You don’t have to rely on cheap processed foods to save money at the grocery store. These ideas can help you get plenty of fresh, seasonal and healthy foods in your cart for less money — and can even help you figure out what to do with them when you get them home too!
Buy seasonal produce to save money
“Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, low in sodium and many also provide soluble fiber to help lower your risk of heart disease,” says Rochelle Gilman, R.D. “And they cost less when they’re in season.” Some produce may be available year-round, but here is a short list to help you know when to buy these healthy fruits and veggies.
Spring: Asparagus, rhubarb, apricots, spinach.
Summer: Tomatoes, green beans, nectarines, blueberries.
Fall: Sweet potatoes and yams, cranberries, apples, pomegranates.
Winter: Winter squash, cabbage, snow peas.
Pick generic instead of brand-name products
When you purchase brand-name products, you could be paying 25 percent to 50 percent more than if you bought similar store-brand products, according to a comparison test by Consumer Reports. In some cases, brand-named companies also manufacture store-brand products without changing anything but the packaging.
If you’re purchasing food items, you sometimes won’t even be able to tell the difference. Gilman says that, in general, store brands have comparable nutritional values, but she advises checking the label to see if you’re gaining any fat or sodium or missing out on fiber or other important nutrients. To keep up with consumer demand, many store brands also offer organic and health-conscious selections.
Make your own healthy snack packs
Save money and calories by making your morning coffee and personal snack-packs at home.
Snack mix: When picking what to put in your snack mix, check the sodium and fat content of each item. Good choices include whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and air-popped popcorn that’s light on butter and salt.
Fresh vegetables: Buy a vegetable tray for the week. The veggies are precut and can be portioned out for easy snacks on the go or at work. Save even more money by cutting your own carrot and celery sticks at home and making your own dip.
Fresh or frozen fruit: Buying precut fruit can make your healthful snacks come together quickly. Save even more money by cutting your own at home, or buying fruit that doesn’t need cutting up, such as apples, pears or bananas.
Make food now and freeze some for later
One easy way to stock up on home-cooked favorites is by preparing double (or more) the serving size you need, then freezing the extra for a quick meal later in the week.
Make your freezer leftover-friendly
Create a labeling system for your frozen foods. If you don’t know what it is, you’re less likely to eat it.
Pick one night a week to have a buffet. Thaw several of your labeled leftovers and enjoy them over the next few days. This will also make room for more leftovers!
Freeze portion-ready servings for a one- or two-person snack or meal for convenience and portion control. This way if you’re in a hurry, all you need to do is zap it in the microwave.
Use space-saving freezer bags to store veggies and soups. These bags allow for easy thawing in a pot of water.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)