March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
A trip to the grocery store may cost you a bit more these days. With rising prices and falling budgets, it's more challenging than ever to bring home the fixings for balanced meals. Saving money at the supermarket doesn't mean giving up nutritious foods, however. Here are some tips to save you money while nourishing your family.
Get into a Frugal Frame of Mind
- Be healthier to be wealthier. Consider the money you'll save down the road by eating well today and teaching your family to make good food choices. Good nutrition means fewer days missed from work and school and fewer medical bills now and in the future.
- Expect to spend a little extra time buying groceries – at least at first. Making lists, checking store flyers and comparing unit prices on packages take time. Give it a few weeks, and you'll get faster.
- Keep a running grocery list. Each trip to the supermarket will cost you extra time and gas money. By keeping a list, you won't have to run out for single items. Plus, fewer trips to the grocery store means fewer impulse buys.
- Cook more meals at home. You get to control the ingredients, and you won't have the labor costs involved with restaurant meals. Low-fat milk at breakfast or snack time provides the nutrients your child needs.
- Serve appropriate portions, especially with higher-priced items like meats and cheeses. Save money and take care of your waist by not overeating. Stretch chicken breast by cutting them into thin cutlets. Add lentils or oats to extend ground meat.
- At least twice a week, do a 5-minute inventory of your refrigerator. Find a use for everything before it goes bad. Toss wilting vegetables into a pot of soup or spaghetti sauce. Freeze leftovers for another day and ripe bananas for banana bread or smoothies.
- Plan your menus around the sales. Planning is key. Review several supermarket flyers or look for their specials online. You'll save the most money on sales for meats. When creating your menus, have a plan for leftovers such as making sandwiches with leftover chicken or pot roast.
- Follow your favorite brands on Twitter and friend them on Facebook. You'll find some of your best bargains and coupons this way.
- Identify the foods you can prepare more cheaply at home. There's no need to buy prepared gelatin, pudding and tea when they're simple and inexpensive to make yourself.
- Grow your own. Plant tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce and more. Save money, have fun and get better flavor at the same time.
At the Grocery Store
- Use coupons only for foods you normally buy. Try to shop on double- and triple-coupon days.
- Invite the kids. Shop with your kids and show them how to choose healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Don't reward with candy.Don't use candy as a reward for your kids' good behavior while shopping.
- Stock up. Buy extra canned and frozen goods, cereals and even meats when they're on sale. Wrap meats in a freezer bag before freezing. Limit the use of pre-packaged foods, chips, cookies, candy, and soft drinks or sugary beverages.
- Buy generic. Store brands are often as good or better than the pricier name brand. Compare ingredients lists and Nutrition Facts panels.
- Check unit prices or prices per serving. Search high and low because often the least expensive items are on the top and bottom shelves.
- Use these high-nutrition, low-cost foods. Beans; lentils; sweet potatoes; white potatoes, eggs; peanut butter; canned salmon, tuna or crabmeat; oats; brown rice; barley; quinoa; frozen fruit and vegetables.