All signs now point to the United States being entrenched in a deep recession. It may be some time before things turn around, and because of that Americans will likely suffer serious side effects from the extended recession. Financial effects of recession are fairly well known. and include things such as job losses, and increases in foreclosures and bankruptcies. But not all of the side effects of recession involve finances.
Food Budgets Tightening
One of the first places families look to cut their budgets is food. After all, some could argue that food and categories such as utilities, both budget categories billed based on consumption, are a couple of only a handful of budget categories we can control from month to month. Monthly housing costs are fairly stable. Your car payment doesn’t change from month to month. Unfortunately, the effect of reducing a food budget often means poorer food choices, ultimately leading to declining health.
A diet of Ramen noodles and 2 for $1.00 generic macaroni and cheese will certainly help keep your wallet fat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help your waistline stay trim. A quick survey of most coupon offerings reveals most manufacturers provide coupons for prepackaged or convenience food items. I know this because when shopping with coupons it is impossible to use them anywhere around the perimeter of the store (where healthier foods such as produce, meats and dairy items are typically found.
As more and more Americans look for ways to save money on groceries I imagine we will see a steady rise in obesity rates, already high relative to the rest of the world. I’m one to talk. I’ve been guilty of slashing the food budget and eating cheap things at each meal like cereals, boxed noodles and rices, etc. and have seen my own waistline expand.
After discussing things with my wife we have agreed that we should continue to spend a little more for quality foods and look for other places to sacrifice. Being the frugal person I am, I still look for deals, even on high-quality food items, and use a couple strategies to keep costs down.
Ways to Save Money on Healthy Foods
Shake produce before placing in bags. Most produce is sold by the pound, and grocery stores typically give them a good soaking fairly often to keep them moist and fresh. They water absorbed also adds a bit to their weight, and can add up if you pick up a couple pounds of fruits and veggies. Shake off any excess water before placing in the produce bags to be sure your savings don’t evaporate on the ride home.
Shop for deli meats late in the day. Often deals can be found just before the deli closes on shaved turkey and other meats nearing the “sell by” date. Deli meats are typically of a higher quality because they are not packaged in sodium and other preservatives. Be sure to check out the meat case while you are at it. Many time we pick up a pork tenderloin or whole chicken marked “manager’s special” which is perfectly good if eaten or frozen that day or the next.
Declare a “Meatless Monday.” I was raised on meat and potatoes, so this concept seemed a little strange at first. But replacing meat with other proteins such as beans and lentils one meal a week is a great way to reduce your food budget and your intake of saturated fats. My family also eats breakfast for dinner a couple times a month, including eggs, turkey sausage and fruits.
Eliminate “empty-calorie” foods from your grocery list. When trying to save money on groceries, or lose weight, it is a good idea to remove empty-calorie foods such as chips, candies, cookies and soft drinks. They really add little to no nutritional value to your diet. I guess this means I’ll have to give up Little Debbie snack cakes.
Take up square foot gardening. You may not yield enough to feed the entire block, but we were able to enjoy great summer salads last year complete with freshly-picked cucumbers and tomatoes. This year we are adding to our square foot garden and plan to grow even more tomato plants–hopefully they will yield enough tomatoes to can a batch or two of homemade salsa.
I’m interested to hear from readers. What strategies have you employed to help keep the costs of eating healthy down?