Do your weekly visits in the grocery store keep your budget? Do you walk the walk speechlessly, hoping for dinner inspiration?
Smart food stores start with three things: budgeting, menu planning and scoping out in store savings. Before your next food business trip, consider the tips below to help you stretch your budget without sacrificing nutritious meals.
Determine Your Food Budget
Many people do not know how much money they should budget for food each week. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the average cost of a week's worth of food for a single person aged 19-50 was about $ 60-70. A similar, moderate diet for a family of four would increase to between $ 205 and $ 245 each week.
Of course, your costs depend on your personal budget and dietary needs. If you have hungry teenagers or need to eat out often because of work travel, TheKitchn notes that you may need to report some extra costs. Likewise, remember if a family member's food allergy or specialty diet requires some specific foods.
You may want to try to use an online food budget tool. There are some available that allow you to customize calculations based on the number of people in your family, the age of each person or how often you eat out.
Planning your menu
Menu planning can be the key to smart food store. By taking some time each week to check which ingredients you already have at hand and to plan your meals, you can avoid buying things you don't need, according to USDA's ChooseMyPlate.org. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach also provides practical guidelines for planning your weekly meals, including looking for sales, stocking up frequently used items, and ensuring you have items from each food group in most of your planned meals. You may even want to make some larger meals, says ChooseMyPlate.org, which means you get fewer ingredients to buy and leave for a quick and light meal later in the week.
Even the most experienced chef can end up with ideas for meals, however. If you need inspiration, search online for cheap, healthy recipes. Some websites are also designed to help you find a recipe based on ingredients you already have at home. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recommends that you check your pantry for what you have at hand and plan meals using those products. Then, fill in your shopping list of ingredients to help finish these meals.
Look for savings in store
Once you have decided on your budget and planned your meals, the following tips can help you shop smarter while you are in the supermarket.
Consider looking for store names instead of sticking to just brand name agents. You can often find the same or similar items at a lower price ̵
Compare Unit Prices
Many store labels show the cost per unit, says ChooseMyPlate.org, which can help you make sure you get the best value for money. These labels are typically on the shelf below the product. It will include both the retail price and the price per unit, which is usually a measurement like an ounce, pound or quarter. Generally, the best find is the item with the lowest unit price, says ChooseMyPlate.org. For example, an 18 ounce box of grain may cost $ 3.99, which is $ 0.21 per ounce. Compare it to a similar 24-ounce flake box that costs $ 4.29, which is $ 0.18 per ounce. You can instinctively reach the grain with a lower price tag. But when you look at the unit price, you realize that it's actually $ 0.03 per ounce.
When shopping smart, every cent can add. With some time and research, you can plan meals that work for your budget – and help make your food store a little scary. So put on the chef's hat, choose some delicious recipes and before you know it will be time to say "Bon appétit!"
Originally published on March 1, 2016.