Making smart choices saves money. Evaluate how you spend your money on food. What unnecessary items do you purchase? Do you eat out often? The first way to save money on food is to limit or cut out unnecessary food spending. Some specific ways to do this:
Cut the junk.
Evaluate how much money you are spending on items such as soda (regular or diet), cookies, crackers, prepackaged meals, processed foods, etc. Limit or completely cut out these unhealthy foods. Your wallet and your body will thank you.
Eat out less. Even just reducing your meals out by 1 or 2 times per week can save you about $15 – $25 per week. This is an easy way to save money and even have some extra to spend on higher quality foods.
Stick to your grocery list.
The more prepared you are when you get to the store the less impulse purchases you will make. So write out a grocery list and stick to it!
Shop the perimeter of the store first.
This way you will fill your cart with healthy whole foods like fresh produce and meat, leaving less room for the “junk food fillers” and thus saving money.
Cook large portions. It saves time to cook once and eat multiple times. One idea is to make a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week or whenever you go food shopping. When you don’t feel like cooking, help yourself to a hearty bowlful along with a green salad. This makes a nutritious but inexpensive lunch or dinner anytime.
Beware of hidden sugars.
Many packaged or processed foods contain high levels of hidden sugar. They may be easy to prepare and fill your family up for cheap, but too much sugar causes rapid swings in energy and blood sugar, and can contribute to many serious health problems. Hidden sugar may be listed as corn syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, cane juice, fructose, dextrose, or maltose. Avoid foods such as instant mashed potatoes, white bread, canned soups and vegetables, refined pasta, and sugary cereals. Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
Know your good carbs from your bad carbs
Healthy carbs (sometimes known as good carbs) include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, providing long-lasting energy and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Unhealthy carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and only short-lived energy.
Purchasing the healthiest food possible
When eating on the cheap it is still important to think about the quality/purity of the food you purchase. How foods are grown or raised has an impact on their quality and an impact your health. Organically grown food reduces the potential health and environmental hazards posed by pesticides, genetically modified food, irradiation, and additives. An investment in your food now could save you money on health bills later.
The conventional grocery store is not the only place to buy food. Many other venues may offer a significantly cheaper way to purchase food. Search out different types of stores and markets in your area and compare prices. It can save you a lot of money.
Discount stores. Warehouse or club stores like Costco and Sam’s offer great bargains. Just be sure to only purchase what you will use. Seasonal produce is often cheaper at these stores, as are foods such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts and reduced-fat cheese. Due to the very large portions you will need to carefully plan how you will use all of the food to avoid waste. It can be helpful to freeze some products in smaller, more manageable portion sizes.
Search out Farmers’ Markets. Many cities, as well as small towns, host weekly Farmers’ Markets. Local farmers bring their wares to specific locations, typically open-air street markets, and sell fresh food directly to you, often for less than you’d pay in the grocery store or supermarket. If you go towards the end of the market, some venders may sell their remaining perishable items at a discount. Bonus: you are supporting your local economy, the environment, and it’s a great opportunity to socialize and get to know like-minded people in your neighborhood who might want to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) group or start a buying club with you.
Ethnic markets and corner stores are worth looking into. Many of them feature an impressive, affordable selection of fruits and vegetables, as well as some other products.
Purchase generic/store brands. When you shop at conventional grocery stores, compare the unit prices on items. Often the store brand or generic brand will be cheaper than the name brand for the same quality product. Also, join the savings clubs to save some additional money.