Eating on a Budget

As the New Year gets started, many people are looking for ways to eat healthy and maximize their food budget.  Here are 13 simple tips to help you do both in 2013:

  1. Plan – Plan your meals for the week before you head to the store.  See what foods you already have and then make a list of what you need to buy (and stick to the list).  Take advantage of resources like the U.S. Department of Agriculture or your local university extension office to find advice and publications on meal planning and budgeting.
  2. Research – As part of your meal planning, check newspapers and circulars for sales and coupons.  Subscribe to coupon sites like to locate coupons for specific items to help bring down your total grocery bill.
  3. Buy in bulk – It’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk (especially items like meats and frozen vegetables).    Just make sure not to buy more than you can store in your pantry and/or freezer to avoid food waste.
  4. Be creative – Look for new ways to use leftovers.  Use left-over chicken in a chili or soup.  Clean out the vegetable drawer and make a veggie stir fry.  Throwing away food is like throwing away money!  There are a number of websites that can help you find new ways to use leftovers and stretch your food dollars.
  5. Think seasonally – Buying fruits and vegetables in season can lower the cost and add to the freshness of what you serve your family.  Certain foods are typically low-cost options all year.  Try beans as a less expensive protein source in soups and casseroles.  Carrots, greens, potatoes, apples and bananas are usually lower priced, fresh options to round out your meals.
  6. Eat those seasonal veggies – Make half your plate fruit and vegetables.  Diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of some diseases, and since they’re high in fiber, they can fill you up with fewer calories than other foods.
  7. Use meat as a side – Start thinking of meat as a side dish, not the main course.  Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and then add meat sparingly.
  8. Big batches – Prepare a large portion of your favorite recipes and freeze them to eat later in the week.  This saves time and makes you less likely to be tempted by expensive take-out on those nights you don’t feel like cooking.
  9. Small plates – Since people tend to eat what we put on our plate, starting with a smaller plate can help you with portion control and help you eat less.
  10. Eat breakfast – Your mother was right….breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It gives your body and brain the fuel to get started, and it can make you less likely to overeat the rest of the day.
  11. Take your lunch – Pack your lunch for work – you’ll eat better and save money (plus you can use some of those leftovers).
  12. Make a switch – Switch out at least one soda or sugary beverage for water every day.  Again, you’ll reduce calories and save money.  Drink that glass of water 20-30 minutes before a meal, and you’ll feel fuller faster and be likely to consume fewer calories.
  13. Slow down – It can take your body and brain up to 20 minutes to realize that you’re full.  Eating slowly allows your body time to adjust and recognize when you’re full.

These small changes can help you save money and live healthier in 2013.  Have a safe and happy year!

Kathy Komoll is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Association of Food Banks.  Roadrunner Food Bank is a member of the association.

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