[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left]As Americans struggle to cope with these tough economic times, family budgets are being stretched tight to pay for housing, utilities, shopping, and travel. Food prices have been affected as well and many people are finding it hard to maintain a healthy diet. When you throw in busy schedules, it becomes incredibly difficult to avoid the processed, packaged, “easy” foods. But we don’t have to spend a lot of time at the grocery store or spend a lot of money to make healthy purchases. By carefully researching and budgeting, you can provide yourself and your family with a nutritious meal that everyone will enjoy.
In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service studied the prices of produce throughout the country. They concluded that a person who needs 2,000 calories per day could meet the dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables for under $2.50 per day. That number may be a little higher in 2012, but you could probably still do it for under $4 or $5 per day with little effort.
With that in mind, you can take some important steps toward providing your family with healthy food, without spending a lot of time or money doing so. First of all, let’s talk about portion control. Portion control doesn’t only include the times you’re actually eating. You can plan for purchasing out of season items without paying exorbitant prices by selecting canned or frozen vegetables.
Portion control may also include planning your meals. It doesn’t take much time to plan your meals in advance, and it will also save you time and money. If you plan your meals for the week, you’ll have a list of everything you need to purchase. Then you can make one trip to the store and purchase everything at once. This will eliminate multiple trips which not only results in less time to spend with your family, but may also lead to additional purchases you don’t really need. You can also check out your local farmers market or a community supported garden. Not only do they offer quality produce at affordable prices, but the produce is grown near where you live which is a great health benefit.
Grocery stores have such a wide variety to choose from and with so many choices you can become overwhelmed. Follow these suggestions to make it easier on yourself:
- Don’t shop when you are hungry or you will be more likely to purchase extra items that are less nutritious.
- Make a list and stick to it. You will spend less money and won’t have to worry about returning to the store because you forgot something.
- Save time by organizing your list according to the layout of the store. This will not only save you time but energy as well.
- Check the store flyer for specials and plan your trip when the items you need are on sale.
- Buy frozen vegetables, use what you need, and freeze the rest. You can also buy fresh produce that lasts longer in the refrigerator such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, etc.
- Buy your fruit in bags. It costs less and you will get more fruit for your dollar.
- Shop the bulk bins so you can buy in smaller quantities in addition to producing less waste.
- Ask your butcher for a smaller amount of prepackaged items. Serve the recommended portion size and you will cut back on the amount of meat you need. Portion recommendation is the size of a deck of cards.
- Buy bread and separate out what you will use right away and freeze the rest for use later.
Finally, here are some additional suggestions for saving time and money:
- Find easy one pot recipes that don’t use hard to find or expensive ingredients.
- Use coupons found in the paper or on couponing websites – this could save you up to 15% on your grocery bill.
- Go meatless for a meal or two each week.
- Keep leftovers in the refrigerator in airtight containers so they last longer and use them within a few days.
Eating right can be easy and doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. With a little bit of planning you can create a healthy, nutritious meal for just a few dollars. Simple adjustments to your kitchen and habits will save you time, energy, and money – and in the end those savings will show up in your pocketbook!