If you are one who follows a monthly budget, no doubt a majority of your expenses come from the food items in your grocery cart. Monthly stock up trips are punctuated by weekly if not daily grocery runs for the forgotten item or the perishable items that need to be used right away.
The USDA publishes a monthly food cost report, which provides a snapshot of the typical cost of food for households of different sizes, individuals, and spending levels.
You can use this report as a guideline for setting your food spending level.
When buying food you need to keep your priorities in check. If you stick to these 4 guidelines you will have a healthier wallet and waistline:
Priority 1: Nutrition: your food choices should focus on nutrient dense foods consisting of high quality proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grain carbohydrates, good fats ( those with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) fiber, vitamins and minerals. The USDA recommends making ½ your plate fruits and vegetables at each meal, at least ½ of your daily intake of grains whole, and choosing from a variety of protein sources including seafood, beans and peas, and nuts as well as lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
Priority 2: Cost versus Value. Be careful where you put your money. That bag of chips or 16 pack of soda on sale is a marketing tool known as a loss leader used by stores to bring you inside. Keep in mind buying nutrition is your first priority; therefore, put your dollars towards getting the most bang for your buck nutrition wise. To fight the urge to splurge on junk food when you see it on sale, have a list of nutritious alternatives with you when you go grocery shopping that will give you the will power to resist the marketing pressure.
Priority 3: Flavor. Being cost-conscious does not necessarily mean sacrificing flavor. Fresh is best. Buying fresh fruit and vegetable items that are seasonal will deliver the most flavor to your tastebuds with the lowest impact on your wallet. Go in with another family and buy a whole cow, or if you enjoy fishing, bring home your fresh catch. With a little bit of imagination, anyone can eat great tasting food that is packed with nutrition void of additives.
Priority 4: Convenience: Rely less on preservatives, hidden sugar, and fat-laden prepackaged and frozen foods. While quick and convenient, you are paying for the processing more than the actual nutrients derived from the food. Cook from scratch more often; control your ingredients; and cook in batches that you can freeze and save for another meal later.
Many Americans have their priorities inverted. They choose foods that are convenient and tasty, yet they sacrifice their finances and health in the process; however, with the above priorities in mind and your nutrition needs forefront, you can be assured you are feeding yourself and your family optimally.