Nutritionwise: Eating Better for Less!

Families face many expenses each and every month, and while priorities vary from family to family, one expense that's likely considered a top priority is the monthly food budget.  And, there's no doubt with the economy the way it is, they've felt the pinch. Unlike fixed expenses, like a car loan or mortgage, groceries fluctuate constantly, and it can be a challenge to create the right budget.  Did you know the The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a monthly "Cost of Food at Home Plans."  These Food Plans represent a nutritious diet at four different cost levels; Thrifty, Low-cost, Moderate-cost and Liberal,  and is available to help families set a more affordable monthly food budget for their families.  The goal is to help families adjust their food budgets in this wavering economy, while keeping their family's nutritional needs in place. 

So, just how much should you spend on food each month? After studying the four food plans, look at your finances for more answers. Create a budget and include all of your expenses and any leftover money. Then, allocate 15% of that amount for your food budget. Now, if you have very little money, or none at all, left over, then you need to make some adjustments in your grocery budget itself and consider areas where you might waste food; fast food takeouts, eating out, uneaten foods for lunch or at home, and consider making some changes about how you treat your meals, you could save a lot. Keeping your food budget lower than 15% of your total income is crucial considering most families have other obligations each month. However, we have some tips you can follow, especially if you have a lower income and find it hard to find nutritious foods at affordable prices.

10 Eating Better for Less Tips: 
Use coupons wisely
  1. Plan ahead by making a menu for the week and aim to get everything you need in one or two trips to save on gas and impulse buying.
  2. Look through your supermarket flyers or online to check for sales and let those drive your menu for that week.
  3. Use Coupons for savings, but be aware of coupons for expensive items that may end up costing you more than the store brand of that same item.
  4. Choose store brands of the same product. They're often just as good as the name brand and can save you  money.
  5. Cook from scratch. Individual ingredients generally cost less than pre-packaged foods. 
  6. Use staples as the basis of your diet: Include items such as flour, oil, tortillas, pasta, rice and other healthy plants and grains. 
  7. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables to extend the week's meal plan and to maintain nutrition level.  Besides, foods are flash-frozen soon after picking and can be more nutritious than "fresh" items that have sat on store shelves for a while.
  8. Maintain a fully stocked pantry of basic ingredients to save on your grocery bill. Check here for a list of some basic pantry ingredients.
  9. Purchase a whole chicken and cut it up yourself.  It's more economical than buying separate pieces and you can get a nutrient-packed broth out of it, too.  Freeze pieces that you're not using right away in individual freezer bags. 
  10. Get a slow cooker. They not only make cooking a snap, but it allows you to use less expensive cuts of meat to make easy one-pot meals, such as stews and chili.

These tips should get you on your way to eating better without breaking your budget.  The goal is to spend wisely for the food while staying within your budget and still have some left. Now you can save money on food and cooking, and still provide the nutrition your body needs.  Make adjustments where necessary to make it work for you and your family.

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