Woman with money cash and healthy food

Healthy natural food

If you are looking for ways to save money and amplify the nutritive value of your diet, listen up! While healthy food can be expensive, there are several tips to stretch that budget and shrink that waistline.

Meal planning is vital. When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, you must make a list after scanning your pantry and refrigerator for what you actually need. Without a list, it is easy to buy excess products and to indulge in those “impulse buys.” Plan your meals for the coming week and use those meals as a guide for making your list. Always buy what you are sure you will use and stick to your list. Straying from your list can be the difference between staying within your budget and exceeding it. Also, focus on shopping the perimeter of the store for the bulk of your products, as that is generally where you will find the nutritious, necessary items.

Cook at home. Eating out is expensive and the cost adds up quickly. Generally, you can feed a family of four at home for the same price as buying food for one or two people at a restaurant. You can cook for the entire week on the weekends or one meal at a time each day. Cooking large portions of food and using leftovers days later can be a successful strategy for many people eating healthy on a limited budget.

Don’t grocery shop while hungry. Cravings and impulse buying can take over without you being fully aware of it, leading to a deviation from your prepared list. Instead of buying the whole, fresh foods you intended, you might find snacks and sweets in your shopping cart. Instead, snack or eat before going to the grocery store so that you can focus on buying whole foods and stick to the list to save money. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and seeds to base your meals around. When possible, always look for the store brand or brands that are cheaper than the big brands. This can substantially save you money and the taste difference is often negligible.

Skip the junk food. Cutting out the junk food items you buy can save you money and improve your diet, which is a win-win! Items like soda, candy, cookies, crackers, frozen meals and processed foods are often expensive and offer little to no nutritional value. Ditch these types of foods as often as possible to improve your diet and save money.

Watch for sales and use coupons. Look for the best deals each time you are at the grocery store. Follow the sales and utilize cheaper cuts of meats in casseroles, stews, soups and burritos. Also, don’t forget that nonmeat protein is protein, too. Legumes such as seeds and beans, tofu, eggs and canned fish can not only fulfill protein needs in meals, they are healthy and less expensive as well.

Use produce that is currently in season. Produce can be pricey but can be effectively navigated on a budget as well. To do this, buy only the produce that is in season at the time of purchase. This produce is generally cheaper and offers optimal nutritional value. If you choose to buy more than you can consume in the short-term, freeze the excess so that it doesn’t spoil. This will ensure that no food goes to waste and you get maximum utilization of your produce. As a backup plan to fresh produce, you can supplement your needs with frozen fruits and veggies if their price is more reasonable.

Buy bulk. Another price tactic that can be used in effective meal budgeting and prepping is bulk buying of ingredients. Grains such as brown rice, millet, barley, oats and dried fruits are all available in bulk. These items in bulk are typically offered at a very low price.

Enable these strategies in your life to save money and improve your health today! 

Aaron Stonelake is the nutritionist for the Kern County Public Health Services Department. For more on health resources and programs, go to www.kernpublichealth.com.

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