Updated July 16, 2012

Healthy Grocery Shopping: A Budget-Friendly Plan

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If you're a frugal and health conscious parent, you know how difficult it can be to cook a nutritious and wallet-friendly meal for your brood. Friends and neighbors talk about their extreme couponing trips and when you examine their loot, all you see is processed, sugary or salty foods—the foods that you are trying to avoid when cooking for your spouse and kids.

Thankfully, there are budget-friendly options when it comes to healthy shopping. The keys to success are careful planning, smart shopping and storing your food well.

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Infographics: Grocery Shopping Plan
Infographics: Grocery Shopping Plan © CreditDonkey

1. Planning Stages

Don’t be discouraged by couponing. While many of the food coupons are for prepackaged dinners and snacks, with some diligence and research, you can find coupons for organic/natural food companies and other sought-after products. To find these coupons, the best place to start is often the manufacturer’s website. There, you may find coupons directly on the site or in an area where you can enroll in email deals.

Once you have collected the coupons, you can stay organized by creating an alphabetized binder. You can also make sample menus with itemized ingredients so you know which items you need that have you have coupons for.

2. On Your Way

As tempting as it can be to utilize every single coupon in your stash, if you must drive all over town to use them, you won’t see much savings at the end of the day. You will be burning through your savings with the cost of gas, not to mention the amount of time you will have to spend.

When planning your shopping, try to select stores that are near each other. If you do plan on shopping at two or three stores, plan your route so you don’t have to backtrack.

3. At the Store

While at the store, don’t be afraid to deviate from your list if you see non-advertised sales and price reductions. This is especially true for staple items that you can store until needed. Don’t be afraid to stock up on meats, too. If stored properly in the freezer, they will defrost well and taste fresh when it comes time to cook them up.

If you don’t already from bulk bins, you may want to consider taking advantage of their savings. You can store bulk items in your existing storage containers at home, which will help reduce environmental waste. They are also often much cheaper than their packaged counterparts.

4. At the Register

Don’t forget to take advantage of store savings cards. They typically give you access to additional savings. Many stores now have rewards programs where you accrue savings for every item you purchase. But you must remember to swipe your store card in order to record your purchases.

Start getting into the habit of bringing your reusable bags, because many stores are now considering charging their customers for using plastic or paper bags. Getting into the habit now will help save you those charges in the future.

You can also see savings by utilizing a cash back or rewards credit card. While these savings won’t be up front, you will accrue points that can be used for money, gift cards, merchandise or an upcoming family trip. Many cards will award additional points for each dollar spent at grocery stores, so you will want to do your research when choosing a rewards card to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

5. Storage

It can be discouraging to see huge savings at the store, only to have your food spoil because it wasn’t properly stored. Invest a couple of minutes when you get home to ensure that everything is stored properly to maximize shelf life. This includes keeping an eye on your freezer and refrigerator to ensure they are working properly; when it comes time to purchase new ones, you may want to consider energy efficient appliances, as they will save you money on your energy bill each month.

(Reporting by Kelly; Infographic by Tina; Writing by Meghan; Editing by Erin)

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