You have found your motivation (or maybe it has found you) and made the decision to lose weight and begin a healthier lifestyle. Congratulations are in order. That enthusiasm is the first step to success. Your second and biggest challenge is to eat well. It is widely believed that nutrition is the single biggest factor in any successful and sustainable weight management plan.
If you’ve made the commitment, you will find the time to eat well, and it will quickly become routine, efficient, and rewarding. But what about the expense? A satisfying, nutritious, and low-calorie diet can seem like a luxury not available on every budget. Healthy eating, however, does not have to break the bank. Here are some of the tips to use to keep your fridge full of tasty, wholesome foods while staying within budget.
TIP #1: BUY YOUR VEGETABLES FROM THE FROZEN SECTION
There are many reasons why buying frozen vegetables is a great idea. First, vegetables in the freezer section are flash frozen at their peak ripeness. Your favorite veggies will still be yummy even when they are out of season. Second, frozen vegetables have a last longer. You no longer have to worry about your fresh vegetables spoiling before you get to cook them. Waste is expensive. Third, frozen is a great way to ensure you are getting your USDA daily-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Finally, frozen vegetables typically cost less than fresh vegetables. ADDED BONUS: When you buy frozen, most of the prep work has already been done for you.
TIP #2: BUY DISCOUNTED MEAT
Grocery stores often put huge markdowns on meat when it is reaching its sell-by date. Don’t let a sell-by date scare you off. This simply means that the meat will maintain its freshness at the recommended refrigerator temperature for 1-3 days past this date. With the discount, you can stock up on great cuts of meat at a fraction of the price and freeze it until you are ready to use it. For added convenience, portion out your meat before freezing it for easier meal planning.
TIP #3: BUY GENERIC
Many generic store brands are just as high-quality as their name brand counterparts, and they cost less. Often, we are simply paying more for branding and advertising. Next time you are at the grocery store, compare the labels on your favorite brands with the store brand. You will often find that there isn’t much difference. You may discover that you do actually prefer the name brand and it is worth the cost to you; but on your quest to stay within budget, at least give the generic store brands a try.
TIP #4: BUY HERBS FROM THE SEASONING SECTION
You are now on what may seem to be a restrictive menu, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the food you do eat. Herbs and other seasonings are key to enlivening your palate and keeping your menu exciting. Why buy an entire bunch of fresh dill for the quarter teaspoon required by a recipe, only to watch the remaining dill go bad before you use it again? A package of dried herbs may cost a little more than the fresh bunch when you compare dollar for dollar on a single shopping trip, but dried herbs have a longer shelf life when stored properly and have more concentrated flavors (so you use less per recipe). You can save money by spending a little bit more upfront because you won’t be throwing away the leftovers.
TIP #5: HAVE A PLAN BEFORE YOU GO SHOPPING
Planning out your meals for the week ahead of time is another key to economic dieting success. To help save money and time, make a list of all the ingredients you are going to need. Check your freezer, pantry, and fridge to see what you already have. Mark those items off the list. What is left is your shopping list. Knowing what you need before you walk into the store will help you save in a couple of ways. First, you won’t be spending money on unnecessary items that you already have. Secondly, you will avoid the common pitfall of buying more than you need. If you are like me, you only have so much storage space for food. For those trying to lose weight, well-planned shopping trips are an essential way to stay focused, to stay on plan, and to avoid temptation.