After monthly installment loan (mortgage or car loan), the next big item most people spend each month is actually food. So, if one is living on tight budget, spending less on food will help to save some money. Cutting back on food expenses does not necessarily mean sacrificing good nutrition. In fact, some people think that good eating habits are costly. They link healthy eating habit with expensive organic food package sold nowadays in supermarket. You can still be healthier with proper meals planning and shopping.
If you want to eat healthy on budget, here are some good tips:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. In fact, if you look at food pyramid, grains, vegetables and fruits are important. Unfortunately, most of us plan our meals around meat. The better way is actually to eat less meats and eat more vegetables.
- Fruits play an important role in healthy eating habits. Most of them are affordable. However, you can save money if you buy fruits in season. For example, orange is cheaper in the winter and apples are less costly in the fall.
- Try eating vegetarian dishes occasionally, to cut down on meat costs. Go for beans which provide much protein and fiber.
- Eating at home can save much money. Spaghetti with a drink could cost about $10, but only few dollar if you prepare it at home. If you include the government tax or tips to waiter, eating out long term can be very expensive.
- I have a friend who spend much money on fast food every month yet he still thinks that burger and soda are still cheaper than a normal meal. Fast foods are high in salt and fat. Avoid fast food if possible.
- Eat the right portions. In other words, do not overeat.
- Some people often have leftover food each meal and they normally throw it away. Depending on the type of food, you can freeze the leftover food and keep it for 2 to 3 days.
- When I was studying in overseas, I cooked soups for my dinner. Soups are actually very inexpensive and nutritious.I often dump my leftover meat or bones into it with some carrots, onions, potato and tomato or even corn. My mum called it “Vitamin A B C soup”. With some pepper, this soup tastes very delicious. You can add your own herbs and spices for experiments to get the soup you like.
- The other thing I used to do when I was cooking for myself is to have one-pot dishes. I dump everything inside. Save time and money. Easy for dish washing too. Ahem. So, for single folks, learn this trick.
- You may often receive many fliers from supermarkets. Some give coupon for discounts. While few are really good deals, most are just gimmick to get you buy other unnecessary items especially junk food. For example, you may be tempted with $1 off coupon for a box of ice cream. Do not buy it just because you have a coupon.
- Shop at hypermarket or farmer’s market. Forget about convenience stores.
- Some hypermarkets are offering store brands.I for once thought that they are lower quantity, but later realized that some offer similar quality as like expensive brand names. One very good example is eggs which are $1 difference for a dozen.
- I have a friend working at hypermarket. He told me that hypermarket tend to place the highest priced brand name items at eye level. Items at lower or higher normally are cheaper.
- Also, he told me that the best time do shopping is actually during weekdays mid of month. The companies tend to increase the pricing early of the month when many people have received paychecks.
- Never shop on an empty stomach. Best time to do it is after your dinner.
- Apart from that, I suggest you to identify the list of to-buy items before you go shopping so that you will not make any impulsive purchase. Check your refrigerator before you write that list. I don’t want you to buy food you may still have.
- One interesting thing is that, if my wife or I go shopping alone, unhealthy items tend to end up in the shopping cart. However, if we go together, we keep each other in check. However, for those with kids, going to store with them may make you end up buying sweets or ice cream. In a nutshell, discipline is important, regardless whom you do grocery shopping with.
- While you may find some on sale item are cheap, make sure that they are fresh. Food on sale is sometimes old stuff or nearing expiration date. I once bought milk at half price and then found out that it was expiring 2 days later.
- Buy in bulk. But, do it only when it makes sensefor non-perishable items like canned food, dried beans and grains. For example, instead of buying a small packet of rice, buy a huge packet which you scoop out as much as you want for another few months.
- Normally, the unit price is cheaper when you buy in bulk. Most supermarket provides the unit pricing at the price tag. It is normally written in smaller character right below the price. I found that unit pricing is very helpful to determine the best deal if the food is sold in different packages.
- Talking about buying in bulk, make sure those are food your family often eat so that they will not be spoiling. Otherwise, you actually waste money and food.
- Also, beware that buying in bulk may lead you to overeat. So, make sure you store the food so that it will not get eaten too quickly. Of course, given a choice, you should not compromise on the quality of your food. Fresh food is better than frozen food and frozen is better than canned food. Canned food should only be used as handy additions to last-minute meals.
- Last but not least, bring a calculator next time when you are doing grocery shopping. Add up how much are your items before you pay the cashier to make sure they are within your budget.
As you can see, many ways for you to eat on budget. It takes a little planning, work and experience to save you money. I am not asking to be too stingy or too hard to yourself. You can still have days when you have food in restaurant or spoil yourself with scoops of ice cream. But if you consider much money you can save and cooking adventures you can have, you will be happy to see what you have accomplished one day.
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