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Budgeting For Better, Healthier Meals

By Ashley Watson

Budgeting for meals can be easier than you think if you remember that saving money will also encourage healthier eating habits. You already know that whole foods are more healthful than processed foods, but did you realize they were cheaper, as well?

Here are some tips to remember when creating your grocery budget and shopping lists:

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals for the week may feel a little too ambitious, but it will save time and money in the end. Think about how long it takes to decide what you want to eat after a long day at work when you are already tired and hungry. You don’t have to sit down and write a detailed menu for every night of the week, but it’s a good idea to have a general sense of which meals you want to prepare.

There are many recipes that you can prepare the night before and put in the oven when you get home from work. If you are trying a new recipe, give yourself more time than usual. Make it on the weekend or on a night when you know you will have some extra time in the kitchen.

Meal planning not only encourages healthier choices, but it also saves money, since your other option is to buy expensive processed foods, or eat out.

Join a Co-op or CSA

If you live near a co-op that offers memberships, it is a great way to save on groceries. Many cooperatives offer incentives to become a member, such as a member discount. Some stores even offer a larger discount in exchange for a few hours of work per month, which is a great way to get more involved in your community. Plus, you can glean some wholesome meal tips by hanging out with folks who are passionate about food.

If you have a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) in your area, this will cut down on your grocery bill significantly. While you have to pay a large sum at the beginning of the summer, you will not have to buy produce for the entire summer. Some CSAs offer fall and winter shares that include meat and dairy. In any case, a CSA is a great way to support local farms, save money, and practice cooking with whole foods more often.

Buy Bulk Whole Foods

Buying in bulk is a much cheaper way to shop since you aren’t paying for the packaging, and you don’t have to belong to a membership club or a co-op to buy in bulk. Many grocery stores have a bulk section where you can get staples, such as rice, flour, nuts, and legumes. You’re also more likely not to waste food since you can buy as much or as little as you need, which helps you stay within your food budget and get the most out of your meals.

Cut Costs not Coupons

While coupons may appear to save you money on groceries, you have to collect a lot of them to make a dent in your grocery bill. This takes up time that you could be planning meals or balancing your budget. People also tend to buy items they normally wouldn’t purchase just because it is on sale. Look for sale items that are part of your regular grocery list. Sometimes grocery stores will publish a newsletter with all the sale items for the next month. Pick out the ones you need, and ignore the rest.

While you may be a busy person, try to create a little extra space in your life to budget for better, healthier meals. You’ll find that budgeting and eating wholesome food often go hand in hand.

August 10th, 2011

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