Stretch Your Food Budget With a Smart Grocery Plan

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By Natalie Bauta

Going for a food run when you haven’t done groceries in a month seems more cost-effective in the moment because, well, an eight-to-ten-dollar burrito is cheaper than a cart of a hundred dollars’ worth of food for two weeks.

If you’re a frequent Chipotle customer, chances are there will be a second visit in the near future and that’s roughly $20 spent on just two burritos, about 20 percent of the amount you would have spent on a cart’s worth of groceries.

Think about it. Those two burritos probably failed to meet your nutritional needs anyway. Okay, so your burrito had lettuce. That’s not enough. What about your fruits, grains and tons of other vegetables?

Here’s how to not feel bad about spending $100 on groceries that will last you more than a week:

1. Buy what’s in season

Not only is it fresher, but also cheaper because it’s harvest time for that specific food item. If it’s winter season, then go for the carrots. Buy that celery. Stock up on kale. It all varies on the season. Make note of these seasonal food items. You’ll be a healthier person, meanwhile your bank account reaps the benefits of wiser shopping habits.

2. Learn to preserve

One ingredient can turn into five different recipes. For example, a pound of chicken is useful for salads, pastas, soups or wraps. Buy versatile items. You don’t have to eat the same thing repeatedly just because the ingredient is constant. There are thousands of websites and phone apps dedicated to recipe ideas – use them!

3. Check the sales 

Check the flyer to see what the deal of the week is.

“If it’s buy one, get one free swap out one of your items for that weekly deal,” Lacey Corrick, UF/IFAS’s Extended Family Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) education and training specialist said.

4. Look at the “unit price” 

Don’t panic. Investigating the unit price doesn’t actually require any calculating because it’s already done for you on the label.

“The unit price helps compare different foods that are maybe in the same quantity,” Corrick said. “Same foods, different sizes. Compare the block of cheese and shredded cheese. This is one way of stretching your food dollar.”

In this case, the block of cheese is usually cheaper because it’s not shredded. Shred it yourself instead of shredding your dollars.

5. Make a list

Plan what you’re going to buy and eliminate impulsive shopping; especially when you’re hungry. Food staples are cheaper to have on hand because you’re less inclined to go out to eat because you have the main things.” Corrick said. “Make a sandwich instead of going to Jimmy John’s.”

You can still end up at Chipolte at times, but to save what you spend, ask for the water cup. Always ask for the water cup.

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