Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget


American households are rediscovering the art of cooking at home. More than 35 percent of consumers are cutting back on their restaurant dining, according to a recent American Research Group study. As many of us make this shift away from our favorite eateries, you may be tempted to turn to fast food rather than your kitchen.

Sixty-three percent of Americans believe that healthy foods cost more than unhealthy, and almost half think it may be cheaper and faster to go for the drive-through than to prepare a wholesome meal at home, according to an October 2008 CIGNA Healthcare survey. So if you're a little rusty at healthy cooking on a budget, you're probably not alone.

It's time to take a look at strategic grocery shopping and healthy meal preparation to better survive the recession and keep you and your family healthy in the process.

Plan Your Meals

As you begin to reduce costs by cutting out trips to restaurants, fill the void with a meal plan and a well- thought-out grocery list. A big concern for many busy families is having enough time to actually cook the meal before all of the ingredients spoil. One way to avoid this is to make a calendar of meals that will fit your schedule and to use ingredients that you can keep at hand in your pantry. Have the whole family help in planning and preparing the meal. In the end, you'll be healthier and have more time together.

Choose Ingredients that Fit Different Dishes

Many of the key items that are used to create a host of meals are found in the canned and packaged food aisles of your favorite grocery store. These aisles provide a plentitude of ingredients for most of your favorite recipes, while offering both convenience and nutrition at a great value.

"A great way to make sure you maximize the value of your purchases at the grocery store is by going to Web sites beforehand that offer coupons and multiple recipe ideas for one type of product," says registered dietician Stephanie Clark. "I like the BumbleBee.com Web site because you can stock up on their healthy, protein-packed seafood items and never run out of delicious recipe ideas. The site has a user-friendly recipe finder that allows you to search by meal type, ingredient, and even special dietary considerations. It is a great tool for planning out your shopping list."

Use the Food Pyramid

The food pyramid has been a meal planning tool seemingly forever, and with good reason. The new MyPyramid food guidance system is another great way to help you identify how much to consume from each food group in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle that balances nutrition and exercise.

As a key building block of the MyPyramid system, proteins, particularly those like chicken and fish, can provide the basis for many healthy meals. A wide variety of these meals can be prepared for a couple of dollars. With just a few cans of tuna and a bag of whole grain pasta you can make meals rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3s. When you add in a glass of milk, some vegetables and a side of fruit, you've got that trusty pyramid on the table in minutes.

Get creative. Lean protein, such as tuna, does not have to be limited to traditional tuna sandwiches, but can be played up into low-fat meals with a twist. Here is a recipe that takes just minutes to make and is fun to eat. Serve it with chopsticks to add some extra flare to your table.