Last week in our parent cooking class we talked about how to save money AND make healthier choices while shopping at your local grocery. We wanted to share these tips with you and ask what your favorite tricks for buying healthy wholesome food on a budget?
- Don’t shop hungry.
When you shop hungry, you are more likely to make impulse purchases. These options are often processed, ready-to-eat, and less nutritious.
- Make a menu and a shopping list.
Plan your meals for the week. By doing this you will save money by minimizing your unplanned purchases since you know how one meal can become the building blocks for another, plus you'll save time at the store. Planning ahead also helps you waste less food because you know how much you need of each item and you'll be more set up to use leftovers smartly. (Here's a great article about menu planning for a busy family: http://simplemom.net/how-to-menu-plan/).
- Variety matters so "eat the rainbow."
There are lots of amazing nutrients to be found in fruits and vegetables. The more variety you eat, the more likely you are to get a balance of the nutritional benefits you need. So, eat as many different colors as you can! Try swapping a different fruit/vegetable into your regular recipes. Here's a great coloring page for your kids to connect to the idea of eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables: http://www.celebratehealthyeating.org/pdf/spr/DAN_EatRainbow.pdf
- Live on the edge.
Grocery stores are built in a way where the healthy, fresh food is along the edge of the store. That's because it has to be moved in and out more quickly than the shelf-stable, more processed items in the center aisles. Keep this in mind and walk around the perimeter of the store for most of your items. The one exception? Dry stored bulk items like beans, peanut butter, nuts, and rice which are great healthy pantry staples.
- Compare unit prices to save money.
Look at the unit price listed next to the actual price, then compare the package weight to see how much you are paying for each unit of weight. If the unit price is higher but the actual price is the same, you’re paying more for less! Here’s a great video lesson on HOW TO read and compare unit prices: http://connect.extension.iastate.edu/p85598208/
- Buy store brand/generic.
Store brand and generic food is often the same quality as brand name food. You can save yourself lots of money by buying generic. Just look at the unit price differences!
- Walk to the supermarket when you can.
When making smaller trips to the supermarket, walking is a great way to minimize extra purchases. Since you can only carry so much, you are more likely to remember what you really need and be a savvier shopper.
- Check your receipts.
Make sure you are getting the right price for your food. There are so many items being scanned, it is easy to make a mistake or miss a special deal.
- Shop Seasonally.
Use coupons and store flyers to help you find seasonal deals. Many store flyers will promote fresh items like fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Or they'll have a weekly special on a kind of meat that they've got a lot of. Shopping seasonally is a great way to save money.
- Shop your local Farmer’s Market.
Not only is a great education, it's a fun way to make grocery shopping into more of a fun field trip. A Farmer’s Market let’s you develop a relationship directly with the person who is growing your food. This is an important element of the food system that's lost because it creates greater accountability and transparency for the farmers and greater understanding and owners on the part of consumers. A local farmer's market can also be a great place to save money. Ask the farmer what’s in season and what’s the best deal right now. You're more likely to get the best deal towards the end of the day when they want to move their inventory. Bartering isn’t typical in most consumer settings in the US but at the Farmer’s Market it’s acceptable since you’re usually dealing directly with the person who grew the food. You can even join a Community Support Agriculture project right here in East Harlem, find out more here. Or use Local Harvest's tool to find farmer's markets in your neighborhood!