Saving money when purchasing food can be quite a challenge; especially with so many food choices, food allergies, food modifications, and food warnings. Plus, the days of grocery shopping for meals to be shared at home is no longer the norm, with many people choosing to spend much of their hard earned dollar eating out or on the go, rather than sitting around the family table. As a matter of fact, more than 750 billion U.S. dollars was spent in restaurants in 2016 alone! By the end of any given month, the amount of money most people spend on food is typically exorbitant and a large part of credit card debt. Worse yet, it seems the more we spend, the more unhealthy we become as a society, with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other life threatening ailments all on the rise.
What’s a solution to saving money on food and health care costs? One word: Plan
Plan your meals, plan what you want to spend on your meals, plan where you want to purchase your meals; plan to eat healthy and feel good! Save lots of money on your food and your health care costs by planning. It’s a simple concept that, when put into effect, will change one’s life for the better, helping to save lots of money in the long run.
Begin with knowing the facts about your personal spending habits in relation to food:
- For one week, log all your food costs in a journal, including cigarettes (often used as a food suppressant or compliment), gum, and other relied upon sources of nourishment.
- Next, assess the results honestly, taking note of how much is spent on junk food, fast food, convenience food, and processed food, all considered to be highly detrimental when eaten in excess. Did you know sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol have all been referred to as extremely addictive drugs that can cause body aches and pains, stress, anxiety, and depression? How much are you spending on them each week and how are you feeling?
Now that you know the facts, plan next week’s meals to be more cost-effective and healthy by creating a schedule based on when you think you’ll be home to eat and when you think you won’t (including breakfast, lunch, and dinner):
- For meals anticipated at home, spend time selecting recipes and making lists of ingredients to be purchased; include your kids in the process so they can learn, too! Create a list of “go to” delicacies that you love to eat and love to make; by planning to always have these food items in the cupboards and refrigerator, you’ll turn the “I don’t know what to eat” moments into stress-free, delicious meals. Then set aside a few days of the week to go shopping, rather than once a week; purchase only the ingredients needed for the next couple of days, to avoid wasted dollars on fresh foods not eaten turned rotten.
- For meals away from home, prepare coolers of store-bought food to bring along on trips; take leftovers and easy-to- make food options to work; and select restaurants that provide cost-conscious, healthy options. Take the time to share with your children why you’ve made your choices, so they understand the benefits of saving money while staying healthy.
There’s an old saying that knowledge is king. A very important part of your planning is to research and discover all the wonderful ways of saving money on food while being health conscious; the more you know, the more empowered you are to make better decisions overall. For example, a few tips on how to cost-effectively approach grocery shopping:
- Join a local food co-op to be able to purchase food in bulk close to wholesale prices (and you’ll help support local farmers and businesses while doing so).
- Check out the schedule of all the farmers’ markets near you, where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold for fair prices.
- Look online for digital coupons; most stores will scan coupons displayed on your phone, providing big discounts.
- Research stores that provide cost-effective, better quality fresh and whole foods; they’re much healthier to eat than processed, minimally nutritional foods.
- Be wary of any, “special deals,” that appear to be less expensive but are actually of lesser quality (hint: check the expiration date of the food; most sale items are about to expire).
- Look into the large, wholesale stores where bulk purchases are offered; many now carry organic and non-GMO products.
Remember: Planning is key. Spend more wisely on food choices while taking into consideration the long-term effects meals have on your health, to save now and in the future. Know that the investment of time and care for your well-being has the potential of paying off in great dividends as you and your family age with less disease and lower medical bills.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. So plan to succeed!