With a little planning and a little thinking, you can buy healthy foods for your family and save money, too!
Click here to download a chart showing the ideal seasons to buy fruits and vegetables!
- Plan meals and snacks for the week before you go to the store. Plan how much you want to spend.
- Write your planned meals and snacks on a calendar, a chalkboard, a piece of notebook paper, whatever works for your family.
- Make a grocery list of the things you plan to buy. Be sure to take it to the store with you!
Making the grocery list
Keep a list of your family’s favorite meals and snacks. Look at the list for inspiration when you’re feeling stumped about what meals to plan.
Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets. What foods do you already have on hand? How can you build a meal using these items? For example, if you have a lot of frozen vegetables, plan to have a soup, stew, or casserole that could be made with those vegetables. Put any additional ingredients you need on this week’s grocery list.
Check for sales, coupons, or other discounts in your local newspaper or online. Plan meals or snacks around items that are on sale. Ask about a loyalty card at your grocery store. Sometimes, a loyalty card will qualify you for additional discounts.
Plan to have leftovers. You can make a double-batch of something, or you can cook extra amounts of an ingredient that can be used in another meal later in the week. This can help you save time. You may also be able to save money by buying in bulk.
At the grocery store
Shop at the right time. Go to the grocery store when you are not feeling hungry and when you are not too rushed.
Stick to your grocery list. Don’t go down aisles that don’t have items on your list.
Find and compare the unit price or price-per-ounce displayed on the store shelves or on the label for meats. This will help you get the best price.
Buy store brands, if they are less expensive than name brands.
Buy bulk. Choose items, especially meats, in bulk or in family packs. They usually cost less per ounce.
Buy in season. Choose fruits and vegetables when they are in season. When they are in season, they are less expensive.
Buy frozen or canned. When the fruits and vegetables are out of season, or when fresh is too expensive, choose frozen or canned. Choose the option that costs less per ounce.
Buy the healthier choice. Choose low-sodium versions of canned vegetables. Choose canned fruits, vegetables, or meats packed in water rather than in syrup or oil.
Save year-round. Good low-cost options available all year include:
- Canned beans (garbanzo beans or chick peas, black beans, and cannellini beans). These are good sources of protein.
- Carrots, greens (collard, mustard, or turnip), cabbage, sweet potatoes, low-sodium canned tomatoes, and potatoes.
- Apples and bananas.
Keep it fresh. Buy only the amount of a fresh food that you can use or freeze before it spoils. Frozen, canned, and shelf-stable foods last longer.
Keep it safe. When you get home, store food in the refrigerator or freezer right away to keep it safe to eat.
Keep it frozen. If you buy a large amount of fresh food like meat, chicken, or fish, divide it into meal-size packages, label the packages, and freeze them for future meals.
In the kitchen
Pre-cook when you have time, so that you can just re-heat a meal on a busy day.
Double or triple recipes. Serve one meal right away, and freeze the others. Freeze meal-sized or individual serving containers of soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, or casseroles to serve later.
Go meatless by substituting beans or peas for meat.
Try a no-cook meal like a salad with lots of veggies.
Use leftovers in another meal later in the week.
Be creative. Try different meals using the same ingredient during the week.