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Save Money & Eat Healthy (2 of 3)
What to do in the Grocery Store

Farmers Market

You've heard this a hundred times, but it's worth repeating. Eat before you shop. If you go on an empty stomach you're much more likely to purchase impulse items. Those little things you grab at the store can add up quick, both in cost and on your waistline.

Shop when you've got some time. Don't rush through the store grabbing things as you fly by. When you're in a hurry you won't spend the time to compare and get the best deal.

If you live near a Farmer's Market, shop there first. Local produce that's in season is typically cheaper at a Farmer's Market than the large chain stores. But remember, only buy what you'll be eating before it spoils. It's not that cheap if you buy far too much and end up throwing a lot away.

When you get to the store, shop the edges first. Generally the healthiest foods are kept along the perimeter of the store. Make a circle getting the majority of items on your list, before you walk down the aisles where temptation is lurking.

While you're looking, don't forget to glance up and down. Grocery stores typically put the highest priced brand names at eye level. The healthier and less expensive generic options are often on the highest shelves. The higher sugar and fat items for kids are often down lower.

If you bring children with you, start teaching them at an early age the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods. Don't let them grab the bright packages full of empty calories. Give them a mission to help you read labels looking for the better buys and more nutritious options.

Consider the foods that are in season to save even more. If it's in season domestically, it won't have to be shipped from another country and generally the cost will be lower.

Don't buy "exotic" colors. A typical example is green peppers. Nutritionally, green, yellow, red and orange are virtually identical. So is the taste. But, the exotic colored peppers are often sold for much more money. Ignore the color and buy the value. The green you'll be saving is money.

When shopping for vegetables, consider frozen. As long as it doesn't have extra salt or fat added, many frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh. Frozen vegetables have essentially the same nutritional value as fresh and they keep for months. If you're cooking for one or two, frozen vegetables save money too because you only thaw as much as you need, cutting down on spoilage and waste.

Stick to your list, but don't be afraid of purchasing less perishable items in bulk or on sale. If it's something you know you'll eventually eat and the expiration date is still a ways off, buying today can save big later on. Bulk bins may be even cheaper than bulk boxes because you're not paying for the packaging. Spend a couple extra minutes comparing.

A word of warning here. If you're a compulsive overeater, you might not want to buy too much in bulk. It may cause you to eat too much or too quickly. If you're a compulsive overeater, buy only as much as you should eat for the week.

Stock up on lean meats when they're on sale and store them in the freezer. Don't get the high fat stuff even if it's cheap, because your body will pay the price.

Remember that private-label products can be just as good as name brand. Many are made to the same high standards as the national brands but cost less because you aren't paying for a national marketing campaign. Some store brands are even healthier, because they put in less sugar, salt and fat than the name brands.

Don't shop at the checkout register. There are shelves filled with brightly colored impulse items that you really don't need. Concentrate on getting your things ready for the cashier.

It takes more time and effort to shop like this. But if you do, you'll save money and eat healthier. Next week I'll give you some ideas of what to do when you get everything home.

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6/1/2008