With a little planning, you don’t have to spend a fortune on nutritious food.

Have you been shocked by how much you have managed to rack up at the checkout lately? I am certain that every time I do my weekly grocery shop, the prices have gone up yet again!

It can be hard as a parent when you feel torn between providing healthy, nutritious food for your family but also sticking to the weekly budget. So what are some of the things that you can do to save money on your food bill, and still eating healthy?

Top 10 tips to help bring your weekly food costs down

Top 10 tips to help bring your weekly food coasts down

1. Plan ahead of time

If you remember anything from this list, then let this be it.

Sit down and plan out a weekly menu before you walk out the door. Use a plan to work out exactly what ingredients you will need for each meal and use this to create a list. Stick to it!

Your list will also help stop impulse buys of things that you don’t need even if they are on special. Here’s a template with an example to help get you started. Why don’t you give making it a Sunday night ritual a go…

2. Hunger shopping

Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach!

Studies have shown that those shopping on an empty stomach are far more likely to be tempted by food that they don’t really need and spend more as a result! Make sure you shop after a meal, or after a light snack to help resist temptation.

3. Be open to change

I know that it’s hard work deciding what to cook everyday, let alone something that the whole family will eat!

When the prices change or a new season rolls around, we often continue making the same dishes out of habit without actually realising the cost implication of doing so. Capsicums can range from $1 to $5 for example!

Scan the supermarket specials before you shop and let this help guide your weekly menu plan.

4. Buy generic

Generic brands can provide great savings when shopping and are often labeled as the store’s brands. The nutritional value of the food is the same, whether it’s canned, frozen, or bagged foods.

5. Organic is a luxury not a necessity

There are some benefits to buying organic foods, but the nutritional content is equivalent in both organic and “conventional” (non-organic) foods.

If you can afford to buy organic then great – by all means do so but if you are making other cuts as a consequence of shopping organic I would recommend that you buy conventional items to save money (see Organic food for ideas about which foods are best to buy organic).

6. Think bulk on regular purchases

It can be cheaper to buy often-used basics like rice, flour, and sugar in bulk (do the maths though). Store in airtight containers in the pantry.

Cut the expiry date off the packaging and pop it in too, that way you will be able to keep track of the freshness.

7. Fresh is not always best

It is a myth that fresh veges and fruit have a higher nutritional content than their frozen or canned equivalents.

Although we all like to buy fresh veges when we can the nutritional content of fresh over frozen or canned options is actually the same. If a recipe calls for a particular type of vege that is not in season (and therefore exorbitantly priced) substitute with its’ frozen or canned equivalent. Note: It pays to check the added salt of canned items.

8. Sales are great if the logistics work

Of course buying up when things are on sale is a no brainer but how often have you bought something because it looked like a great deal at the time when in reality you actually don’t eat 10 tins of spaghetti in a month, let alone 6! Would that money have been better spent on something else? Remember, items like meat, and chicken can be divided and frozen for later use for a variety of meals but only if there is space in the freezer!

9. Cook smart

Make meat dishes go further by adding less expensive staples – lentils or red kidney beans to mince are a yummy healthy addition that can significantly increase the volume of the dish not to mention boosting the fibre and reducing the fat content!

10. Pester power

Although it can’t always be avoided shopping with children in tow can often add to the bill as you finally give in to their continuous pleading about the latest Dora or Ben Ten muesli bar that has just been released.

Try negotiating a treat before you enter the supermarket or perhaps be prepared and take a packed lunchbox for them to nibble on as you walk the aisles.

For more expert advice on eating on a budget, check out our Food and nutrition section.

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Kate Carter has spent the last six years working within the food and nutrition industry in a variety of roles. Ready for a change from the corporate world and excited about embracing two of her real passions in life, she took over Yum Yum Kids - New Zealand’s only online feeding specialist store.

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