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Save Money & Eat Healthy (3 of 3)
Keep Saving When the Shopping is Done

Set your dinner table!

Over the last two weeks, I've shared some ways you can save money buying groceries. How you can prepare before you go shopping and what to look for when you get in the store. This week I'd like to give you a couple more things to consider while you're in the supermarket and what to do once you get everything home.

Check the labels and make sure everything you purchase has an easy to read expiration date. If it doesn't, look for an alternative. You don't want to buy something that's about to expire unless you're going to cook it right away.

Sometimes the expiration date is on external packaging that gets tossed when you put it away. If that's the case, write it on with a black marker before placing the food in your cupboards. Being able to see the expiration date allows you to rotate and use up the older foods first. The less expired food that you throw out, the more you save.

Drink water first; it's practically free. If you must buy sodas and juice, get the larger sizes. When you buy things in individual can or bottle serving size, you pay a lot more for the extra packaging.

Don't buy junk food unless you plan on eating it. Sounds silly, doesn't it? When you grab a bag of cookies or box of pastries because you want "a couple" for a snack, it's easy to get carried away and eat many more than you intended.

If you're looking for something to snack on, shop for the natural stuff. Unsalted dry roasted nuts, whole fruit or bite-sized veggies all taste good and can quench hunger pangs. You'll find the fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than boxes of cookies, cakes or pastries.

Make your own snack packs. In 2007 junk food companies started offering "100 Calorie" snacks nicely prepackaged. A typical box has six snacks inside. Unfortunately, you pay dearly for that convenience. Instead, buy a large bag of the snack food and divide it yourself into sealable plastic bags of 100 calories each. Write an expiration date on the outside of each bag to make sure you're not keeping it beyond a date when it's fresh.

Once you get everything home, schedule time to cook with your family or friends. Two people can prepare the food faster than one, and when it's finished, you can divide it into individual servings for the freezer. As a bonus, you get quality time with a loved one.

When you're ready to eat, bring out the fancy dishes. Put a garnish on your plate. Use the fancy silverware and set the table with cloth napkins and a tablecloth. Make it romantic. Make it fun. Make eating something special, so you're not tempted to ruin your appetite by driving through a fast food joint and buying their high-fat specials.

Want to do something really radical? Try growing your own food. Several companies sell hanging tomato plants that are cheap to buy and easy to maintain. You can order an herb garden that fits in a kitchen window. With a little water and tender loving care, you'll have fresh produce you can snip off whenever you want, at prices no supermarket can compete with.

Yes, many of these suggestions take a little time, planning and effort. But if you try them, you will save money and eat healthier. Isn't that the reason you're reading this article?

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