Choose Wisely When Food Shopping on a Budget

Grocery Shopping

Image by Bruce A Stockwell via Flickr

With a little planning and effort, choosing foods at the grocery store can be simplified while still saving money and keeping nutritional values up.

Food for the week (or more) depends on how wisely you choose at the grocery store. The first step is planning nutritious menus before you go to the store. Make sure you keep in mind store specials and any coupons you use. Decide on the amount of money to spend based on your budget or food plan.

Then the next step is shopping carefully to assure that what you will have at home is nutritious, tasty, and stays within your allowance – this is no small task.

  • Try to shop only once a week or less frequently. The more you go to the store the more you will likely spend on food and other products.
  • Don’t go to the store hungry. You will probably buy much more than you need. Try to leave young children in the care of others while you shop.
  • Compare the cost of small and large containers of the same product. In most cases the larger size will be more economical. However, it will be more expensive if you won’t use it or don’t have room for it.
  • Consider the cost of convenience foods, that is, foods that are already prepared versus those you have to prepare yourself. For example, can you season the rice at home rather than buying packaged herb rice?  On the other hand, some foods such as cake mixes may be cheaper when found on special than making a cake from scratch. However, look at the ingredients and see whether any food coloring or additives are included, which are less desirable.
  • You gain a great deal of information by reading labels. The ingredient list will give you information about a product’s sugar, sodium, and fat content. Ingredients on labels are listed in descending order according to weight. Therefore, if sugar is the first item on the list, you know it is high in sugar.
  • Choose whole-grain bread and cereal products over white bleached flour products.
  • If you are buying canned fruits, buy those in their own juice rather than those with sweetened juice.
  • Make sure fruit juices are 100 per cent juice. Fruit drink and punches have too much sugar added.
  • Many canned soups, sauce mixes and packaged entrees have high sodium. Do you really need them?
  • Nobody needs pop or soda or cola, or whatever the regional dialect calls it – too much sugar!
  • Encourage the drinking of water. Flavor it, if necessary, with lemon or other fruits.
  • Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are usually less expensive in season and are higher in quality. If you can’t choose these fresh, then buy them canned or frozen. If possible, compare the cost of fresh, frozen, canned, and dried forms of the same food.
  • Many snack foods are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.  See whether you can find lighter versions that contain less of these components. Or, just eliminate them from your shopping. If they are not in the house, they won’t be a temptation.
  • Try the “Meatless Monday” schedule for awhile. This promotes healthier eating by emphasizing fruits, vegetables and alternative sources of protein such as beans and lentils that are free from saturated fats. Reducing meat consumption has been shown to provide many benefits, including limiting cancer risk, reducing risk of heart disease, as well as helping to fight obesity and curb diabetes. Chances are, you will not miss having meat at your meals for one day. Besides, meats are usually the most costly foods in a meal and make a huge ecological imprint on our planet.

When you shop for food you have lots of important decisions to make. Wise shopping is not just a matter of spending as little as you can. It means getting the most value for your money while keeping the health benefits of foods at  center stage.

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Specialist
http://HealthyKidsEatingTips.com

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Comments

  1. Great article! A lot of these tips can really help me. Several times I went grocery shopping on an empty stomach (same goes for when I’m in a very bad mood) and I end up spending more than double of my initial budget. Tsk. It seems like I’m taking out my hunger/misery on all those grocery items thinking they will make me feel better. I just become so impulsive beyond reason and control. Grrr.

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