Posted May 6, 2008 – If you’re on a tight budget, there are things you can do to cut your food costs and eat right, too.
One of the major factors in the grocery bill bloat is the cost of meat. Many low-carbohydrate diets ask that you eat large portions of beef, which can pump up your grocery bill 30 to 50 percent, says Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of nutrition and metabolic research at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego. The problem is that beef prices have shot up significantly because feed prices are through the roof.
To bolster you budget, buy meat on sale, try meatless meals at least two times a week and try stretching meats by using them with vegetables in stews or casseroles, experts say.
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Beans and lentils, whether canned or dried, make nutritious, hearty soups, and can be a main course with the addition of fresh vegetables or rice.
Brown Rice is also a great addition to leftover meat and veggies, the Diet Channel points out. Although brown rice costs a little more that white, the nutritional payoff makes it a bargain.
As for the daily meal, set aside regular time for meal planning, making your grocery list, and shopping. That way you avoid shopping on the fly and paying for for food than you need to.
Here are other suggestions for taming food costs gone wild:
- Since proteins come in all shapes and forms, if your diet calls for steak look for other ways to get the same protein, such as chicken and pork.
- Canned salmon offers the same benefits as fresh salmon, only cheaper.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season.
- Buy snacks in bulk and divide them into packs your family can take with them. Some people go as far as to ration snacks per family member to save even more money, but you might consider that a bit extreme.
- Use canola oil instead of the more expensive olive oil.
- Avoid high-priced meal-replacement bars, which not only drive up your budget but tend to be high in salt. Instead, eat real meals and put together your own snack packs of nuts and fruits.
- When fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, the frozen or canned variety usually offers good value.
- Buy sale items and buy in bulk.
- Buy local for fresher foods at better prices.
- Buy 90 percent lean ground beef instead of 95 percent lean; just make sure to drain the extra fat after cooking.
- Use canned fish and chicken for sandwiches, enchiladas, casseroles, and salads.
- Check higher or lower shelves for cheaper items because more expensive items are kept at eye-level.
- Watch for mistakes at the checkout line and always double check your receipt and change.
- Buy apples, oranges, grapefruit, potatoes, onions, etc., by the bag, not by the piece—it’s cheaper and will fill more lunch bags and cover more meals.
- Use soups, stews, chili, and spaghetti with sauce to stretch your food dollars further and make filling meals (more veggies and potatoes or rice, less meat.)
- Used dried milk powder for recipes, use fluid milk for drinking (choose skim or 1 pecent).
- Avoid the temptation of buying bagged/washed lettuce, cabbage and carrots; it costs more but you get less quantity.
- Buy block cheese and shred it yourself for recipes or slices for sandwiches.
- When buying organics, spend money on the foods that matter: foods which, according to the Environmental Working Group, suck in a lot of pesticides when grown using conventional farming methods: strawberries, peaches, sweet bell peppers, celery and lettuce. Vegetables and fruits with very low pesticide residues are onions, mangoes, asparagus, broccoli and eggplant. So whether you pick them up from the regular produce section or the organic aisle, your pesticide exposure is going to be low. The Environmental Working Group has a chart of the working group’s findings on 43 vegetables it tested.
For more tips on stretching your food dollars go to The Diet Channel.