Eat right when money is tight

  • Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - Most of us are feeling the financial crunch of skyrocketing fuel and food prices. Many families are driving less to conserve gas, but no one wants to jeopardize good nutrition and health to save money on food. "Through planning, budgeting and food selection you can spend less but still eat well," said Lynda Johnson, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

Johnson shares a few ways to save on food costs:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend more than 40 percent of their food dollar away from home. To identify areas where you can cut spending, keep a running tab of all money spent on fast food, at restaurants and for snacks and beverages from vending machines, convenience stories and concession stands.

Take an inventory of all the food on hand at home. Think about what meals you could make using what you already have in the pantry.

Check grocery store ads for specials and plan meals for a week at a time around the best bargains. Save your meal plans and rotate them throughout the month.

To save time, gas and money, make a shopping list and shop for food only once a week. The more you frequent supermarkets, the more you may spend because store promotions tempt you to make impulse purchases.

Compare prices and try store brands, which usually cost less.

Don't waste food. Store food right away to preserve freshness or freeze to prevent spoiling. Serve children smaller portions to prevent waste. Plan to incorporate leftovers in future meals or bag lunches, or freeze them for later use.

Limit the number of meals and snacks eaten away from home. These foods generally cost two to three times more than similar items prepared at home. This is especially true for individually packaged snacks. Save money by bagging your own single-serving snacks. For family outings, pack fresh fruit like apples, bananas or oranges as snacks.

Check out local farmers markets or produce stands for better buys on fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying local produce in-season stretches food dollars and lowers food safety risks.

Plant a garden to add variety and nutrition to your meals. You can grow garden-fresh vegetables during spring, summer and early fall. Your local MU Extension office has information on gardening and seasonal vegetables.

The MU Extension guide "Money Management: Living on Less" (GH3600) is available online at The guide provides practical, everyday suggestions for cutting expenses on food, housing and other essentials, as well as general tips on money management.

Writer: Rebecca Gants

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Lynda Johnson

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