Saturday, April 04, 2009

On Plan, On Budget

Certainly, a trip through the drive through is often cheaper than a veggie-filled stir-fry. But you don't need to blow your budget to see results on the scale. Here, 10 ways to cut food costs and three delicious meals for 4 that clock in under $20 each. Sure, you can get a lot of fast food for a couple of bucks — much more food than at most salad bars. "But down the road, you're going to pay for it," says Nelda Mercer, RD, a registered dietician in Ann Arbor, MI. Too many meal deals can jeapordize your health and your kids' long-term eating habits, she explains. But healthy eating doesn't have to put you in the poor house. "The key is planning," says Mercer, who offers up some smart ways to save at the supermarket. Plus, we give you three great meals for four that'll pad your wallet; not your waistline. 10 Smart Saving Tips 1. Limit impulse purchases. "Go to the store with a shopping list," says Mercer. And stick to it. 2. Buy in season. Blueberries are a cheap treat come summer but practically an investment once it's fall. Consider growing some of your own produce as well. 3. Use coupons. Sign up for your supermarket's shopper discount card, too. 4. Purchase sale items in bulk. "Use the same main ingredient and dress it up differently," Mercer suggests. Turn ground beef into chili, burritos and a topping for baked potatoes. Plus, freeze some beef for the weeks to come. 5. Buy generic. Follow this rule except when you know a certain brand is of higher quality. A major national brand of sliced Swiss cheese recently sold for $4.49 per half pound versus $3.49 for the store brand (priced on 6. Think whole foods. "The more processed foods you buy, the higher the price," Mercer says. Even a banana in pricey New York City only costs a quarter whereas a small candy bar costs at least 75 cents. 7. Do it from scratch. "You're paying more for convenience," says Mercer. So grate your own cheese and shred your own lettuce. 8. Shift those proportions. Use pricey meats as an accent; not the main event. For instance, skip the pork chops and cook up a pork stir-fry. 9. Load up on beans. Meat is expensive, says Mercer. A pound of 85% lean ground beef purchased on costs $3.69. A 1-pound can of black beans? A mere 50 cents. 10. Shop at wholesale food stores. Some examples include Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's and more. Make sure you know prices, though, to guarantee a savings. Article courtesy of Weight Watchers

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