Having a budget can add a challenge to grocery shopping. If you track how much your household spends on food, you may notice how quickly the costs add up. No matter your budget, big or small, there is no need to sacrifice nutrition for a good price. Using a few simple strategies, eating healthful and tasty meals does not have to cost a fortune.
Smartphones are a great tool for grocery shopping. Along with loyalty cards, many stores now have apps with digital coupons. After downloading, save coupons with a tap of a button. Then, enter your phone number at checkout. That’s it. These apps are not only great because they are paper free, but you can search for savings any time. Locally, Piggly Wiggly, Pick ‘n Save, and Target offer coupons on their app. Some store apps even have a digital shopping list that provides you with total price estimates.
Whether you use an app or prefer pen and paper, write a shopping list with exactly what you need. With a list in hand, gone are the days of forgetting an ingredient, only to run to the store and walk out with a cart full of impulse buys. But a shopping list is only worthwhile if you know what you need. Planning meals limits the amount of food bought but uneaten and also allows you to repurpose ingredients. For example, if you planned grilled chicken, you can shred leftover meat for easy chicken tacos to bring for lunch the next day.
Along with planning, “meal prepping” has become a trend, but not without merit. Doing some work early, like cutting veggies or cooking rice, can save time cooking later. Having quick meals at home reduces the urge to stop for fast food out of convenience. Cooking at home is cheaper, and with a little planning ahead it can be just as easy.
Meat can be pricy, but that does not mean you need to go vegetarian. Plan to have a meatless meal once a week or swap a portion of meat for a veggie in a recipe. For example, when making hamburgers, swap half of the ground beef for lentils. Not only are they cheaper, but lentils are lower in saturated fat and help keep the burger juicy.
Finally, do not forget the farmers’ market. Produce has the most nutrients right after it is picked, and a visit to the farmers’ market is a great way to stock up for cheap. When your favorite produce is not in season, opt for frozen or canned at the store. Nutrients in frozen and canned produce are equal to fresh, last longer, and are cheaper. When choosing canned produce, find veggies without added salt and fruits in their own juice or water, not syrup.
Next time you head to the store, try out one of the strategies and find your favorite way to eat healthful meals no matter your budget.
-Samantha Borghammer is a WIC intern and dietetic student at Auburn University