15 Ways To Eat Smart in the New Year
That’s the sound of your food budget reaching the boiling point when you eat healthy.
Or is it?
Many people associate choosing healthier food options with shelling out more money. In some cases, it’s true—organic fruits and vegetables are usually more expensive. But like everything else that we consume, it pays to be smart about how you purchase your groceries. This is the year to make some simple changes that will not only help you save some hard-earned dollars, but also shave some calories, too!
Adopt one or several of the following 15 Smart Food Strategies to help you and your family eat healthy without breaking the bank.
1. Do a review of your food inventory.
Before compiling your grocery list and making the trip to the store, look inside your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to find out what foods and ingredients you have on hand that can be eaten as a meal or part of a meal. You’ll likely find many items that you tucked away. Breadcrumbs and canned tomatoes? Pick up some eggplant and make a delicious eggplant Parmesan. Brown rice and salsa? Pick up some peppers and onions and whip up a Mexican-inspired rice dish.
2. Eat out less often.
This is a no-brainer since eating out can get expensive very quickly. By cooking at home more, you save money and have control of what goes into your meals. In addition, it’s wonderful to start teaching your children how to cook at an early age. The kitchen is a great place to create family memories while saving dollars.
3. Spend more time planning.
Advance planning can save a lot of time and help your food budget dollars stretch longer. Spend some time each week planning your meals/snacks and grocery shopping to make sure you have the ingredients you need. Set aside 30 minutes on a Sunday to plan your week’s menus—you’ll be amazed at what this small investment will return on not only time saved, but money spent and better-executed meals.
4. Rethink your drink.
Replace soda, juice, bottled tea and other high-calorie, high-cost coffee drinks with water. Also, be good to the environment and your budget by choosing tap water instead of bottled water. Consider buying a water filter like a Brita.
5. Save green by eating greener.
Include more eco-friendly plant-based meals in your diet. It’s no secret that meat is one of the most expensive parts of a food budget so by simply switching to other vegetarian sources of protein like beans (black, garbanzo, kidney, etc.), lentils or quinoa you can save significant money. Consider making a bean soup, black bean chili or black beans with quinoa, which will boost the protein in your diet.
6. Buy in bulk at warehouse stores.
For example, if you shop at Costco, consider buying some of my favorite healthy items such as organic baby spinach, organic corn, organic broccoli, Kirkland Natural Peanut Butter, 1 percent organic milk, Quaker Oats and the new Kirkland Multigrain Rounds. Just make sure you don’t overeat since you’re purchasing higher quantities.
7. Make trade-offs.
When eating out at a restaurant, stick with your calorie budget by choosing either alcohol or dessert, or neither! Share an appetizer and an entree between two people. Most restaurants serve big portions, so cut back on the amount you order and drink water unless you choose to include a glass of wine in your calorie budget.
8. Cook more than one meal at a time.
Make a double batch of chili or soup and freeze for future meals. This can save you big time money and make mealtime quick and easy. Cooking ahead gives you options later on in the week and can be great if you are tempted to order takeout or eat at a restaurant. Knowing that you have healthy and delicious homemade meals ready to go means you are less likely to spend unnecessary money.
9. Buy fewer packaged foods.
One of the easiest ways to eat healthier on a budget is to eat fewer highly processed convenience foods. Buying fewer packaged and ready-to-eat products is a great first step to eating a more wholesome diet that can also save you at the cash register.
10. Shop at farmers’ markets whenever possible.
This is a great way to support your local farmers and save you money. It is also a great place to take your kids shopping with you—they get to see fresh, delicious and nutritious food in an interactive environment. Visit localharvest.org to find a market near you!
11. Buy more store brands.
For less money you can often get a product that is very similar in quality.
12. Don’t shop when you are hungry.
You know what happens when you do—your grocery cart fills up with spur-of-the-moment items and often not the smart healthy choices.
13. Grow your own food.
Whether it’s a small organic herb garden with basil, chives and rosemary or growing vegetables like tomatoes, kale and carrots, growing your own food can help you cut down on food costs. Start slowly and enjoy eating your own homegrown ingredients—and what a great family project!
14. Make less food and eat less food.
Since most Americans eat too much food in the first place, now is a great time to truly stop eating when you are satisfied versus being full, stuffed or sick. Focus on high quality food, not quantity. (However, it is okay to make extra meals per no. 8, above.)
15. Keep frozen vegetables on hand at all times.
Eat your fresh vegetables as soon as you get them but frozen vegetables are great to ensure you can always eat veggies with your meals. And don’t be worried about using frozen produce—they are often picked at the peak of their season and immediately frozen, so the nutrients are locked in.