Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS, FCHS Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
As the year 2010 begins, here are ten tips for eating well and stretching food dollars during the New Year:
Develop a Weekly Grocery List - Keep a list on your refrigerator and add items needed for future meals. Check newspaper circulars, coupons, and sale items before planning menus for the next week. Avoid “impulse purchases” of high calorie snack foods or desserts. Keep your grocery list flexible and revise it if foods go on sale.
Shop for Staples - Buy staples such as flour, sugar, salt, margarine, spices, dried/canned milk, etc. when on sale. Only buy a large quantity if you are able to use items within a short period of time. Canned foods, paper towels, plastic wrap, and foil are things that can be purchased in bulk. Check expiration dates on all food items. Buying in quantity only saves money if you can use what you buy.
Use Store-Brand Products - Store brands compare favorably with national brands in nutritional value and are often name brands with a store label. There may be some differences in color and taste but they are usually cheaper than name brands. Expensive name brands are usually placed at eye level in the supermarket while store brands may be on top or bottom shelves.
Limit Snack Food Purchases - Most Americans don’t need the extra calories that snack foods provide. Chips, cookies, candy, and ice cream are high in saturated fat and calories. Better choices would be fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and whole grain foods which help to maintain a healthy body weight.
Cook and/or Freeze - Buying several packages of cut-up chicken when it is on sale will save you money. Either cook it all within a few days and freeze the part you are not consuming or re-package the raw meat and freeze it using airtight heavy-duty foil, freezer paper, or freezer bags. Re-package large quantities of “family packs” into smaller amounts.
Choose Healthy Drinks - Eliminate sugary beverages including soda pop, juice drinks, sports drinks, ice teas made with sugar, and any beverage that contains high amounts of sugar. Instead, buy reusable water bottles and fill with tap water. Soft drinks, fancy coffees, and other sugary beverages are high in calories and cost a lot.
Eliminate Convenience Foods - Convenience foods cost more because part of the food preparation has been done and you pay for someone else’s labor. Microwaving a bowl of oatmeal from single packs does not save much time from the regular instant oats in the big container. A little extra time in preparation can save you a lot of money.
Buy Food Using Cash or a Debit Card - Using a credit card and not paying the balance in full each month means extra money, in the form of interest, is spent on food and other purchases. Using a debit card, on the other hand, allows keeping a record of weekly food purchases which can help with future meal planning.
Use a Weekly Shopping List - Make sure to use a list and only buy what you need. Research indicates that, the more you shop, the more you spend.
Avoid Supermarket Checkout Traps - Don’t fall prey for magazines, candy, and other items that are placed near the register. Do not allow children to talk you into buying them either. Choose a candy-free register and you will spend less.