You can eat well on a budget

April 23, 2013|Lynn Little

Planning ahead is the key to saving time and money. This means preparing a food budget, planning meals, and sticking to your plan.

 Using good strategies at home and at the store can help you save money. By planning ahead and managing your money wisely, you can serve meals, which are appetizing, easily prepared and nutritious.   

Most of us can change our food spending habits in ways that make each food dollar go further and still improve nutrition. Before heading to the grocery store it is important to do your homework. Take the time to review newspaper ads, plan meals, and make a shopping list. By doing so, you are more likely to find the best buys, avoid impulse purchases, and eliminate extra trips for forgotten items.

Be a smart shopper and get more for your money by deciding in advance what foods to serve for meals and snacks. As you plan your menus, follow these important steps:

  •  Check newspaper ads for special sales. Planning your meals around specials and seasonal foods can help save money. Compare advertised prices among stores to find where you can save the most on your entire shopping list. Be aware that specials and coupon offers invite you to buy impulsively. Even at special prices and with refunds or coupons, some foods might not be within your budget.

  •  Clip coupons. You can save money if the item is one you would normally buy and if the item is less expensive than similar brands. Do not use a coupon to justify buying a food that your family does not need or that costs more than a store brand, even with the coupon savings.

  •  Take advantage of seasonal specials. Foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, are generally less expensive when in great supply.
  •  Consider food preferences. When you serve popular foods, you increase eating pleasure. Make a collection of economical, nutritious recipes that your family likes and serve these often.
  •  Think appetite appeal. Because we eat with our eyes, plan meals using foods of contrasting colors, textures, flavors, sizes and shapes.
  •  Plan the use of leftovers. When safely handled, leftovers can be used in casseroles, soups, for snacks, and in lunch boxes. Encourage family members to help in menu planning and meal preparation so you will have help in making decisions that affect the eating pleasure of the entire family.
  •  Make a shopping list. One of the best ways to control spending and avoid impulse buying is to make a list of the items you need and shop from that list. Keep an ongoing list and jot down items as your supply gets low. Organize your list according to the store layout. This will save you time and reduce the temptation to buy foods not on your list.

If you are willing to do a little planning and preparation, you can stock your kitchen with nutrient-packed foods that won't break the bank.

For more tips and ideas, visit www.choose and search for Eating Better on a Budget.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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