Providing Nutritious Meals on a Budget

February 14, 2017 in Food Economics, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Last week I wrote a bit about the complexities of food budgeting as related to marketing and organic produce. In addition to checking deeper into the price and ingredient list there are other things that you can do. I find that buying good quality whole foods and having them on hand, not only helps to keep the food budget under control, but also supports eating a better quality of diet. There are number of ideas that you may want to consider if you’re trying to keep your food budget under control, while maintaining or improving the quality of nutrition of meals.

  • Choose a market. If you live in an inner city or an impoverished area, some face what researchers have termed ‘food deserts,’ that’s definitely a serious problem that needs to be resolved; I know there are organizations making progress on this serious issue. But if you live in a suburban area or better off urban one, there are many choices for food shopping. Shop at a variety of stores; compare cleanliness (which may give hints to how food is handled); availability, prices, sizes and brands of items you generally buy.
  • Use the newspaper. Many people use the newspaper to find the best prices and then go to a market, or a big box store that does price matching. That way you can take all your shopping needs to the one store.
  • Learn to make use of the unit price. Many stores now have the per ounce or per each price is calculated and listed in small print on the shelf price tag
  • Use in season foods. This is an old, but very valuable hint. Even if you’re going to go to the same store each week, it’s worth looking at the flyer. The flyer almost always features what’s in season. Buy only enough to consume or process to maintain the best nutritional value.
  • Use foods that are generally low-cost. Some foods are nutritional powerhouses and are almost always relatively inexpensive. Some of these foods are: canned fish; eggs; peanut butter; oats; beans; and brown rice.
  • Cook in larger batches and freeze. Bulk items or items in large packaging are frequently lower cost foods. Take advantage of this by doing some large batch cooking. Let the freezer become your time and budget ally.
  • Shop with a list. Probably the oldest, but still good idea for food budgeting is shopping with a list. Certainly, if you know what you’re going to cook, you can review your pantry and decide if you want an item on your list. Also, there are certain foods that I always want in the pantry; so they pop onto the shopping list, as soon as they’re running low.
  • Include canned and frozen produce. Sometimes frozen vegetables are less than fresh; it’s usually when the fresh version is not in season. In addition, our area has annual sales called case lot sales. The wonderful thing about that is you get the same price for the item whether you buy an entire case or not; which is especially nice, if you’re just a small group of two. I like to have canned garbanzo beans on hand to make our Roasted Beet Humus that we use for salads and sandwiches; so I stock up.
  • Check the actual nutrition in your price comparison. Last week I addressed this issue more fully. Sometimes the price for a nutritious-sounding food item is hiked up on the expectation that it ought to cost more. You may discover the same or equivalent item (just as nourishing) for less. A food shopper almost needs to become a detective.

Why pay more for eating nutritious meals than is necessary? Being aware of the above issues, gives you more control on where you want your food money to go. The best outcome is that while you control the budget, you can increase your nutritional intake with a little effort.