Guidelines for making budget savvy choices when stocking your kitchen

We all know we should be eating better. But we also know that buying healthier foods, such as artichokes in January, asparagus in September, or whole-grain organic bread at any time of the year, does not always make for a healthy budget. But cutting costs at the grocery store doesn’t mean you have to subsist on ramen noodles and canned corn. There is a cheap, efficient way to nourish your family with nutrient-rich foods that do not inflate your spending habits. For our favorite tips, read on.

Health groceries to fit your budgetFocus on Locally Produced Items

If you live in Maine and your bananas were grown in California, they had to make quite a trip to reach you. Just as you feel parched and exhausted after a long flight or trip in the car, your produce also takes a toll, and those precious few days of travel result in food that is not as fresh and has lost nutrients. If you focus on food grown and produced locally—say, within 100 miles, as many proponents of the locavore movement suggest—you can actually meet the people who tilled the land; planted the seeds; and harvested those gorgeous eggplants, figs, or walnuts you see at your local farmers’ market, while also injecting money into your local economy.

Even more of a boost to your budget is growing your own produce. If you love having fresh herbs on hand to toss into a homemade pasta sauce or to season grilled meats and vegetables, start small with an easy-to-maintain windowsill garden for ultimate convenience. From there, you can graduate to container gardening—tomatoes thrive in this environment—and then to raised beds to cultivate a cornucopia of homegrown produce.

Eat in Season

Produce is especially expensive when you are buying it out of season, which means the item had to travel from afar to reach you in its ripe state. Asparagus is naturally cheaper in the spring, when it is flourishing along roadsides and on farms. Similarly, strawberries never taste as sweet as when they are at the height of their season. Instead of settling for subpar flavor just for the convenience of having a specific item at any time of the year, condition your palate—and your wallet—to appreciate produce when it is naturally ripe.

Pick Alternate Sources of Protein

We live in a society in which many of us are so accustomed to some form of meat at every meal that we often forget that our carnivorian habits are a luxury. There are other sources of protein that can be just as filling without costing as much. Just ask your friends or family members who have vegetarian or vegan eating habits what their main sources of protein are. Cottage cheese, yogurt, nuts, eggs, and tofu are excellent sources of protein. Beans and rice together make a complete protein; and if you have not yet tried quinoa, sample this grain that acts like a protein and has high amounts of calcium and iron as well.

Trim Excess Purchases

Take note of how often you end up throwing away cucumbers that have gone bad or the leftover chicken noodle casserole that you ate three days in a row. Trimming your budget starts with buying only what you need at the market and learning, for instance, how many cups of uncooked rice is enough to feed your family. Minding these small details adds up to less waste over time. And remember that big-box stores do not always have the best prices.

Your city’s locally owned market might have a better price on your favorite brand of cereal, whereas Costco’s prices for certain items such as wine are generally competitive. Some shoppers also tout the convenience and cost-effectiveness of ordering non-perishables from online merchants that offer free shipping. It’s best to shop around for items you buy on a regular basis and buy non-perishables in bulk when possible.

Experiment in the Kitchen

Hearty whole-grain bread or hand-cut pasta is expensive when purchased from your local boutique market. But the basic ingredients in these meal foundations are flour, water, and time. Get reacquainted with your kitchen and learn how to make things by hand.

Get That Restaurant Experience

Dining out can be expensive, especially when your standards for food are high. Think of your favorite restaurants. What are your favorite things about them? No doubt one of the best benefits of dining out is not handling any of the cooking and dish-washing yourself. So when you just need a break, by all means enjoy a night out on the town; however, when you are simply feeling uninspired, remember these restaurants and the small touches that set you at ease. Light candles, use cloth napkins, and linger over dinner to re-create that ambiance in your own home.

Who knows? In watching your bottom line, you might just be able to trim your waistline in the process.

Written from staff reports.

Categories: Home, Health & Spirit

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