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Special for Diet.com
by Stephanie Nelson
Shopping strategically at the grocery to save money is not about changing the way you eat, it is about changing the way you buy the food that you like.
If you are working on losing weight, or improving your family's health, you can save money on groceries when you know how to be a Strategic Shopper.
I've taught millions of people how to save money while using coupons, but some people believe they have to trade healthy choices for saving money.
It's just not true, you can have a healthy diet and save money, too!
More than 1.7 million shoppers have joined the CouponMom.com website to save money on groceries. I've become the country's leading expert on coupons and as such have taught millions how to save money on my website as well as on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, AOL, Wall Street Journal and CNN Money.
Some basic keys to saving money while serving healthy food include:
-- do it yourself, don't pay for convenience
-- simple substitutions: be aware of less expensive, comparable alternatives
-- do meal planning based on overall meal cost
-- save 10 to 40% by avoiding all food waste
-- save money and calories with proper portion control
-- use Strategic Shopping (combining store sales with coupons) on your key items
-- be store flexible: know the prices of your common items and shop where prices are lowest
How to save on produce
-- compare prices for your common produce at a few different types of stores, such as a discount store (Wal-Mart or Target supercenters), a no-frills discount store (Aldi or Sav-a-Lot), a wholesale club (Costco or BJs) and a couple of local supermarkets. You may find that an alternate store would be a better source of produce in the off-season. During the summer, a local farmers' market could be a good source of healthy produce at a lower cost.
-- talk to the produce manager about markdowns, and find out what time of day they markdown produce (that is generally perfectly good)
-- buy fresh produce in season, concentrating on the featured sale items. If not on sale, buy frozen vegetables as they tend to be less expensive and have coupons available for name brands. Frozen vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness so they may have more nutrition than fresh vegetables that have been in storage for a longer period of time.
-- save money by doing it yourself. The cost savings of washing your own lettuce, peeling your own carrots, cutting your own fruit equates to an hourly wage of over $50! If it takes 5 minutes to save 60-70%, it's worth doing yourself. Don't pay exorbitant per-pound prices for pre-cut produce, pre-cooked chicken strips, cooked bacon, etc.
-- consider the cost per serving of fruits and vegetables and make simple substitutions to vary your diet and save money. Apples may cost $1.99 per lb. and bananas are 59 cents per lb. However, on a per-unit basis a large apple could cost $2 and a banana could cost 25 cents. When you consider that each family member may have 1 fruit a day (at a minimum), the cost difference really adds up. Also compare the cost per piece of fruit or potatoes of a 5-lb. bag as compared to buying individual pieces by the pound. Smaller apples cost less, lead to less waste, and have fewer calories.
-- pay attention to food waste and work to reduce it to zero. Food waste accounts for 10 to 40% of families' overall grocery spending (the average percentage increases as the average grocery spending increases according to USDA statistics). Serve realistic portions for weight-management and proper nutrition. Do not serve children more food than they would realistically eat. If you have a small portion of cooked vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta, or the entree left over at the end of the meal, do not force someone to eat it or throw it away. Save the portion in a container for the refrigerator or freezer and use it in a future soup, salad or frittata to create a very inexpensive meal with a small portion.
How to save on meat, chicken, fish
-- only buy main dish ingredients when they are on sale. Pay attention to your stores' featured sales item on the first page of their weekly ad and plan that week's meals around that ingredient. Chicken is a common sale item, so be creative about finding healthy recipes that your family likes using various types of chicken. Buy at least one or two extra weeks' worth of the main ingredient item to freeze so you do not have to pay full price in the future.
-- consider buying fish that is flash-frozen to save, or only buy the type of fish that is on sale.
-- ... Continue
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