Eating healthy can be done on a budget

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By Sherri Halsell
Texas AgriLife Agent

You do not need to spend a future to eat healthy. You just need to change your grocery shopping habits. To help keep the cost of food down focus on MyPlate foods first when making your grocery list then add a few extras. Make a grocery list and check the store circular for specials and coupons before you go to the store. Remember the old saying “Don’t go to the grocery store hungry”, it leads to impulse buying of items that you do not need.

Fruits and vegetables:  Visualize the MyPlate model, half your plate is fruits and vegetables. If half of every meal should be vegetables and fruits, then half the grocery cart should be, right? Buy “in season” and “on sale” produce. They are usually less expensive and are at their best in flavor. If the produce is not fresh, opt for frozen vegetables and fruits as well as dried fruits.  Frozen and dried foods last longer.  Healthier choices include frozen vegetables without sauces and dried fruits without added sugar or reduced sugar. Salad dressings often have a long shelf-life, so buy them when they are on sale.

Whole Grains: Next, go to the bulk food the aisle with whole grain products.  Whole grains give a feeling of fullness, which helps you eat less; therefore you spend less for meals. For the best bargains buy bulk products like whole grain pasta, brown rice, couscous and cereals. If you are new to shopping the bulk food aisle, ask for help.

Dairy: Next the dairy section. Keep your dairy selections low fat, skim, or fat free unless you have children under the age of two. There will be no price savings but you will decrease the amount of cholesterol and fat in your family’s diet. It is best to read the cost per unit on the store’s price signs or take a calculator to figure the unit price. The “Unit Price” (or “unit cost”) tells you the cost per liter, per kilogram, per pound, etc, of what you want to buy. Just divide the cost by the quantity: 16 ounces for $3.80 is 24 cents per ounce. Dairy products are perishable and you don’t want to buy a large container of an item that will expire before you have time to use it all.  Check out the store brand prices for cheese, milk and yogurt, they tend to be the best deals.

Proteins: Finish up with proteins. Keep in mind canned and dried beans and peas are excellent sources of protein and per serving are often are more affordable than meats and seafood.  If you are shopping for proteins that are going to be eaten the same or next day, the “reduced for quick sale” items can be a good choice beef, chicken, or pork. Always check the expiration date on the price sticker. Buying large packages can cost less per pound and can be separated into smaller portions, placed in freezer bags and frozen for later use. Other affordable proteins are canned tuna (or other fish), peanut butter and eggs.

Use the extras sparingly. Buy healthy fats for cooking such as canola oil and olive oil. When cooking make you meals healthier by using less oil and butter and you’ll save money. Snacks should include fruits and vegetables, sweet snacks like cookies, crackers, chips, candy, and ice cream are fun treats so they should be saved for special occasions. Including them regularly adds up to excess spending and excess calories. Keep your budget in mind; visualize the MyPlate and keep a calculator handy when you shop for groceries to ease your grocery bill.

Reference: Fresh Baby. Shopping MyPlate on a Budget: n. pag.Online.Internet. 4 June 2014. Available here.

For more information, contact Sherri Halsell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Clay County agent, at (940) 538-5042.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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