To start this process, analyze your current food purchasing habits and look for unnecessary purchases. Consider how much fast food, take out, restaurant and pre-packaged frozen meals you eat. While these items may be more convenient for families or individuals on the run, they are not necessarily the most cost effective or nutritious. A significant amount of money can be saved by preparing meals in your home, and itís easier to control the nutrient and caloric content.
While home food preparation may seem unrealistic for some people, it is not unattainable with proper planning. Planning is the key. Meals can be planned in advance using the Food Guide Pyramid. Consult family members for meal ideas so everyone will have something they like to eat. Getting the children involved may be easier than you think. Preparing a menu for upcoming weeks could make your family look forward to certain dishes and help you make a grocery list. Consider what ingredients you already have that you can utilize before making the list.
Watch grocery sales, and prepare meals based on them. In season fruits and vegetables are always wise purchases. Your local farmers market may have just what you are looking for. When fruits and vegetables are out of season, compare canned and frozen prices. Frozen items allow you to use smaller portions and save the rest for later. Typically, store brands are cheaper than national brands. Purchasing items you regularly use in bulk may help you save money but always check the unit price to make sure. Larger cuts of meat can be separated and used for several meals. Bakeries sometimes have day old bread at discount prices, or you could look at the cost effectiveness of making your own bread. It may be time to get out the old bread machine or Crock-Pot again.
Some meals can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for later consumption, but always remember to follow food safety guidelines when reheating. Consider making one-dish meals a couple times a week. Dishes that require little preparation and cooking times, such as stir-fry, fish, salads and stews, are quick, nutritious options. Use leftovers as ingredients for other meals such as casseroles or soups. With a little planning, you can save a little dough and eat more nutritiously.
For more information on meal planning, proper nutrition or wise purchasing practices, contact the Logan County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Sandra Bastin, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist