10 Ways to Save Money on Food …
While Improving Your Quality of Life and Health
Americans spend over 12 percent of their annual paycheck on food. Of that, about 7 percent is spent on food at home, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
|Are you spending too much on food and still not eating healthy? Here’s how to cut costs and eat healthier, starting today.|
This is a significant portion of any family’s budget, one that can be tweaked considerably with a bit of food savvy. Even better, many of the same choices that will save you big bucks on your food budget will also help you to eat healthier, adding considerable benefits to your quality of life and health.
For instance, Americans spend over 5 percent of their annual paychecks on food away from home. But many restaurant meals will not only drain your wallet, they can pack in more calories than many adults need in an entire day (like the pasta carbonara with chicken from the Cheesecake Factory, which has 2,500 calories, or a bacon cheeseburger and large fries from Five Guys, which adds up to nearly 2,500 calories as well!).
The most important factor to remember: cutting back costs does not mean missing out on taste, sacrificing quality or enjoying your food less. If done wisely, you can save money while preparing delicious, nutritious food that will nourish your family’s health and taste buds at the same time!
Top 10 Money-Saving Strategies for Healthier Eating
1. Shop the Perimeter when in the Grocery Store
This is where you’ll generally find the lower priced, and healthier, staples like meat, produce and dairy. Processed foods are generally on the interior, along with enticing displays of expensive cookies, crackers and other packaged junk foods. By making a grocery list and only venturing into the grocery “danger zone” for those necessary items, you’ll have a easier time making sure only healthy whole foods make it into your shopping cart.
2. Plan Your Meals
Most families juggle school, work, after-school activities, social events, sports and more both during the week and on weekends. This means you may be very tempted to stop by the drive-through for a burger and fries and call it dinner. Instead, designate one day a week to plan out your meals for the next seven days, including the ingredients you’ll need. It only takes a few minutes to jot down what you’ll be feeding your family for the week, and you’ll be amazed at how making this simple list will keep you on track to eating healthy, budget friendly meals.
Be sure to plan your meals with simplicity in mind, taking advantage of, say, leftover baked chicken, to make chicken potpie or chicken salad the next night. Also consider doubling recipes, then freezing half to pull out for a quick weeknight meal in a couple of weeks. You can also freeze leftovers in small, individual-sized containers and take them out for lunches.
3. Be Smart When Eating Out
Most restaurant portions are large enough that you can easily cut back on costs by sharing an entrée or having the waiter box half of it up for you before he brings it to the table. This way you get two meals for the price of one and you save yourself from overeating as well.
You can also save money, and calories, by avoiding soda, juice or alcoholic beverages and asking for water with lemon instead. Not only will you save the cost of drinks, which for a family of four can add up, but you’ll also be doing your body a favor by avoiding excess sugar and alcohol.
4. Prepare More Food at Home
On average, a meal in a restaurant will have 20 percent more fat, and 15 percent more saturated fat, than a home-cooked meal, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It will also be higher in sodium and cholesterol and lower in calcium, fiber and iron. So eating at home is a simple way to eat healthier and also save money.
For those of you who adore cooking, you probably already enjoy your time in the kitchen. But for those who view meal preparation as a chore, you can make it much more fun by:
- Involving your kids. Think of simple meals your children can help prepare, like personal mini pizzas or quesadillas that they can top or fill with their choice of cheese and veggies.
- Starting a “meal club” with your friends. Each person makes a meal and prepares double, triple or more so that each group member gets their own meal. If you have seven members, and you each prepare a meal for seven families once a week, then swap meals, each members gets a weeks’ worth of home-cooked meals. The best types of dishes for this are stews, hearty soups, casseroles, lasagnas and other meals that keep well and serve a crowd.
- Cooking with friends. You can combine your social time with dinnertime by having a few friends over and making a meal together. Rotate hosts regularly or have each person bring a different course.
(Wondering what to do with your delicious left-overs? Leesa recommends bringing them with you for lunch the next day in Pranzo, your stylish, recycled leather lunchbag! Perfect for men and women! Visit www.healthyhighway.org/savvystylenew.html to learn more and order!)
5. Invest in a Few Quick and Easy, Tasty Healthy Recipe Books
Are you tired of eating the same meals day in and day out? Add to your cooking repertoire by trying out new recipes. There are easy, tasty, healthy Recipe Books to fit every need, from large families to cooking for one, casseroles to ethnic cuisine. If you’re looking for healthy and fast meals, one of our favorites is Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in 5 Minutes, or, if you have a sweet tooth or are cooking for someone on a gluten-free diet, try Gluten-Free French Desserts and Baked Goods — the recipes are so good!
(Leesa recommends The Pure Wraps! www.thepurewraps.com They are GLUTEN-FREE , taste delicious, and can be used at breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner!)
If cookbooks aren’t your style, keep in mind that there are countless online recipes that are free for the taking just by searching for recipes on Google.
6. Shop Locally
You may be able to cut your grocery bills simply by supporting local farmers. When you buy your food locally, at a farmer’s market or through a local food coop, you’re saving on transportation costs and encouraging your local economy. You’re also supporting small farms that favor sustainable agriculture.
Also, most sellers at farmer’s markets will have produce left that they can’t sell and would simply go to waste. If you don’t mind sorting through produce that may be a few days old and pulling out the “good stuff,” you can get high-quality veggies for nothing. Often, farmers will be glad to let you have it so they don’t have to haul it away.
If you’ll be storing larger quantities of produce in your fridge, an inexpensive MiniMate Refrigerator Unit can help extend the life of your fruits and veggies. The MiniMate deodorizes (replacing the backing soda boxes in the fridge), plus more importantly it also kills potentially dangerous food-born bacteria.
Using FDA-approved technology, the Minimate can eliminate most of the germs or mold that may be living on your foods without harming the food or leaving behind any residue. This helps to extend the freshness of your foods by up to four times, so the MiniMate not only keeps your food safer and healthier, it also saves you money by cutting down on the amount of food you have to throw out and replace.
7. Add More Fiber to Your Meals
Fiber is not only good for your health (it helps to lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more) but eating more of it is a simple way to satisfy your hunger, inexpensively.
High-fiber foods give you volume (making you feel full), plus they take longer to digest, so you feel satisfied for a longer time period. Tasty high-fiber foods that are also low in cost include many vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, brown rice, and beans.
8. Take Your Time When You Eat
It’s a proven fact that if you wolf your food down your body won’t have a chance to feel that it’s full (and in the meantime you may have reached for an unnecessary second portion). It actually takes about 20 minutes for your food to be digested enough that you begin to feel full.
If your family eats too fast, you may find that you’re eating more than necessary, leading to weight gain and also added food costs. So start out with a small portion and eat slowly (this includes taking the time to thoroughly chew each bite before swallowing it) and if you think you’re still hungry, wait about 20 minutes before deciding if you really want more.
9. Plant a Garden
When spring rolls around, pull out your green thumb and stock up on an assortment of veggie seeds and seedlings. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and herbs are all easy to grow, and many can even be grown in containers.
Even a small garden can provide enough produce to feed your family with a very small cost investment. Plus, you can’t find much healthier foods than garden-fresh, homegrown veggies.
10. Remember Convenience is Costly
Veggies and fruits that are cut, washed and ready-to-eat are almost always pricier than whole varieties. Same goes for “grill-ready” and pre-stuffed or marinated meats. You’ll usually also pay more for cheese from the deli counter than in the refrigerated section because it has to be sliced.
So when you’re trying to shop on a budget, choose whole carrots instead of baby carrots, a head of romaine lettuce instead of a ready-made salad, and fresh cuts of meat that you marinade yourself using healthy ingredients at home.
One caveat: if you’re always on the run and the convenience of ready-to-cook stir-fry veggies or pre-cut and washed broccoli increases the likelihood that you’ll cook at home, and snack and eat healthy, instead of going out for take-out, then the added cost may be worth it for you.