It’s difficult enough to stay healthy but how do you do that on a limited budget? For some, the thought is to buy pre-prepared foods because that’s going to be fastest and is often less expensive. Yes, it’s true, fresh fruits and veggies tend to be more expensive than pre-prepared foods but here’s how you can mix the two to help you stay within your food budget.

Getting Started

Sit down with a pad of paper and write out the meals you plan to do for that week. This is what you’ll use for your grocery list, and it will also be a way for you to spot where you can make some budget cuts and save money.

Look at your pantry and see what you already have on hand that you can use for this week’s meals. It’s more likely than not that you won’t have to buy everything from scratch.

If you have some recipes in mind, think about healthy ways to change some of the ingredients and reduce your cost.

Before you go to the grocery store do this: Eat. This is really important because going to the grocery store when you’re hungry leads to more impulse buying which will not help you save money.

At the Store

If you’re a coupon clipper, that’s a great way to save some money but here’s a warning: Never clip coupons for products that you don’t use on a regular basis.

Let’s say, as an example, you like macaroni and cheese in a box. There’s no shame in this. It has saved many a college student from starvation.

Kraft macaroni and cheese runs about $1.19 a box. See what your store brand has because they may be able to give you a better option for less than a dollar a box. If that’s the case, you’ve just saved some money on what is, essentially, the same product.

Reading a Price Tags

Something that is a valuable tool in the grocery store is knowing how to read a price tag. Let’s say you have a choice of buying Dannon yogurt or the store brand. You really like Dannon, but when you look at the price tag the unit price is 12¢ per ounce on 6 ounces of yogurt as opposed to 5¢ per ounce on 32 ounces of the store brand.

The 6 ounces of yogurt may only be 72¢ as opposed to $1.62 for 32 ounces. Clearly the better buy is the larger store brand yogurt because you’re not paying as much per ounce.

Meal Prep

One way to cut down on cost is to double recipes, and doing this does not automatically double your cost.

Make sure to put the second serving in a freezer bag for the next time you want to eat that particular meal.

If you find you have some left over tomato sauce – not really enough for an entire meal – consider adding it to soup or stew to re-purpose it and make it go further.

You can stay healthy on a budget by shopping smarter and not harder.

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Are you on a food budget this month?