When food prices increase, it can be difficult to resist the $1 burger deals that many fast food restaurants offer. Buying fast food every once in a while probably won’t hurt you and your family, but you should not make it a steady diet. It may take a little more time to make a meal rather than grabbing the cheap deals right in front of you, but you can learn to stretch your food dollars and still eat healthily.
Shop with a Purpose
Stop buying processed foods and junk foods with little nutritional value. You don’t need to spend your money on sodas, packaged cookies and crackers, processed foods or prepackaged meals. You can completely cut these types of foods from your budget. Make a list before you grocery shop, and stick to it. Shop the perimeter of the store first — where the fruits, vegetables and meats are. You do need staples. Keep certain items, such as peanut butter, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, flour, sugar and rice, in your pantry.
Grocery Store Alternatives
Besides the grocery store, shop at warehouse clubs where you can get bargains. Typically, you purchase food in large quantities at warehouse stores, so only purchase food there if you have a place to freeze the extra and know that you will eat all the produce you buy. Determine whether your town or city has a farmer’s market. You can sometimes get a better deal there, especially if you go toward the end of the day when the farmers are more likely to lower their prices. Check into ethnic markets, too, for better prices on fruits and vegetables.
Your family needs protein to be healthy. Protein in the form of meats, however, can be expensive. Get around this by buying less-expensive cuts and making soups, stir-fries, casseroles or stews. Not only do you save on the cut of meat this way, you stretch what you buy by adding ingredients to the meal, such as beans, whole grains and vegetables. Beans by themselves are a good source of protein. Save even more money by buying dried beans and lentils in bulk.
Buy produce in season. Buy apples, oranges, potatoes and onions and anything else you can in bags instead of individually. You can also buy frozen vegetables, which are just as nutritious as fresh, to use in soups and stews. Some of the cheapest foods that are also healthy are oatmeal, eggs, potatoes, apples, chickpeas, bananas, broccoli, beets, whole-grain pasta and spinach.
When you make your casserole, stir-fry, soup or stew, cook double the portion your family will eat. Freeze half. On the night when you are too busy or don’t feel like cooking, defrost that half to serve. This saves you money from ordering pizza or Chinese food. Also, when you do have leftovers, eat them rather than pushing them to the back of the refrigerator, where they stay until you throw them out. Use your leftovers the next day for lunch or turn them into a new dinner the next night. One easy recipe called “Anything Rice” from the Epicurious website, uses whatever you have left over, such as chicken, bacon, pork chops, shrimp or hamburger. Cook 2 cups of rice. Heat oil in a skillet and add some chopped onion and bell pepper. Stir-fry for three minutes. Add two eggs and stir. Add the rice and your leftovers. Heat through and serve.