Economical, Healthy Meals

Many people are concerned about the economy and want to get the most value for every dollar spent. Food is one item that we buy frequently and even though each item does not cost much, it does add up to a lot of money in a year. Most people are not only concerned about how much money they spend on food, but are also concerned about getting healthy, nutritious food that is easy and quick to prepare.

Some people have the mistaken idea that the more money they spend, the healthier the food will be. This is not necessarily so. Many healthy foods are good bargains. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends getting several servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables each day. These foods are usually some of the least expensive foods. Even in the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Nuts and Eggs groups some of the least expensive foods are very good choices from a health stand point. For example dry beans are a very good source of protein, low in fat and low cost.

Another place we can save money on food is do some preparation ourselves. A whole chicken cost much less than skinless, boneless chicken breast.

Another place to save is reducing snack foods. Potato chips are very expensive and are high in fat and very low in vitamins and minerals.

Tips for Value Shopping

Everyone would like to save money at the grocery store. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Divide grocery money into equal weekly amounts. Try not to "borrow from next week's allowance. This way money should last all month.
  2. Watch for store newspaper ads and coupons. Take advantage of coupons and sale items, but be sure your family will use a "bargain." If they won't, it's no saving.
  3. Plan ahead. Plan ahead for the main foods you will cook for the next several days. Are there items on sale this week that you can use? Check how much storage space you have for groceries.
  4. Do most of your shopping only once a week. You will save time and not spend as much money on" extras" you see as you shop.
  5. Make a list and stick to it. Don't be tempted to buy things you haven't planned on.
  6. Shop by yourself. If possible, don't take children with you.
  7. Go when you aren't hungry. Shop on a full stomach or else everything will look inviting.
  8. Compare brands. Look at the cost and the quantity. Usually the stores own brand is cheaper, but not always.
  9. Compare different stores. Look at prices in several stores if you have a choice. If you find one store is generally less expensive, stick with it.
  10. Compare forms of food. Buy a lower-cost form of the product if it will do as well. For instance, use canned tomato pieces rather than whole tomatoes.
  11. Buy"Day-old bread," if it is to be eaten soon.
  12. Take time to compare frozen, fresh and canned products.

Try following these tips every time you shop for groceries. With their help, you can save money.

Prepared by Barbara Farner, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, University of Illinois Extension, Matteson Extension Center.

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