With rising interest in organic produce, artisan food products and exotic ingredients, a trip to the grocery store can leave you feeling price-gouged. Healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank though, as long as you avoid certain pitfalls. Read on to learn the mistakes commonly made at the grocery store and at home that undermine your food budget:
AT THE GROCERY STORE
“I didn’t plan ahead”
Did you know about 60% of food purchases are unplanned?* Not only do these purchases tend to be less healthy, but they also add to your total spending. Save some money by planning out your shopping trip ahead of time. By deciding on a few meals in advance, you can take into account what you already have at home and streamline your visit to the grocery store. If you still need help avoiding those impulse purchases, challenge yourself to get in and out of the store in a certain time limit.
“I didn’t look for the deals”
Competition is fierce among grocery stores, which is why so many of them offer loyalty programs for their “valued customers”. Loyalty programs usually come with a card you can swipe at check-out for extra discounts. They also give you access to online coupons that you can’t find in the store. On top of that, grab a copy of the store’s circular, a weekly printout of in-store sales and specials. Most are available online, so you can even use the circular to plan out meals before you shop (just remember to avoid the junk food).
“I didn’t stock up”
Healthful eating is so much easier when the ingredients are at home and ready to use. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked so you’re not tempted by the convenience of fast food or takeout. Sometimes it’s helpful to prepare chopped ingredients the day before and refrigerate them in a ziplock bag to save time later. Big sales can also be a great time to fill your cart with healthy staples like canned fish, dried beans and grains, and frozen veggies.
“I wasted my food”
You may have heard Americans waste a lot of food—specifically, $371 worth of food per person per year. There are many ways to save your food from a landfill (and save money in the process). Large cooked dishes can be individually portioned and frozen on standby for your next quick meal. You can repurpose leftovers and fruit and vegetable scraps. For example, beet greens can be used just like chard or collards, and carrot tops make a bright pesto. Even orange zest from discarded peels makes a flavorful addition to salads and baked goods. Also note that “Best Before”, “Use By” and “Sell By” dates are used to indicate peak freshness and NOT when a packaged food is spoiled, so don’t be too quick to toss it out. However, regarding perishable foods like meat and dairy, refrigerate or freeze as appropriate and consume before the date specified. Also, be sure to throw out anything showing signs of mold or off odors.
Healthy eating can be expensive, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Use our tips to improve the way you shop and cook. Small changes in planning ahead, looking for discounts, storing food properly and reducing waste can translate to huge savings.
* Inman, J. Jeffrey, Russell S. Winer and Rosellina Ferraro (2009), “The Interplay Between Category Characteristics, Customer Characteristics, And Customer Activities on In-Store Decision Making,” Journal of Marketing, 73 (September), 19-29.