Tips for Better Nutrition on a Tight Budget

Eliminate soda pop and other high-sugar snack from your food budget. You save food dollars and improve your eating habits. Save such items for special occasions and celebration and you won’t feel you’ve denied yourself a treat. (image via AZFB)

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

Some contend that to eat healthy you must spend more. Not true! You just need to shop wisely. In fact, don’t let anyone (including Dr. Oz) tell you that the only way to eat healthy is to eat organic. The evidence simply does not support such a claim. Both organic and conventional foods are healthy for you. Study after study on the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce, for example, continues to reveal that the conventional tomato contains the exact same nutritional values as the organic tomato. What’s valuable is that both are on the market.

This is important for some families to understand since organic foods sometimes have a higher price point than conventional. It’s not fair to claim greater nutritional value in one over another (especially when it doesn’t exist) when a family is financially struggling and thinks they must buy organic.

So, first things first, stop worrying if you can’t afford organic. Instead, begin to engage the following strategies to stretch your food dollar and save! And, if the best price for the item happens to be organic and what you have on your list, add it to your shopping cart.

Begin with a plan

  1. Determine your food budget. What can you weekly afford to spend for food?
  2. List your core food staples you know you regularly need on hand.
  3. Keep a shopping list in your kitchen of needed items. Make sure it’s handy.
  4. Weekly plan your family’s menu.
  5. Check the weekly grocery circulars for basic food items on sale that are core ingredients to your menu.
  6. Finalize the shopping list and attempt to pre-determine if all items will stay within budget.
  7. Clip coupons, but avoid processed items unless your family regularly uses them.

Shop Smart

  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
  • Attempt to shop without the children; this avoids the temptation to purchase something off the list your child asks for.
  • Stick to your list.
    • Select Fresh fruits and vegetables in season; buy frozen or canned when they’re not in season
    • Stay flexible—take advantage of foods on sale you know you’ll eat.
  • Compare prices
    • Use cost per unit shelf stickers to compare brands and sizes
    • Look at cost per service with meat; boneless lean meat (though more expensive) may be a better buy than lower priced bone-in, fattier cuts.
  • Balance the cost of foods with the preparation time required. If you won’t wash, peel and chop produce, buy it already prepared.
  • Don’t buy the food item unless you’re sure it will be eaten
  • Compare the savings of shopping at one store with some sales to the fuel and time cost involved in shopping at several stores and farmers markets to get better prices on every item.
  • Check out nearby farmers markets for fresh, local produce, meats and other foods.
  • Stick to the basics like your meats, eggs, dairy and fruits and vegetables. You’ll buy more value when you stick to the basics. (A $4 or $5 box of corn flakes has about 5 to 8 cents per box. You’re buying the brand, transportation and packaging for the rest of it.)
  • Eliminate soda and other expensive, high-sugar snacks. Reserve such purchases for special occasions and celebrations.

These are just some of the tips you can apply to make sure you stretch that food dollar and at the same time eat healthy.

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