Eating Healthy on a Budget, Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.

3) Plan meals that use common ingredients
This is a simple way to stretch the grocery dollars. When planning meals according to what is on sale, think of other ways you can incorporate the same ingredients into other meals. If you are only going to be using part of an item in your meal, think of ways to use what is left and use it in another meal. This also reduces waste. Here's an example of a shopping list and menu for six meals for a family of four using common ingredients:

Ground beef, on sale, buy a 3-4 lb family size pack, $8
Chicken Breasts, on sale, buy a 3-4 lb family size pack, $8
1 lb package mushrooms, on sale, buy 1 pack, $2
Bell peppers, on sale, buy two, $2
5 lbs red potatoes, on sale, buy 1 bag, $3
Cream cheese, on sale, buy one low-fat or fat free, $1
Pasta, on sale, buy one box rotini, $1
Pasta sauce, on sale, buy one jar, $1.50
Salsa, on sale, buy one jar, $2.00
Frozen vegetables, on sale, buy two family sized bags, $4
Whole wheat flour tortillas, not on sale, buy one $2.50
Cheddar cheese, not on sale, buy one lb, $4

Total $39, which could even be lower with coupons (see tip #4 below)
This list does not include staples that most families have on hand, such as butter, flour, milk, and seasonings.

Menu: *Salisbury steak w/ mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable *Chicken fajita quesadillas *Beef stroganoff (made w/ cr. cheese instead of sour cream) and a vegetable *Baked chicken with scalloped potatoes and a vegetable *Pasta with ground beef, peppers, and pasta sauce *Chicken with mushrooms in a cream cheese sauce with roasted potatoes and a vegetable.

I try to alternate the meats I use, so I'm not fixing the same one two nights in a row. I also plan meals with different tastes and textures to add variety.

4) Use coupons
Clipping coupons takes time, but it can really be worth the savings. Based on the simple shopping list in tip #3 above, I currently have coupons for pasta, pasta sauce, tortillas, cream cheese, and frozen vegetables. All of these coupons are between 50¢ and $1, and my grocery store will "double" these, bringing their value up to $1 (which makes two of the items free!). I can now take $5 off my grocery spending above, bringing my total to $34. Not bad for six nutritious meals for a family of four. That is the equivalent of $1.42 per person per meal!

Coupons have to be used responsibly, though, or you will end up buying something you don't really need. In most cases, I don't use coupons unless it is for something I am planning on buying anyway or if the item is on sale. As you can see above, sometimes using coupons makes things free, and sometimes you can even end up with a overage! Many times I clip a coupon and hold on to it to see if the item will go on sale before I use it. An internet search will point you to many sites out there that discuss couponing systems and tips.

Although many food coupons are for unhealthy processed foods, there are still a good amount of coupons for healthy items. As society becomes more health conscious, the more we will see coupons for healthier foods. There is also an abundance of coupons for non-food items that can offer additional savings.

Probably the most popular way to get coupons is in the Sunday newspaper. I don't subscribe to have the paper delivered to my house because they do not offer a subscription for Sundays only, and I do not want to pay for the other days that I don't need. Instead, I swing by a gas station on my way home from church and pick one up. This also saves me money because I only buy the paper if there are plenty of coupons in there that merit spending the money on the paper. There is a website that has a listing of all the coupons that will be coming out in the paper to help you determine whether or not to buy one. You can find this website here. If you would rather, you can also print the coupons directly from the same same site and avoid getting the paper all together.

There are many coupons available online that you can print and bring to the store. You can find one here and here. There are so many others, but a simple internet search will help you find them. I also post some coupons in the Budget Conscious section of this site form time to time.

Some stores even offer to send you coupons via text message, and some have programs where you can register your savings card online and put coupons on the card electronically so you don't have to cut out paper coupons. Check with your local store and see what their coupon policies are, and if they offer any additional ways to save.

There is more to come in Part Three, but for now, happy saving! :)  

No comments: