* Buy fresh produce: you know what you’re eating
* Become a label reader: and buy products with simple names and fewer ingredients
* Plan ahead: it makes healthy cooking easier
* Put a name and face to your food: get to know your local farmers and food providers
Eating Healthily Without Busting Your Budget
By Andrea King Collier
So you have committed to feeding your family healthier food. But when you make your way down the aisles you find that adding the fresh produce, and the organics, along with the whole grain breads to the cart, you see your grocery bill go through the roof. But you can still eat healthily without breaking the bank!
Here are a few tips for stretching your healthy food budget:
* Give up the junk. For every healthy food you buy, give up things like cartons of soda. The average family spends nearly $1,000 on sodas and sugary drinks a year. Cut it out and find a significant dollar amount to the money you can spend on healthier choices.
* Understand what it means to buy organic. Produce with the organic label can come with a price tag that is 50 to 100 percent higher than a non-organic produce, they don’t always give you a big a bang for your buck. Experts say that if you have to pick and choose, go for organic apples, strawberries, celery, cherries, and grapes to name a few. But if your budget can’t take the strain, buy traditional produce but take the extra time to wash it thoroughly to remove any residual pesticides.
* Don’t overbuy. When thinking about food costs, think about the food waste of buying more produce than your family can eat in a week. The average family throws out hundreds of dollars in food each year.
* Consider partnering. Buying in bulk can benefit not just large families but families that go in together to get more for their spending dollars. Also look at co-ops and CSAs for fresh produce.
* Buy in season. Strawberries that are out of season in your area, are not only more expensive, but they don’t taste as good as the produce that is fresh and in season.
* Shop the sales and use your freezer. If carrots and celery are on sale, think about buying a quantity and taking them home to freeze. Clean them, cut them up, blanch them and put them in usable portion sizes for the freezer. You can even puree tomatoes or carrots, drop them into ice cube containers. Then take the cubes and put them in freezer bags for soups and casseroles.
* Rethink fresh. Sometimes frozen fruits and vegetables go on sale. Stock up. Of course the best food source is one that comes from your local farmers. But sometimes the next best thing are vegetables that are frozen within hours of picking.
* Cook what’s on sale. Have a list of what you need when you go to the grocery store, to keep you on track, but have a little flexibility in shopping what’s on sale.
* Get more bang for your food buck if you are using SNAP benefits. Many farmer’s markets and groceries allow you to use your EBT cards and SNAP benefits to purchase your produce. Many cities even have programs that give you a “bonus” allotment for purchasing fresh produce at the farmer’s markets. Say, you spend $10 on produce using your EBT card, participating markets can give you another $10 in produce, making your food budget go farther more healthily.
* Grow your healthy food budget by getting out in the garden. Grow your herbs, and your own produce. You may not be able to grow all of it, but every little bit helps.
* Get cooking. Often, cooking one healthy nutritious dinner can yield several meals later. Cooking at home can be a big savings over ordering carry out or taking your family out several times a week. It’s certainly healthier.