyway.
Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition and developed the "Inspired Eats" iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.
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