And none require buying anything day old or suspiciously on sale. In fact, a few simple shopping adjustments will really make a difference to your wallet. Here are my favorites:
1. Shop the Outer Aisles
In most markets you'll find the healthiest ingredients on the perimeter of the store-fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins including fish and chicken, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products. The inner aisles contain most of the processed foods, including soda, candy, chips, and snack foods. Aside from the fact that they contain empty calories, they also take a big (and unnecessary) bite from your food budget.
2. Buy in Bulk
Bulk items are usually cheaper. That's because there's no expensive packaging included, so those savings are passed directly on to you. You also have the freedom to choose how much or how little to buy. Best buys include whole grains, dried beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and cereals. Some health food stores sell spices in bulk as well.
3. Go Seasonal
Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are sometimes imported, expensive, and often tasteless. Plan menus and choose recipes around what's currently in season. You'll enjoy better flavor and lower prices anytime of year. (And yes, there is good in-season produce in late winter-citrus fruit, anyone?)
4. Shop Locally
Local grocers carry plenty of regional produce. Farmers' markets are a great source for healthy bargains too.
5. Grow Your Own
Slash your spending even further by supplementing your produce purchases with homegrown items. If you don't have space for a garden, you can at least grow your own herbs. Plant your favorites in small pots near the kitchen. Take a snip or two as needed.
6. Make It from Scratch
Yes, it takes a little more time, but preparing a dish at home rather than picking up a pre-made version can save up to 50% or more. It also ensures your dish is healthier because you dictate the amount of oil or salt it contains. And best of all, this guarantees no hidden preservatives.
7. Load Up on Legumes
Beans and legumes offer a myriad of health benefits as diverse as their varieties. Black beans, garbanzos, pintos-they're all excellent sources of fiber. They're also rich in folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and antioxidants. The complex carbohydrates they contain provide steady energy that lasts well beyond mealtime. A stellar source of protein, legumes may be the biggest money saver of all, as they cost a fraction of the price of most animal proteins.
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[photo credit: Getty Images]