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Eating Healthy on a Budget

Written by Featured Organization on 04 September 2012.

Many people and families in the United States are still feeling the crunch from the current economic recession. More people these days are interested in eating healthy, either to lose or maintain their weight, or to prevent or manage a chronic disease like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.  In addition, many of us are working to find ways we can take care of our health and our shrinking budgets at the same time.  Yet, there are many ways in which we can maintain and even improve our health, without spending a lot. Here are some helpful tips for eating healthy and watching your pennies.
• Plan your trips to the grocery store.  Making a list before you go and sticking to your list will help you avoid “impulse” buying, which often means picking up unhealthy foods.  
• Include meals like stews and casseroles, which can stretch ingredients into several portions. 
• Avoid going to the grocery store hungry, which can also lead to unwise purchases.  Even eating a small snack can be helpful. 
• Get the best price! Use coupons as much as possible, either from the newspaper or from free websites.  Look for grocery store sales, such as “triple value coupons.”  Ask about a loyalty card for extra savings. Plan your food menus ahead of time and plan around these weekly sales.
• Locate the “Unit Price” on the shelf below the product. Use it to compare different sizes and different brands to see which one is the most economical. 
• Buy generic brand or “store brand” items rather than popular brand items.  Often times, the quality is the same and includes the same ingredients.
• Buying foods in bulk is almost always cheaper; items in individual servings are usually the most expensive.  Make sure that you can store, freeze or prepare these foods before they go bad.
• Avoid convenience foods, like frozen dinners and “instant” foods, which will cost you more than making them on your own, and likely be less healthy than meals you prepare.
• If you have freezer space, purchase frozen vegetables, which are fresher and often cheaper than canned vegetables.  
• Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season; they can be 2 or 3 times as much when purchased out of season.
• Prepare large batches (i.e. double batches) of favorite recipes and store in individual servings. You can then use these servings for lunches (for school or work) and other meals to avoid eating out. 
• Don’t always plan your meals around meats.  Instead, let your main course be whole grains, such as rice, or beans, like bean soups and refried beans in wraps.• Always try to eat leftovers – try using them in a new dish or with new flavors to spice up your menu. 
• Try drinking water instead of sodas.  Not only is it healthier, this can especially save money when you go out to eat.
• Many restaurants now have very large portion sizes for the entrée and dessert.  Try sharing these dishes with someone and splitting the cost.
• If you have diabetes, instead of purchasing “diabetic” snacks, which are healthier but more expensive, choose low-calorie snacks.  
These easy to follow tips can make a big difference in your health and your wallet! For more information and other tools and tips for eating healthy on a budget, check out the US Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate website at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-on-budget.html. Other tools on the Choose My Plate website help with physical activity, weight management, portion control and free printable materials.  
Do you need further information on this topic or resources in your area or have questions or comments about this article? Please call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. For more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, please visit: http://www.wake.edu/MACHE.  •

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