Try these simple ways to trim costs without skimping on nutrition.
These days we're all tightening our belts. Watch out how you eat, though, or you could be loosening yours a notch or two. When times are tough, it's tempting to buy high-calorie, processed foods (think chips, cookies, and doughnut holes), which tend to cost less than lower-calorie, more nutritious stuff–things like veggies, fruits, and whole grains. But with a little know-how, you can save money on groceries without skimping on nutrition. Try the tips below from Linda McDonald, M.S., R.D., editor of SupermarketSavvy.com.
1. Balance the bulk. Stocking up on whole-grained rice, pasta, and other staples from the bulk bins can save you money. Just don't buy more than you can use before it spoils.
2. Practice portion control. When it comes to meats, the biggest mistake people make is overestimating how much they need, McDonald says. Let your palm be your pilot: 3 ounces–roughly the size of a woman's palm–is an average serving for women; or 4 ounces (the size of a man's palm) for men.
3. Bypass prepackaged foods. Do a little more prep work yourself and skip the premade pizza crusts, shredded cheese, and prewashed salad greens. This trick alone can trim 10 to 20 percent off your food bill, McDonald says.
4. Know when to go organic. Because it's free of pesticides, organic can be a wise choice for strawberries, grapes, and other fruits you eat whole, skin and all. For produce you peel, like bananas, you'll save money with the regular kind.
5. Choose frozen over fresh (sometimes). Pass up out-of-season produce–it costs more and loses much of its nutrients in shipping. Instead, get creative with what's in season, or buy plain, frozen fruits and veggies.
6. Look for the store label. Many grocery chains now offer organic, low-sodium, and other healthy options for less than name brands.
7. Check the unit price. Often listed on the shelf tag, the unit price gives the cost per ounce, pint, or pound. Use it to compare prices across different brands.
8. Don't fall for the hype. "Functional foods"–items like calcium-fortified orange juice, revved-up sports drinks, teas, and more–can hike up your food bill. You're better off eating foods that provide those nutrients naturally.
9. Watch the scanner. Be smart when you empty your cart: Unload store specials and coupon buys at the end, and make sure they're scanned correctly.
10. Just say no. This one's a no-brainer, but it's worth repeating: Plan your grocery list ahead, and resist those impulse buys.
More money-saving grocery tips:
Are You Getting Ripped Off at the Grocery Store?
Healthy Entrees for $2 or less
Eats on the Cheap