A normal day in my husband's food:
- two large bowls of cereal for breakfast
- a package of cracker sandwiches and a banana for mid-morning snack
- a loaded sandwich (sometimes 2), Sunchips, fruit salad (that I force him to take), and a v8 for lunch
- almonds and yogurt for afternoon snack
- 2 regular sized servings of whatever I make for dinner
- 3 cookies for dessert (I have to have them made... all the time. Some batches, I don't even eat 1)
I took our neighbors (in NC) to the grocery store a couple times and was amazed by their cart. It was loaded with sugary cereals, frozen pizzas, chips, snack cakes, and pre-made frozen meals like pot pies. It was enough food for 2 weeks and their final tally was over $250. That didn't include beer and cigarettes. Shocked doesn't even begin to describe the red and brown cart before me. The only color came from packages and the only items from the produce section were bananas and a lonely head of iceberg lettuce. (I found out that he also bought his lunch on base everyday, so who knows how much that was.)
It occured to me that it may be slightly cheaper to purchase frozen meals, but the people who do that probably are not satisfied with the food they eat so they load up on the chips and cookies in a vain attempt to shove nutritional satisfaction down their gullets. It is a nutritionally-deprived cycle: buy cheap food, eat, not satisfied, eat more cheap food, run out, buy more.....
When you have a plan and a goal, shopping healthy is not hard or expensive. It may take a little more time to plan out, but it is worth it in the end. These are my favorite, simple tips to keep the wallet and belt in check:
- Plan your meals out for the week. This eliminates food waste. If you know you are going to use half a bell pepper in one thing, you can plan to use it in another dish.
- Make a list and stick to it! Deceivingly simple, but so helpful. I have a tendency to see new veggies or fruit and want to buy them when I have no plans for them. That is when stuff gets thrown out and money is wasted.
- If are tempted by certain items, like chips and candy, just don't go down the aisle. This in combination with the list eliminates junk food in the house and therefore helps control mindless snacking.
- Stock up on sale meat and cans. Lean proteins can be pricey. Buy on sale and freeze. Cans won't go bad so buy a few more of the items you know you frequently use.
- Store value cards, store brands, and sales. I have four store value cards on my key chain. Its ridiculous but they can save you a lot of money because rewards members often get much better sale prices. (And most of them are free!) Shopping on sale is always smart. Many people do it with clothes but forget to do it with food. And store brands are often names brands that are packaged differently; especially when it comes to canned goods and frozen vegetables.
- Shop once a week. Most fresh things will last an entire week (bananas, broccoli, apples, squash...) but aren't going to make it to the end of two weeks. Once a week shopping allows you to be more focused on the immediate future and will help prevent the throwing away of precious produce.
- Shop one store. When you get used to one store, you know what and when things usually go on sale. Two grocery store also works as long as you get used to it. Shopping all over the place and not having a steady schedule usually ends up costing more. (Unless you are the crazy person pouring over all of the grocery circulars looking for the best price... My dad is this person.)
- READ LABELS!!! You might be shocked by some of your normal go-to items. Stay away from goods with high DVs of sodium, processed sugars, and saturated fat.