Many families are concerned about the rising cost of food. If you are struggling to put food on the table without breaking the bank, here are a few tips on low-cost, healthy shopping/eating.
Know the amount of money you have to spend on food. Remember that non-food items should come from a different budget. If these are combined, make you know how much money you have to spend in each category. These may include items such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaners, laundry items etc. If you use your food budget for all of this, it reduces the amount of food that can be purchased.
Make your shopping list based on the amount of money you have to spend. This will help you keep your budget intact and even save money by carefully selecting items.
Check what foods you already have. This may include meals from leftovers, foods in your pantry, foods from gardens, etc. We lose money whenever we toss food because it spoiled before we got around to eating it. If leftovers get tossed because they're left too long, you are putting money in the garbage can. For example: If wilted lettuce is often tossed, make more salads at the first of the shopping week rather than let sit. Leftover mashed potatoes make excellent potato patties, or potato soup. Use overripe bananas in banana bread or smoothies. Add the leftover fresh spinach to your smoothie and it makes it even healthier without changing the taste.
When planning meals, read the grocery store ads for sale items. Base your meals on these items, especially expensive items such as meat. Look for coupons, sales and store specials.
Avoid costly convenience foods. These are usually very expensive per unit and many can be made at home from fresher ingredients, reduces the salt and fat intake. Learn to cook from scratch.
For added savings, sign up for the store discount card, if available in your store.
Don't shop when you are hungry. Everything looks good on an empty stomach. It is easier to stick to your shopping list when you are not hungry than looking for something to tide you over until you get home. Oftentimes, this is when high calorie snack foods seem to jump into the cart. A hungry stomach encourages impulse spending.
Try store brands. They usually cost less but not always. Again, check the unit price.
Compare products for the best deal. Look at the price per unit. This will often tell you what the best price is for this product. Most stores have this information inserted at the front of the shelf.
Check sell by dates. Buy the freshest food possible. It lasts longer.
Compare forms of food. Buy a lower-cost form of the product if it will do as well. For example, canned tomatoes are usually cheaper than whole fresh tomatoes and can be used for stews and sauces. Drained diced tomatoes do well on tacos and taste fresher because they have been preserved at the height of their ripeness.
Purchase only what you can safely store and use before it spoils.
Read food labels. They are helpful in showing the nutritional value such as the number of calories, grams of fat, protein and carbohydrate as well as amounts of vitamins and minerals per serving. Note the number of servings in each can or package.
Store food right away to preserve freshness.
Freeze food to prevent spoiling.
Divide foods into small portions for children and elderly to prevent waste.
Use foods with the earliest expiration dates first.
For more information on this or any other related topic, please contact the Utah State University Extension office at 381-3539 for Christine Jensen or 381-3538 for Dennis Worwood.