Stretching your food dollars

Most people are concerned about the rising cost of food. The United States Department of Agriculture provides tips on how we can eat healthy and stretch our food dollars.

Now, more than ever, families are concerned about the rising cost of food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2009 the average family of four living in the U.S. spent approximately $185 per week on food – this included food eaten in and away from home. With the rising cost of all living expenses, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to stretch their food dollars.

There are ways to save in this area. The USDA provides the following tips to help you stretch your food dollars:

  1. Plan ahead.
    Think about what meals you want to prepare for the week before going to the grocery store. Meals such as stews, casseroles and stir fries are considered more economical. Take inventory of the food you already have and make a list of items needed.
  2. Look for the best price.
    Check for food deals online or look for sales and coupons in your local newspaper.
  3. Use comparison shopping.
    Check the unit price to find the lowest cost per pound. Unit pricing also helps when comparing the most economical brands.
  4. Consider buying in bulk.
    Bulk foods tend to be better priced – just make sure you have the room to store it!
  5. Look for produce in season.
    Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in cost. Remember to only purchase what you know will be used in order to avoid throwing away spoiled produce.
  6. Cook from scratch.
    Frozen dinners, prepackaged produce and instant rice and oatmeal are considered convenience foods but tend to be more expensive than those prepared from scratch.
  7. Look for best buys.
    Look for food that is low in cost, throughout the year. Dry beans, carrots, potatoes and bananas are examples of good choices for saving.
  8. Double your recipes.
    Consider doubling or tripling your favorite recipes and freezing individual or family portions in separate containers for convenience and savings.
  9. Be creative.
    Avoid throwing left over food out by using it in new ways. For example, yesterday’s chicken can be included in future meals like salads, soups and casseroles.
  10. Fast food and restaurants.
    Consider going out for lunch, instead of dinner. Ask about specials and order water in place of other beverages to reduce the total on your tab.

For more information on food budgeting, check out USDA’s website and its helpful tool, Choose MyPlate. Choose MyPlate also provides information on eating better on a budget.

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