Bean it up. Americans average almost nine ounces of meat per person per day, accounting for a third of your food dollars. (31) Switch to beans - kidney, navy, garbanzo and more - a couple of times a week and you’ll save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year! Plus - legumes are rich in fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and protein! (32)
One exception is omega-3-rich seafood, including the omega-3s EPA and DHA in the diet, which support heart, brain and eye health. Many foods are fortified with EPA and DHA. Read labels and look for deals. (7-28)
Processed = Pricey
Highly-processed items aren’t as inexpensive as they look. Next time you are at the grocery store, do a little cost comparison. You will find that a pound of potatoes in the produce section is cheaper than a pound of frozen hash browns. A small bag of potato chips seems cheap, but price those chips by the pound and they add up to the cost of a steak! If you’re a typical American, you may contribute to the 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips eaten each year in the U.S. Switch to oranges and you’ll save money on snacks alone! Even with vegetables, choose the least packaged. For example, a head of leaf lettuce is less expensive than a bag of prepackaged salad mix. (29,30)
10 Cheap ‘n Fast Tricks
- Follow these tried-and-true cost- or time-saving tips and you might just shave enough money off your yearly food bill to take a vacation!
- Buy less expensive produce. Apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, cabbage and onions are usually less expensive year around. Use the more expensive mangos, arugula, or papaya to garnish an occasional dish.
- Buy in bulk. Oatmeal, rice, nuts, tea, dried fruit, spices and seasonings, sugar, and many other dry goods are available in bulk bins at supermarkets, health food stores, discount groceries, and food co-ops. You can buy the exact amount you need AND cut costs.
- Buy in season. Raspberries might cost $10 a basket in March, but enjoy them for as little as $2 in July. Or, freeze extra in the summer for winter use.
- Think quantity. Make extra servings of a stir-fry, stew, soup, or grilled chicken and freeze in individual containers for future quick-fix instant dinners. Freeze batches of basic sauces, such as tomato-based sauce or low-fat creamed sauces. These can be thawed and seasoned for instant meals.
- Grow your own. If you have the space and time, there is nothing fresher and more rewarding than lettuce, carrots, corn, or other vegetables straight from the garden. You’re also likely (and so are the kids) to eat more produce when you grow your own.
- Visit farmer’s markets. Locally grown produce often is less expensive and fresher than store bought.
- Bring food with you. Pack your purse, briefcase, glove compartment, diaper bag, or desk drawer with low-fat cheese, peanut butter, whole wheat breads, oranges, apples, carrot sticks, cartons of omega-3-fortified milk, and other nutritious, low-cost foods so you’re less tempted by expensive junk at the vending machine or drive-up window.
- What will you really eat? Take a hard look at your food wastes. If you buy fresh pineapple or peaches, but throw out more than you eat, then purchase canned fruit (in its own juice), which can sit on the shelf longer. Bottled lemon juice might be more cost-efficient than the real thing if you usually end up tossing the moldy lemon.
- Eat at home. We’re spending 44 percent of our food dollars in restaurants these days, where food choices are higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, salt and/or sugar and far higher in cost than homemade food. (33)
- Store it right. Store vegetables, such as peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green onions, and lettuce, in the crisper bin. Artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, corn, and mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator, not the crisper.
Enjoy That Vacation!
You’d probably jump at the chance to save on your taxes this year. Well, you can do the same on your annual food bill, even when you buy nutritious items. The benefits to your health and waistline mean you will spend less on medical bills, too. That means you’ll have more money and energy to enjoy that vacation!