When shopping for groceries you have a variety of food options to choose from that range in food costs. You may select healthy foods, for family or cultural preferences, or cost. With food costs continually on the rise you may think to yourself, can I eat healthy on a budget? The answer is yes you can! By following a few simple strategies, you can choose healthy, great-tasting foods without going over budget.

The first step is to plan your meals, and not just midway through the day. Take time each week to go through what you have on hand in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, which is probably more than you think, and use it. When planning out meals for a week using what you have on hand helps to rotate your foods, keep them fresh, and keep your grocery bill down. Be open to trying new recipes or swap out ingredients of your favorites with what you have on hand, be creative in your cooking. When you are taking inventory of your pantry, take a pulse on the health of your pantry. Keeping a stock of healthy basics such as whole grains for breakfast or side, air-popped popcorn, beans, and others can give you a foundation of common ingredients to build a healthy meal.

The second step is always to be prepared when grocery shopping. Avoid shopping when you are hungry, and always shop with a list. This keeps you on track and helps you avoid impulse purchases. When planning your meals or when shopping, look for sales on protein items and other staples your family chooses. Buying a larger portion of protein, portioning, and freezing for another meal can help you stretch the food dollars. Give store brands a try, often they are lower in cost, have similar nutritional value, and have the same great taste. To increase the fruits and vegetables you consume shop for produce that is in season, it will provide a fresher product and lower cost due to availability. Be sure to also stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables, without added sugars or sauces, these can provide the same great nutritional value and taste and help offer variety with seasonal options. Be open to trying new things, such as more whole grains, these provide a nutrition powerhouse for your body and can be a healthy swap that does not cost much more than refined grain choices.  When choosing dairy options such as yogurt, skip the flavors that come with added sugars, and choose plain and add your own fresh or frozen fruits and nuts. Be sure to check unit prices, not just the total cost. The unit price will allow you to compare ounce for ounce between similar food choices.

The third step is making a kitchen game plan! Start with an organized kitchen with cooking tools organized and accessible along with any cooking equipment you need. Make sure you are giving yourself the space to cook, without stress! Clean off the clutter so that you can mince, chop, slice, stir, and more. Finding ways to stretch recipes or making a double batch can provide the opportunity to freeze individual or family meals or sides for later use. This maximizes your time in the kitchen while increasing the availability of healthy foods you have ready to go.

The final step is to look for ways to reduce your food waste. This helps make the most of your edible ingredients by feeding your family and not your trashcan. When planning your meals use more perishable foods earlier in the week to prevent spoilage. If you have leftovers from a meal, make a game plan for them right away to prevent waste. Options could be to consume them in the next day or two as a meal, freeze for a later meal, or take leftover components and use them in a completely different meal.  When you have extra veggies from a recipe, chop them all and store them in freezer-safe containers for later use. This cuts down on future cooking prep time and eliminates the waste of fresh foods.

By adopting these steps you will be on your way to choosing healthy, flavorful foods, without breaking the budget!

by Lori Johnson

Ashley Ellis

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.’

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