Change Your Eating Habits to Save Money

healthy obentoThere have been many articles published which address ways to save money at the grocery store. For the most part, I believe that most of us already know how to save money at the grocery store.

There are even more articles and books published on our relationship with food. Whether you want to lose weight or gain weight or add muscle or define muscle, there are books to tell you what foods will help you to do so. If you want to improve your health – whether mind, body or spirit – there are plenty of writers who will tell you which food can help.

Have you ever considered how you can redefine your relationship with food to save money? It is possible. You just need to look at a few simple ways that by eating and living more intelligently, you can be a healthier person, and in the process, save some money. Here are a few ways that you might consider.

Control Portions

My dad is well educated but he is far from a philosopher. That said, among the best advice he ever gave me was “Enjoy all things in moderation.” That is sound advice. When it comes to eating, the best way to enjoy your food and drink in moderation is by enforcing portion control. In order to do this, you need to be honest with yourself and know what a portion really is and then take the time to measure it out.

Interestingly enough, while I was at the grocery store this morning, I compared portion sizes for various cereals. Some cereals (usual the really unhealthy cereals) had a serving size of ½ a cup. Other cereals indicated that a serving was ¾ of a cup and still others allowed a full cup per serving. If you take the time to measure out your servings you will find that (i) you can’t deceive yourself about how many calories you are eating, (ii) you eat less food, and (iii) your box of cereal will truly give you 22 servings instead of the 6 or 8 servings that you were probably getting before you started using a measuring cup. That will save you money and it will save you calories!

Look for Minimally Processed Foods

The more a food has to be processed before it gets to your grocery cart, the more expensive it is likely to be. Moreover, foods that are minimally processed tend to be healthier for you. Even minimal processing adds cost and can deplete vitamins, as when lettuce is pre-chopped and bagged. Buying a whole head of lettuce will cost less than chopped and packaged lettuce and the whole head should have more vitamins and nutrients as well.

Cereal also provides a good example for consideration. If you want to eat cereal to start your day, a hot bowl of oat meal (not the instant kind) is probably the healthiest bowl that you can have for breakfast. A canister of your store’s generic oatmeal will last you for at least a few weeks and will cost you less than half the price of most boxes of cereal that are gone in a week.

Do Not Buy Packaged Desserts

You do not have to give up desserts completely but you should not purchase them. Cookies, candies and cakes have their place but they just add empty calories to your diet and increase your grocery bill. If you want to enjoy a treat, you should force yourself to make it yourself. The ingredients for a cake will cost you less than the cake itself and, unless you spend all of your time in the kitchen, you will have fewer desserts, and thus fewer empty calories. My wife always makes biscotti without butter or oil, which are better for us and cost her very little to prepare.

Do Not Eat Anything but Fruit after Dinner

Tell yourself that you will not eat any snacks after dinner and that if you must, you will eat a piece of fresh fruit. Fresh fruit generally costs less than most packaged products and it will usually fill you up better than packaged products. You will save money and you will need fewer calories to actually feel full.

Drink Water or Decaffeinated Tea

Water is free if you drink water from your tap or from your refrigerator (assuming you have a built in filter). Most tap water in the USA is perfectly fine to drink and some bottled water is nothing more than tap water, so do not fall into the bottled water trap. If you drink water or tea when you are thirsty, each drink will cost you a few pennies, as opposed to 30 to 50 cents per glass if you drink soda or juice of some other bottled beverage. If you substitute water or tea for alcoholic beverages you will save even more. You will also reduce the caffeine, sugar and chemicals that you take into your body each day.

Eat Breakfast Every Day

Regardless of what time you have to get up to do it, eat a balanced breakfast every day. If you eat a good breakfast, you will eat less throughout the day because your body will not run out of energy and that will help you to avoid costly snacks at work.

Bake Your Own Quick Breads

There are few culinary delights as wonderful as freshly baked bread. You can make your own quick breads (which do not require yeast) at home very inexpensively. They take very little time to prepare and they add a great texture and flavor to your table.

Learn to Love Fresh Produce that is In-Season

Fresh produce is a wonderful addition to any table. Buying produce that is out of season, however, is hugely expensive. Most of you probably already look for produce when it is on sale but have you actually experimented with seasonal fruits and vegetables that are new to you? Look for bargains on produce even if you have not tried it before, and learn how it can be added to your kitchen arsenal.

Pop Your Own Popcorn

Air popped popcorn (with no butter or salt) is an excellent inexpensive and nutritious snack. You can buy an air popper for under $20 (about the cost of 5 or 6 bags of popped popcorn in the store). Unpopped popcorn will then cost you pennies per serving and it will not add any fat or sodium to your diet (as long as you do not add it yourself).

Never Buy Shelled Nuts

Enjoyed in moderation, nuts are a healthy snack. Although they are high in fat, they also pack a lot of protein and the fats themselves are usually “good fats,” as in walnuts. If you buy shelled nuts, however, they cost a lot more than nuts in the shell and you are very likely to eat them too quickly, resulting in the consumption of too much fat. Buy nuts in the shell and you will find that you eat far fewer nuts before your hunger is satisfied and thus save money and calories.

Never Eat Out of a Bag or Food Container

If you find that you need a snack, do not grab a bag of chips out of your pantry or a container of ice cream out of your freezer and eat directly from the bag or container. If you force yourself to “serve” your snack on an appropriate plate or serving dish, you will avoid any impulse or lack of self control that might lead you to snack to excess. I just checked in my pantry and noted that a serving of potato chips amounts to 9 chips – count them out, put them in a bowl and sit down to enjoy them. The fewer chips you eat, the longer the bag will last and the healthier you will be.

Use Small Serving Dishes and Bowls

If you plate your food on large plates or dishes, you will need a lot of food to create the appearance of a hearty meal. If you serve ice cream or cereal in a large bowl, you will need many servings to make the bowl seem full. Ice cream, for example, usually calls for a ½ cup serving size. That is not a lot of ice cream but if you serve it in a small bowl – we use ramekins – it will seem much more substantial. By creating the appearance of more food on your plate, you will more likely be satisfied with your portion and thus eat less, again saving you calories and money.

Drink a Large Glass of Water Twenty Minutes Before Meal Time

It takes about twenty minutes to feel full after you eat. You can jump start that process by drinking a large glass of water twenty minutes before you sit down to a meal. Your body will register fullness much more quickly and you will stop eating faster. If your body is full of water, there will not be room for more food. That will serve the dual purpose of saving you money and cutting your caloric intake.

Serve Your Meals in Courses, Starting with a Salad Course

Just as drinking a glass of water before you eat will help to convince your body that it is full, if you have the time to serve your meals in courses, your body will have time to digest what you have eaten in the earlier courses and you will be full faster. I always like to begin with a salad and then move on to the main meal – even two courses are better than one. If we have a lot of time, my wife and I will also try to add a soup course to our meal. Usually, after I have had a bowl of soup and a salad, I do not have much room left for the main course so we end up eating the main course as leftovers! (Of course, my wife and I love to cook so that may sound really unappealing to you!)

If you follow these suggestions, you will spend less at the grocery store and you will have a healthier diet. How do you find ways to eat healthily and shop intelligently?

Image courtesy of Aylanah

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8 Responses to Change Your Eating Habits to Save Money

  1. fern says:

    Some good tips here. A few that i’ve done for years is, pop my own popcorn, learn to love produce that’s in season and baking my own quick breads.

  2. baselle says:

    Many of these tips can be summed up as: eat mindfully. Good advice for both your health and your wallet.

    I eat the fruit after dinner, or as a snack. I don’t drink many of my calories, and if I’m feeling a bit empty after dinner even with the fruit, its water.

    Also learn to love ethnic produce esp when bought at an ethnic grocery.

  3. Lizzy says:

    I have to say it… quit buying coffee out. One person who drinks 1 latte per day would save over $1000 per year just drinking coffee at home. And you don’t have to scrimp! Buy really nice fresh coffee, get yourself a killer espresso machine with the money you saved this year, and every year from here on out is gravy!

  4. Chloe says:

    We stopped buying many kids snacks also. Many are just full of sugar and not cost efficient. We buy a large package of raisins or trailmix. Smaller pre-packaged items are easier to throw in a lunch box but you can make 5 baggies on Sunday evening for the rest of the week.

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  6. Gail says:

    Very good list of ideas. When I started having chronic health problems I had to force myself to start buying some items that were more processed than before, such as grated cheese, and salad mixes as I rarely feel well enough to do all the prep work and still cook the meal. I cooked from scratch all my life. Very hard to change gears. Due to having a well and the health problems, I also had to start using bottled water (and feel so much better). I guess what I’m saying is these ideas are great, but if due to health or time constraints you can’t follow up on all of them don’t beat yourself up about it.

  7. Ann says:

    I recently started on a serious diet… it was long overdue!

    One of my worst poroblems was snacking at night, but I discovered a “cure”. I keep a pomegranate in the frig and dig it out when the urge to “graze” is overwhelming. If you peel it by hand and are intent on not damaging any of the seeds, it takes one to one and a half hours to eat the thing! By the time I’m through, all thoughts of other food are gone.

  8. Margaret Pickett says:

    I liked your ideas. I am 89
    years old so I have seen and
    used most of them in my life.
    It never hurts to be reminded.

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