For many Americans, food accounts for most of a weekly budget. If you are living on a tight budget, you don’t need to sacrifice nutrition for cost. Here are a few tips to make the most of your grocery dollar.
Buy On Sale
Finding the best deals on food can take some prep work, but taking the time to do the research can help your dollars stretch even further.
Take the time to look at all of the sales happening in your local stores. If one store has all of your weekly staples on sale, shop there, taking time to create a list (with prices!) of what you need. If you find multiple deals across several stores, consider shopping somewhere like Walmart, which offers price matching with its competition.
Here are some of the cheapest ingredients available, both on and off sale:
Whole grains- This is the easiest category to save on, especially if you can buy in bulk. Brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat flour can act as the base of almost any meal.
Fruit- This is one item where shopping sales can greatly benefit you. Fruit can be tricky to find on a budget, as the price largely depends on the seasonality. Bananas are always cheap, even when not on sale, and are available in large bunches. Add them to your oatmeal or a peanut butter sandwich for an extra boost.
Vegetables- Fresh vegetables can sometimes get expensive as they come in and out of season, but frozen store brand vegetables are often available for less than $1 per bag. Peas, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach can often be bought for between $0.12 and $0.17 per serving. Fresh carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, and kale are good deals year round. Aim to eat as many vegetables as possible, as they are loaded with nutrients and vitamins.
Meats- Meat is the most tricky ingredient to buy on a budget. If you can purchase in bulk, purchase a large package of chicken breasts and freeze several for later. If meat is not in your budget for the week, don’t worry! There are plenty of meals you can make meatless that are still delicious and nutritious. Consider:
- Vegetables and rice
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Vegetable stir fry
- Pasta with added vegetables
Keep Meals Simple
It’s a no-brainer that the fewer ingredients that you use in a meal, the cheaper it will be per serving. Aim for meals that include fiber, protein and greens or vegetables. You can get creative with how these groups are incorporated, but as long as those food groups are covered, you’re eating a decently healthy meal.
Cook From Scratch
Making your own meals may take more time than grabbing fast food, but it’s healthier and you have control over what goes into your meal. As an added bonus, you can make large portions and save some for later to cut down on time!
Choose Nutritionally Dense Foods
Eating on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on the nutrients. Add the following items to any dish for added benefits.
Eggs– Eggs contain a multitude of nutrients (protein, riboflavin, B12, choline, zinc and more). Most stores offer a dozen eggs for between $1-2. Mix them with rice or noodles for protein without the meat.
Leafy greens– Greens are a good source of minerals (iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium), and vitamins such as K, C, E and some B-vitamins. Consider purchasing fresh greens in bulk (not the bagged varieties) or purchase large bags of frozen spinach to easily add to dishes. Add into the rice bowl above, add a handful to your spaghetti or mix them into soup.
Potatoes- A single large potato is high in potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. It also contains vitamin C and most B vitamins. In addition to all of their vitamins, potatoes are also one of the most filling foods. Boil potatoes and add a mix of spices (and maybe some of those greens!) for an easy meal.
Use Meat and Cheese Sparingly
Budgets don’t mean that you have to eat only bland foods. Instead of topping a meal with cheese, experiment with spices that you have on hand. Sometimes, all a dish needs is a little bit of salt! When you are able to purchase meat on sale, consider purchasing larger cuts that you can stretch across two or more days. Or, make a large dish, such as a pasta or soup, that will stretch across multiple meals.
Stretch Your Benefits
If you are eligible for SNAP benefits, extend your benefits even further by shopping at the Lynchburg Community Market. Not only will you be able to purchase delicious, nutritious local-grown produce, but your benefits will count for double if you spend over $50. For every SNAP purchase over the $50 threshold, the market will give beneficiaries $50 extra in tokens redeemable there.
Lynchburg Community Market is open every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
If you need help navigating how to shop on a budget, we are always here to help. Simply stop by our office, no appointment necessary.