Make Your Grocery Dollars Go Further

purchases in supermarketThe Englewood neighborhood in Chicago has reason to celebrate as Whole Foods announced last week it will be building a store in this long-time food desert. The most important question of course is will this be affordable for those living in the neighborhood. It doesn’t do any good to bring in healthy and real food if the people can’t afford it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making a big bet that the presence of this high-end grocery store chain will help curb the violence in this area and help “reignite its renaissance”. Co-CEO Walter Robb acknowledged the socioeconomics at play here especially since the mega chain is aptly nicknamed “Whole Paycheck”. He assured those gathered at the ground breaking ceremony on July 1st that they will have quality products at affordable prices.

Food deserts are an increasing problem across the country especially in highly populated urban areas such as Detroit and Chicago. Add on to this that during these trying economic times even when people can make it to the grocery store their dollar isn’t going as far. This contributes to the obesity problem in the United States. It’s difficult to tell people to eat better when their best option is fast food because they can’t afford real food especially given that half of Americans make less than $50k a year and of that one in four households make less than $25k per year. If you’re single that might not be an issue, but we’re talking about stretching those dollars to feed, clothe and educate multiple children, health insurance, etc.

How can you feed your family quality food on $151 per week, the average most Americans spend? 8% of Americans spend less than $50 a week. Here are some tips to getting high quality food for between $50 to $150 per week:

  • Make a plan – a shopping list is key here. If you plan your meals for the week you’ll know exactly what you need to pick up at the grocery store. Plan meals that can last a couple of days or can be taken for lunch the next day. For example a big pot of chili using lean ground turkey can last several days and coupled with a salad is a healthy option. Also the ingredients cost less than $10 and be used in other recipes. Slow cooker meals also tend to provide more bang for the buck.
  • Coupons – while couponing isn’t the sexiest thing in the world it can save you some money on the staples. However, I have found that there are rarely coupons for fruits and vegetables. It’s mainly the processed boxed foods that you should be avoiding anyway. But you can use coupons for other household goods. Since the recession couponing has become very popular, there’s even a reality show about it. You can be alerted to deals in your area. Check out the 13 best coupon sites, look in the Sunday paper and in your own mailbox.
  • Shop at multiple stores – if you’re able shop at multiple grocery stores, especially if they’re close together. The neighboring stores will have more competitive deals than if they were the only ones in the neighborhood. The best day of the week to grocery shop is Wednesday when most stores start their weekly specials. If you shop at WalMart you are probably getting the best prices in your area.
  • Head to the farmers market – these are popping up all over the place. Do an internet search for locally grown farmers markets, the produce is less expensive not to mention you’re supporting local growers.
  • Invest time in a community garden – similar to farmers markets these are popping up all over. Communities are getting together to grow their own food to either consume or sell within the community or both.
  • Organic vs “commercial” – if you have a few extra dollars is it worth investing in chemical-free foods? It’s up to you, but if you do stick with foods with thin skins such as apples, tomatoes, pears, etc. The chemicals on these foods tends to permeate the skin unlike bananas where you throw the skin away.
  • When to shop – never shop hungry, shop earlier in the day when you’re more likely to buy lower calorie foods, and Wednesday is the best day.

If you have a limited budget but want to feed your family quality foods here is a list of foods you should stick with that have the most health bang for your buck:

  • Eggs (cage free)
  • Fruit: apples, oranges, bananas are loaded with nutrients and minerals required for energy and superior brain function
  • Vegetables: spinach, tomato*, carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms and kale (optional) pack a lot of nutrients into such small packages. You get the same benefit from frozen and they last longer.
  • Turkey, chicken, fish: these are good sources of protein and cost less than red meats – stick with cage free, they are a few cents more but much healthier options
  • Greek yogurt: plain is best, but this is great for your digestive system plus the calcium and protein
  • Almond milk: plain or chocolate lasts much longer than regular milk and has more calcium, protein and omega-3
  • Brown rice: better for you than white rice and rice is a great meal filler to help you feel full

And if you have children they are probably not going for that list so here are some options to appease them

  • Applesauce
  • Cheerios
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Fruit snacks with 100% real fruit juice
  • 100% fruit juice – avoid fruit drinks or added sugars, this is more expensive but tons healthier
  • Organic frozen pizza
  • Dairy free ice cream

With a little bit of planning you can get everything on this list for around $50 per week. When you opt for the longer lasting items such as frozen foods you won’t need to get those every single week. But the key to all of this is planning! Don’t forget the other household goods that you can be getting for a steal if you’re using coupons.

If you have any tips to healthy shopping on a budget please share below. Share this post within your community. We want to hear from you.

*tomato is technically a fruit





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