Planning is key to eating healthy on a budget

Planning healthy meals and snacks can help stretch your food dollars.

Grocery stores are filled with so many tasty choices that is can be hard to remember to stick to a budget when shopping. “Planning” is one way you can stick to your food budget. Planning also helps ensure you are eating foods that are healthy for your body. Planning takes time, but you will be glad you spent the time when you can prepare healthy, delicious meals throughout the week.

One way to stick to a food budget is to plan meals and snacks based on the amount of money you have to spend for the week. Plan meals that will “stretch” expensive food items, such as meat. Stews, casseroles and stir-fry dishes are great ways to use smaller amounts of meat in your meals, which will help lower your grocery bill. You can find many quick and easy recipes online through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) What's Cooking website. You can search for recipes based on ingredients, time of meal or type of dish (side dishes, desserts, beverages, etc.). After you write down the week’s meals and snacks, find the ingredients you already have in your kitchen and add the missing ingredients to your grocery list. Making a list is another way to stick to your grocery budget.

Before you shop, check the local paper or online for sales and coupons for the items on your grocery list. Resist using a coupon for $1 off an item, unless you use it often or it’s on your original grocery list. Try shopping at a discount food store where food can be cheaper due to fewer in-store services, such as butchers and bakeries. It might be tempting to buy food not on your list because it’s cheap, but stick to your list. To lower your food bill even further, see if your grocery store has a store card that provides additional rewards or savings to cardholders. Using a store card may provide more savings on your grocery bill each week.

Sticking to a food budget is easier when you plan your meals, follow a grocery list, and use discounts and coupons. You can also use your planning time to be sure you are eating foods that are good for your body. Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes in your area that will teach you tricks and tips for eating healthy on a budget.

For more ways to eat healthy on a food budget read Preparing is key to eating healthy on a budget.

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