How Much Weight Can You Lose Monthly By Cuting Back Practice Smart, Savvy Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

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Practice Smart, Savvy Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

With the tight economy, we are all budgeting our money. Many have cut back on certain luxuries they enjoy like going to the movies, buying luxury goods or taking luxury vacations. It’s hard to even think about spending so much at the grocery store for expensive “health” foods. Eating healthy on a budget is one of the most common misconceptions I hear. I will show you that if you learn to shop smart and cook smart you will eat smart!

1. Plan your meals and make a grocery list!

The way I start meal planning is I look at my weekly schedule. I consider family activities and meetings and plan meals accordingly to avoid last minute meals. Then I make a grocery list based on the meal I’m going to make. I also checked my pantry, fridge and freezer to make sure I didn’t buy any “extras” that weren’t on the list. Finally, I clip coupons and check the weekly ads just for the things I want to buy.

If you have a hard time thinking about what to make for dinner, check out the Internet. There are many great websites that offer food ideas, as well as master grocery lists. I like http://www.familyfun.com, which gives you a month’s worth of ideas. Alternatively, create a monthly meal or grocery list on your computer. This way, you can just print a copy each week and half the work is done!

2. Use the Food Guide Pyramid as your guide.

Most people plan meals with a large portion of meat as the main course and a small portion of grains and vegetables as your sides. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends that we change the way we think about meal planning and incorporate most of our intake from whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Use meat, which is usually higher in fat and calories, as a new dish. Also, meat can be quite expensive. Also try substituting dried beans, peas and lentils in place of meat. They are cheap and full of protein and fiber. If your family likes to eat a lot of pasta and rice, look for healthier whole wheat or brown rice varieties. And, when buying fruit and vegetables, think frozen! Especially in the off-season, it really is the best bang for your buck!

3. Don’t go to the store hungry!

Just like any situation where you have food, you need to have a game plan before you go out. Plan to go to the grocery store after your meal or eat a balanced snack before you leave. You will be less tempted to buy it just looks good and you will have more energy and patience to get through the long checkout line!

4. Read food labels and understand key terms.

Practice, Practice, Practice! Like any skill, grocery shopping can be difficult. But if you know what you’re doing, you’ll be more effective and save time and money. Learn to read food labels. If you don’t know how, find a registered dietitian to teach you. It can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to avoid certain terms. I am an advocate for less processed food, so the less ingredients in the product, the better. Avoid foods with trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup. Look for foods that are 100% whole grains. And, don’t buy “diet” food. They are expensive and often high in sugar and salt.

5. Make meals and snacks from scratch.

When you cook from scratch, you can control the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in each meal – it’s that easy! And, by controlling the materials you use, you control the cost. There’s something comforting about home-cooked meals, too. The aroma and warmth of the kitchen can bring you back from the most stressful day. Since making large meals can be time-consuming, try making them twice so you have extra to freeze or have for lunch.

A great time-saving idea is to prepare lunch-sized meals and put them in containers while you’re preparing everyone’s dinner. For snacks, pre-portioned low-calorie snack bags are easy, convenient and affordable. I like to take snack size baggies and portion out healthy snacks like trail mix made with cereal, pretzels, raisins, nuts and some chocolate chips. In this way, even small children can take a baggie full of healthy food that will not spoil their appetite.

6. Limit eating out.

With all the tips I mentioned above, you will never need to eat out again! Just kidding, but it makes the experience of going out to dinner seem more like a special treat than the norm. And, when thinking about cutting costs, remember what you spend on food and how much it costs to make it at home. Most of the time, it saves to eat at home. If you must eat out on a regular basis, try choosing lunch portions or kid-sized meals. Also, go ala-carte. This will save you money and most of the time calories!

Your family will enjoy healthy meals and snacks at your home. Practice these tips and you’ll soon be a master shopper. Although being a smart, savvy shopper and meal planner doesn’t take much work, the health benefits and cost savings are priceless!

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