About Me

I have done a lot of things in my life and have also worked in many different jobs to make a living and to experience life. This blog is just some of my musings, sometimes funny, sometimes inspirational, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes simple but all the time, it's just me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Healthy savings: The art of frugal food shopping

These frugal food tips which I have copied from the Mayo Clinic in USA will help you achieve healthy savings on your grocery bill. Some of these do not apply to Malaysia but quite a number of them could be helpful.

Frugal is back. People are cutting costs by eating more meals at home. Of course, you can still spend big at the supermarket. But with frugal food shopping, you can cut your grocery bill — and still eat healthy.

Skeptical? Don't be. You can find plenty of resources to help you become a frugal food guru while still paying attention to nutrition. For instance, the Department of Agriculture has created a "thrifty plan" for feeding a family of four — two adults plus two children between the ages of 6 and 11 — that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and costs only $135 a week.

You say you're not the frugal type? Try easing into it with a few of the frugal food tips below. You may discover that being frugal isn't so tough — and can even be tasty.

Before you leave home
Frugal food shopping starts before you hit the supermarket. Take some time at home to review your staples and make a game plan:

Check the pantry. Use up your supplies rather than letting them gather dust. Grab some canned beans and tomatoes to make chili, or whip up a fruit salad from a couple of cans of fruit.

Plan ahead. Make a menu plan for the week and then buy only the items you need. Having a list helps you avoid expensive impulse purchases, as well as the frustration of getting home with groceries, but with no plan for using them.

Change the focus. Meat needn't be the main event every night. Try one or two meatless dinners a week. Build the meal around vegetables, beans and grains — they're cheaper, lower in fat and higher in fiber than meat is. Stock up on legumes and whole-grain staples, such as beans, lentils, brown rice, bulgur and whole-wheat pastas. Use them to make filling soups, stews and casseroles.

Weigh time vs. money. Can you make time for some prep work in the kitchen? Investing a little time can mean big savings. Consider this example: Pre-cut broccoli florets are twice as expensive per pound as whole broccoli.

Clip coupons. If you aren't using coupons for items you regularly buy, you're missing out on savings. Check the fliers that come in the mail or with your newspaper — and check online, too.

Sign up. Shopper cards, also called bonus cards, are the surest way to save at most grocery chains. Sign up at the supermarkets you frequent.

Join the club. Discount clubs can save you money on bulk items. If you can't use up the big quantities, consider splitting them — and the cost — with family or friends. This might not seem to be something we can do in Malaysia as I have not seen any discount clubs but I would then advice to shop in bigger hypermarkets and wet markets in Malaysia. Wet markets can be really cheap for fresh produce.

When you're pushing the cart
The good news in tough economic times is that you're sure to find deals at the grocery store. With these tips and tricks, you'll be a super saver when you hit the supermarket:

Steer clear of junk food. Empty calories from chips and sweets are no bargain. Use your food dollars to buy nutrient-rich food to fuel your body.

Pop over to the bakery. Check out your store's bakery counter. Store-made baked goods are often cheaper — and fresher — than are commercial brands. You can also save by buying day-old baked goods. When you get home pop the bread in the freezer — then you can use it as you need it and keep it from going bad.

Look beyond the big brands. Store brands are 25 percent cheaper on average than are comparable brand-name products. And in many cases, you won't be able to taste any difference.
Be smart about organics. Organic often means expensive. So opt only for organic produce that tends to harbor pesticides when grown traditionally, such as peaches, strawberries and peppers.

Can it or bag it. If fresh produce threatens to bust your budget, try canned or frozen alternatives. And when you find a sale, stock up. Another tip: Check out bagged produce, such as potatoes and onions, which are generally cheaper per pound than are their loose counterparts.

Location, location, location. Amazingly enough, the same product may be on display in different areas of the store at different prices. For example, you may find that a cheese featured at the deli counter is also available pre-sliced in the refrigerated case for less. Make sure you locate the lowest cost option. Also, less expensive — but equally healthy — items appear on lower or higher shelves instead of the premium eye-level shelf.

Check the tab. Don't leave the store until you review your receipt. Six percent of shoppers report being overcharged at the supermarket checkout.

Long-term savings
Following these tips can help you save on food bills while still eating a healthy diet. But did you know that eating healthfully can also help you avoid expensive medical care later?

A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and also limits red meat and emphasizes "good" fats — can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. It's hard to find a bigger bang for your buck than that.

Take care and be well.

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