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8 Ways to Save $$ and Eat Healthfully

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/8/2009 4:17 PM   :  106 comments

Think it's easy to eat healthfully only if your wallet is overflowing and you have a personal chef on call? Think again.

It's easy for the rest of us, too, and all we have to do is alter our shopping and eating habits slightly.

The latest issue of Consumer Reports offers 20 tips for healthful eating on a budget. Here are some of our favorite quick and painless tips:

Plan ahead. Make a menu for the week and aim to get everything you need in one or two trips to save on gas (and impulse buying). Watch for flyers or visit your supermarket online to check for sales, and let those drive your menu.


Buy in season. That means no strawberries in December in Maine, when you'll pay for shipping from some far-off warm place. Seasonal picks include cherries, melon, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers in summer; snow peas, spinach, and strawberries in spring; and carrots, cauliflower, citrus fruits, and cranberries in fall.


Eat beans. They're inexpensive, versatile, and a great source of protein and fiber. Add them to salads, soups, chili, and pasta dishes to increase bulk. Canned beans are the easiest to use, but for maximum economy buy dried beans.

Try tofu. It's a low-cost, nutrient-packed substitute for meat and cheese. Add tofu to salads, or sauté it with vegetables and something savory such as chili sauce or tamari and serve over brown rice. If you don't like tofu, experiment with tempeh, a related product with a meatier texture.

For produce, go frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables, often flash-frozen soon after picking, can be more nutritious than "fresh" items that have sat on store shelves for a while. And you don't have to worry about the frozen variety spoiling before it's eaten.

Choose store brands. Also called "private label," they are often just as good as the name brand and can save you money.

Buy a whole bird. Get a whole chicken and cut it up (or not) as you wish. It's more economical than buying separate breasts, thighs, etc., 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.

Use your scraps. Cook leftover vegetables and potatoes into a frittata, even for dinner; eggs are a great source of protein. Use bones, meat scraps, or vegetable trimmings to make broth.

For more tips, visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

How do you save money at the supermarket? For me, bulk bins, big-batch cooking and shopping local help keep my grocery bill low.


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Comments

  • 106
    I grew up in Fennville, MI, my family is part of Michigan Blueberry Growers we clean freeze for 5 lines due to contracts I can not list. Same berries, different packages. - 6/24/2010   1:39:20 PM
  • JUHOEG
    105
    Buy in bulk and use coupons - 3/23/2010   7:13:01 AM
  • LSTORRIE
    104
    I enjoyed reading everyones comments. There were a lot a really great ideas that I will have to try. Another website I often use is Allrecipes.com. You can either search for a recipe by name, or type in what ingredients you have on hand and it will give you recipes containing those ingredients. You can also scale the recipes up or down for number of servings and there is also nutritional information for the recipes, so you can calculate how many calories and nutrients you are getting. - 1/24/2010   11:18:18 AM
  • 103
    I cook an amount like I did when my girls were alwasy here, and freeze it in separate containers, then I have a well thought out balanced meal. I also like to buy the large bags of frozen veggies, beans and peas etc. And boy do I love it when the grocery store has the buy one get one free incentive. You can really stretch your money here along with the use of coupons and the stores shppoer discount card! I hate grocery shopping these days so it really is great to save and buy bulk at reasonable prices and also buy healthy at the same time! - 9/25/2009   12:24:23 PM
  • 102
    I make larger amounts and freeze in meal size portions. I buy in bulk when I can ,were I live fresh is always there to eat seasonal is cheeper. - 6/3/2009   1:18:49 AM
  • 101
    We have a CSA here -- but it's oriented toward families of 2-4 -- and I'm pretty sure I would waste some of that. So one strategy will be to look around for someone to share that with... Shopping when you're a one off poses its own challenges. Meanwhile, to the new gardenmobile, batman (and yes, I just made my first sauce from rhubarb in my yard, so getting closer to a less expensive source for goodies!) - 5/29/2009   10:25:03 AM
  • 100
    When the more expensive items I like are on sale, I buy in bulk (to the extent the sell-by date allows!). Usually that means buying 6 boxes of Kashi GoLean at once :) For some of the more expensive snacks I like, I look on Amazon.com for multipacks (often with free shipping) to buy dried fruit (unsweetened and unsulphered of course!). Other items I try to wait until they are both on sale and I have a coupon... like my rices and herbal teas. I love a bargain! - 2/28/2009   10:47:19 AM
  • BABYBEE027
    99
    These tips are great .. I always try to by fresh or frozen and avoid canned foods as much as possible! - 1/20/2009   9:27:07 PM
  • 98
    It seems that we are encouraged to eat poorly. Mcdonalds offers a dollar menu while you will spend at least 3x that to make a healthy meal. If we choose healthy foods and buy from local growers we are not only supporting a healthy body but contributing to our environment. - 1/18/2009   4:44:28 PM
  • 97
    I like to freeze yogurt - I take time to eat it and it's healthy - 1/14/2009   8:49:31 PM
  • THEALCHEMISTINA
    96
    What really helps me is to have a handle on what prices really are - like putting together a price book - to make sure "deals" really are. I love my Farmer's Market, but there's a produce store across town that also offers local produce, and they're usually less expensive than the Farmer's Market. Sometimes that extra effort means saving money and still enjoying fresh, local and in season. - 1/13/2009   12:49:41 PM
  • DEBDES1TAMPABAY
    95
    I have earth boxes and grow my own herbs. That way I have them available whenever they are needed. - 1/12/2009   2:49:38 PM
  • 94
    I liked this article. it was informative and offered good suggestions. I shop for two, and even with frozen veggies and beans, we still spend about 80-120 dollars a week on groceries. - 1/12/2009   2:05:02 PM
  • 93
    Oops! I meant to address that last post to DBRING! Sorry! - 1/11/2009   4:22:20 PM
  • 92
    TINAOH, the recipe you are looking for is in one of Coach Stephanie's blogs from Nov. 11, 08...Magical Cooking Techniques. She talks about roasting veggies there and mentions that her boyfriend liked them even though he seriously doesn't like carrots! LOL! Just click on her name at the top of this blog, and you should be able to find the post you're wanting. Hope this helps! - 1/11/2009   4:21:02 PM
  • CEEJAY150
    91
    I have bought frozen vegetables for years. I remember ready that they are as healthy or even better than fresh or canned. They tend to have fewer additives and I like that I can cook the amount I want and I don't have to worry as much about "shelf-life".
    - 1/11/2009   12:19:21 PM
  • ANTMONTYCAS
    90
    i think that is a good ideal have a small budget also but we shop at sav a lot for can goods and walmart for meats.thats saves money. - 1/11/2009   11:35:15 AM
  • 89
    I remember the blog entry on roasted vegetables. I roast veggies all the time. Regular potatoes, sweet potates, carrots, onions, butternut squash, acorn squash, beets, garlic, etc - whatever is in the fridge. Just cut them into chunks toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, (and dried herbs if you like) and roast them for about an hour at 450. I just love them and it really does get me to eat some veggies I might not normally eat - 1/11/2009   11:22:27 AM
  • 88
    Great tips! I have been buying the store brand on a lot of items for the past 30 years and it really makes a difference in the price, but not in the quality of the food or household items. We also plant a garden each year, and I freeze a lot of veggies for the winter months. I am still using bell peppers that I froze from this last summer. - 1/11/2009   11:20:46 AM
  • DBRING
    87
    TINAOH this is not the recipe but it should work Thanks ...The one I was looking for was in a SP blog or daily email about how to make any vegetable taste great and involved left over fridge veggies , even radishes, a roasting (can't remember the temp or time) followed by some brief broiler time ..... the writer's
    'carrot hating BF' ate these roasted vegetables with relish. I will try the recipe you sent THANKS - 1/11/2009   11:04:32 AM
  • MOGLEWER
    86
    I eat fresh frozen blueberries. I buy them in the summer when they are cheaper & I make muffins, smoothies with them as well. They are 22 on the glycemic index and you can eat 1 cup per portion. They taste like popsicles. - 1/11/2009   7:33:43 AM
  • TINAOH
    85
    DBRING, are you referring to "Rustic Roasted Veggies"? It sounds great:

    Rustic Roasted Veggies

    Serves: 6

    These bite-sized morsels are so savory and juicy they will explode in your mouth. Roasting them adds a depth and richness that transforms ordinary cooked vegetables into something elegant. Reprinted with permission from HOW IT ALL VEGAN! by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer ( www.GoVegan.net

    ), Arsenal Pulp Press.

    INGREDIENTS
    2-4 medium carrots, chopped
    2-3 medium potatoes, chopped
    8-10 gloves garlic, peeled
    6-8 mushrooms, halved
    1 small yam, cubed
    1/2 lb medium tofu, cubed
    2-4 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp dill
    2 tbsp rosemary
    cracked chilies (to taste)
    salt (to taste)
    pepper (to taste)

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place the vegetables and tofu on lightly oiled cookie sheet or lasagna pan and drizzle olive oil over them. Sprinkle with dill, rosemary, chilies, salt, and pepper and mix together until well incorporated.
    2. Bake for 40-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven when potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork.

    NUTRITION INFO
    Calories: 219
    Fat: 10.4 g
    Carbohydrates: 25.1 g
    Protein: 9.3 g - 1/11/2009   3:28:33 AM
  • 84
    Frozen grapes are a great dessert and they never go bad! Save money and lose weight with a healthy snack! - 1/11/2009   2:37:20 AM
  • DBRING
    83
    All good information....Question... earlier in the last week I read an article about roasting any vegetable and how they will taste GREAT but I cannot find that article and I need the recipe can anyone help me??? Thanks all you lovely spark people. - 1/11/2009   12:57:17 AM
  • 82
    We do a lot of these things anyway. I love my coupons! Every week we make a menu based on what's on sale at the store. Everyone gets one day to plan the dinner, Friday's we always have pizza (homemade). - 1/10/2009   8:34:15 PM
  • 81
    I have begun, as the article suggests, to plan my meals and my shopping trips. I use the store flyers and plan around what's on sale. I don't travel all over town trying to get a discount on particular item. I just wait for it to come on sale at another store because they all kind of rotate the major meats etc every few weeks.
    I batch cook as much as possible. Sunday is the day that I normally cook my biggest meal so I add extra brown rice, or pasta etc to have some left over to freeze for some easy meals during the week.
    I plan to join a CSA or Community Sustainable Agriculture group and get fresh local and organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats. I did the math and I think economically its a good bet. - 1/10/2009   8:10:13 PM
  • 80
    Thanks SUZIEQW for the tip on grocerygame.com. I recently began using coupons for our family of five and could not believe the difference in the bill! It is certainly true that many store brands are exactly the same as the name brands. - 1/10/2009   7:07:47 PM
  • 79
    Does anyone out there know of an online (free ofc) community built grocery price-book for local supermarkets?

    Now that I’ve found my nutrition and fitness tracking tools on SparkPeople I’m eager to find some great consumer tools as well.

    Imagine being able to sign in to an on-line price book. You could fill in information on the stuff you bought at the store you shopped at last and your neighbors all do the same for the other community stores… community after community across the country… and then everyone has instant access to the most complete price-book for their local area with relatively very little of their own time invested. Ideally you could even use it to compare prices from town to town. Then we’d know if it was better to do the shopping where you live, or where you work, or on your next visit to see Aunt Tilly.

    The prospect of building my own price-book is daunting, and what a waist of energy it is when everyone has to collect the same information on their own. Much better I think if there was a way to share the information with each other.

    Same deal with gas prices. I could provide a daily gas price for at least one local station without leaving my front lawn. But frankly its groceries and household products I need to be able to track the most.

    Wow, imagine that there’s not only a web-site with a free consumer goods price-booking tool, but that you could even access it from your mobile phone. I wouldn’t have to wonder anymore if I notice laundry soap on sale while I’m shopping if it’s really such a good buy or not. I could check the price-book and know for sure.

    If it doesn’t exist yet, it would be a great thing for some enterprising web designer to tackle. - 1/10/2009   5:57:41 PM
  • 78
    Instead of pre-planning, I look for what is on sale or if there are any specials. One of our local supermarkets, put coupons in the first Sunday paper of the month. This month's included, buy one, get one free of baby carrots. I got two of the sale ads. I bought carrots the first week of the sale and today (the last day). I also try to look for in-store specials and quick sale on meat. The best bet for healthy shopping is hit the produce, meat, and frozen. - 1/10/2009   4:49:18 PM
  • 77
    I like to buy in bulk...it really does save money. And I don't usually plans my meals in advance but I think I'm going to start because it sounds like a great idea. - 1/10/2009   2:51:25 PM
  • 76
    I too have noticed how buying in bulk can save and also that planning meals helps BUNCHES! I used to think of those people who planned as alittle bit crazy and TOOOOO organized but after planning meals for an entire month, what a difference it made in our grocery bill and my time! I say PLAN away! - 1/10/2009   2:19:28 PM
  • 75
    I've tried all those recommendations except tofu which I'm still trying to work with. Planning menus helps to save time, money and trips to the store. It also keeps me focused on what I'm supposed to buy and I avoid unnecessary purchases. Now if I can just stay away from the candy lane at check out. I'm also shopping and cooking for 1 now and I'm going to find a Spark team to help with ideas for cooking less. - 1/10/2009   8:07:47 AM
  • 74
    I take a small calendar and plan our meals for the month. Writing in the dinner menus takes little time and it's easy to switch out one day to the next. I include meals out as well. This helps us stay in budget and truly eat healthier. - 1/10/2009   4:38:58 AM
  • 73
    Buy what is on sale and stock up. It really does amount to a lot of savings over a year. Get a freezer. - 1/10/2009   3:51:55 AM
  • 72
    I'm afraid I'm a Big Store Shopper- I find that if I can get it in bulk it is in general cheaper by the time you add up the price, time, & gas of making mulitple trips. - 1/10/2009   1:48:27 AM
  • 71
    Great Tips. I was surprised they didn't include a recommendation for packing your own healthy lunch and snacks. That can save money and be healthy! - 1/10/2009   1:35:32 AM
  • 70
    very good points - 1/9/2009   11:28:31 PM
  • 69
    I usually do all my shopping at Trader Joe's. It is healthier and better for my wallet then a huge grocery store chain. I buy frozen veggies and fruits for the most part. If I buy fresh produce I get it at Shaws (they often have coupons for their fresh produce). I bring coupons and my recycle bags with me shopping. Often time, you can get a discount if you have your recycle bags. - 1/9/2009   10:45:06 PM
  • CARLITA37
    68
    The frozen food aisle is also a great way to get in some of those out of season fruits and veggies - I enjoyed some mango after dinner tonight in the middle of winter! - 1/9/2009   7:30:31 PM
  • 67
    Love the tips. I have been planning ahead since I lost my job in November and notice it does help a lot. If you plan meals with similar ingredients or plan to use the next week. - 1/9/2009   7:01:40 PM
  • PACEFLOWER
    66
    In bigger towns and cities, kids are always selling coupon books (Enjoy the City, Entertainment '09) and my chain store (Publix) accepts ALL competitors' coupons, which means for every $50 I spend, I save $5.00 with that one coupon. I buy multiple books each year and recoup my purchase price several times over. And I make a little kid happy. What's not to like? - 1/9/2009   4:05:07 PM
  • 65
    I already do most of these, but it's good to be reminded again. Thank you! - 1/9/2009   3:14:10 PM
  • 64
    I get the paper on wenday and plan for the week ahead.. I get most of my meat from my brother who raises his own .. great price and great meat.. - 1/9/2009   1:53:53 PM
  • 63
    There's a terrific website called "Grocery Game.com" if you're into couponing. I save about 50% on my groceries now. - 1/9/2009   12:33:12 PM
  • WORDSTAR
    62
    Eating in season and eating locally ... I just finished reading a book called "The 100-Mile Diet," written by a couple from right here in Vancouver, BC. They devoted a year to eating only locally. Not as easy as one would think. While I totally agree with the concept, I don't know if I personally would have the fortitude to do it 100 percent. - 1/9/2009   12:20:58 PM
  • 61
    Live in small town Michigan, limited growing season, so I stock up on frozen and canned fruits and veggies when they're on sale - just have to watch sodium in canned stuff!!! Some year would like to can/freeze some myself....in my spare time...LOL!! Like others, plan weekly menus around sales items and/or stock up on sale meat items and freeze in serving sizes. Am so thankful that I am able to do this....there was a time that I was hopeful the 2 dollars or so that I had would buy a loaf of bread (cheap, white, store brand!!) and some bologna....sure that many of you know what I mean and may have been there yourself.....remember the 25 cent box of mac & cheese????? I am very, very thankful that now I have the resources and the storage room to make healthier choices!!!

    Have a great day!
    Sue - 1/9/2009   12:00:46 PM
  • PUNKY1231
    60
    I struggle with many healthy diet plans because they call for so many fruits that simply aren't available in my snow bound world, Montana. Winter it is pretty much apples, bananas and oranges, or if you prefer, bananas, oranges, and apples. I tried to counter this problem with frozen fruit, unfortunately many come presweetened, and thawed, well, they are mushy. Thank the good Lord for frozen veggies!
    I recently tried to do a weeks worth of straight Sparks diet plan for my family of five. $356 dollars later I checked out of the store. Ouch!
    So what is my suggestion? I'm planting my own strawberry beds and will can/freeze my own (if you don't know how to do this contact you county agricultural extension, or you local 4H. They'll show you how to do it seriously low cal.). And, when we can get the "good" stuff in the summer, it'll be a canning frenzy! Saves the budget and tastes better than the store bought. - 1/9/2009   11:53:54 AM
  • 59
    I use to work in packaging and let me tell you, other than the main brands (Ore Ida, Birdseye, Nestle products etc.) ALL other brands are packaged at the same processors, back to back. So you are getting the same veggies no matter what store or private label brand you are buying. Generic's may be packed at the end of the run using the less optimal veggies but still, same processing plant packs them all. - 1/9/2009   11:24:25 AM
  • STEELRUNNER
    58
    the bulk buying of staples is always a great idea as well, but only when it is something you are going to use and not just take up space on a shelf.
    I grew up in the grocery business, and yes the private labels where the only thing we ever had, but it has taken a lot of convincing over the years for my friends and now husband to believe me that the quality is the same... most are packaged side by side at the producers and just put a different label on the final product!!! - 1/9/2009   11:20:01 AM
  • BUDBABE10
    57
    I REALLY need to get better at this. Between meal planning & planning my trip to the grocery store with a LIST of items. I'm terrible with planning ahead, budget, etc. Awesome article & a good reminder to me that I have to work on this. - 1/9/2009   11:13:03 AM

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