Make grocery budget, trips count in age of COVID-19

Make grocery budget, trips count in age of COVID-19

Health

With the emergence of COVID-19 and resulting economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to make each trip to the grocery store count.
Planning ahead is key to shopping efficiently and making food dollars stretch, says Jamie Kandora, clinical nutrition manager at Tidelands Health.
“People are making fewer trips to the grocery store to limit their risk of exposure to the virus, and many are facing reduced household budgets,” Kandora says. “Even so, we can’t lose sight of the importance of eating well. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep our immune systems strong with immune-boosting foods like fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins.”

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Though it might seem like it costs more to eat healthy, Kandora says forethought and meal planning can actually help families eat healthier while lowering costs.
“It all starts with developing a plan even before you head to the grocery store,” she says. “Without a grocery list in hand, it’s easy to impulse buy, choose unhealthy items or forget things, resulting in another trip later on.
“Instead, plan a week’s worth of meals and make a list of what you’ll need. That can help reduce the number of trips you need to make, which saves both time and expense and help you eat healthier.”

Stretch your budget

When it comes to planning your meals, there are a variety of ways to make your dollars go farther.

  • Blend lean ground beef with oats, beans or mushrooms for tacos, meatloaf or hamburgers.
  • Use frozen vegetables to add nutritious volume to any meal.
  • Limit waste by using leftover vegetables in soups, stir-fry recipes or casseroles.
  • Cook down aging fruits and use them as a sauce or topping for pancakes, or mix them into a smoothie for a healthy, sweet treat.
  • Stretch chicken and other meats by dicing and tossing the cooked pieces into a salad rather than serving whole breasts to each family member.
  • Browse the weekly grocery ads for sale items and be on the lookout for unadvertised specials once you’re in the store.
  • Visit farmers’ markets or co-ops for lower-priced items. No-frills and warehouse stores can also be less expensive than the more upscale, full-service markets.
  • Look for generic or store brands, which tend to be less expensive but nutritionally comparable to national brands and can be easily incorporated into soups and casseroles.
  • Avoid prepackaged meals and snacks, which are often unhealthy. Choose fresh ingredients for a more nutritious home-cooked meal.
  • Use cheaper cuts of meats that can be slow-cooked and pack a nutrient punch similar to their more expensive counterparts.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season when they’re most affordable.
  • Don’t shy away from frozen produce, which is just as nutritionally valuable as fresh fruit and vegetables but comes with a longer shelf life.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with kitchen staples such as peanut butter, canned tuna, beans, lentils, brown rice and white and red potatoes.
  • Create your own healthy snacks such as a trail mix by combining nuts, seeds, raisins, whole-grain pretzels, etc., then store the mix in airtight, snack-sized containers. Not only will the end result be customized to your tastes, it will be less expensive and better for you than many store-bought snacks.

“Make a meal plan and shop wisely and you’ll have all the ingredients necessary to serve your family wholesome, satisfying and healthy meals without compromising your food budget,” Kandora says. “It’s a great strategy today and in the long term.”

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