October 20, 2009

Saving Money on Healthy Foods

We hear it said on television, in the magazines we read, on the radio, at the doctors office—eat healthier foods. This week I’ll be highlighting each of healthy food categories mentioned below, giving you ideas on how to increase these in your diet and how to save money at the store.

Disclaimer—I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not your doctor. If you are starting any kind of new diet or exercise routine, consult with your healthcare professional first.

The Healthy Foods we’ll be looking at in the next few days:

  • Whole Grains
  • Vegetables and Fruits
  • Lean Protein
  • Milk and dairy
  • Liquids and water intake
  • Healthy Oils
  • Taking a vitamin/mineral supplement

We’ll start by looking at Whole Grains. Some examples—whole wheat, bulgur, brown rice, whole grain couscous, oatmeal, popcorn, wild rice, quinoa, and products made with whole grains such as cereals, pasta, and breads.

How to fit more whole grains into your day:

  • Switch to whole grain bread for all of your sandwiches and toast.
  • Either make or buy some whole grain pita bread and enjoy it with hummus.
  • Make popcorn your afternoon snack.
  • Whip up a batch of whole grain pancakes and freeze what you do not eat for a meal at a later time.
  • Purchase King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat as an easy transition into using whole wheat flour in baking.
  • Make a big batch of brown rice and use it throughout the week in stir fries, soups, casseroles, and rice salads.
  • Buy whole grain crackers instead of white flour crackers. Be aware of marketing strategies and look at the label. Compare different boxes to see which ones have the most fiber and which ones say 100% whole grain instead of “enriched”.
  • When eating at a restaurant, ask your waiter if there are whole grain options available.
  • Do a quick internet search using the whole grain of your choice and “recipes”. Example “whole wheat flour baking recipes” might give you some new muffin recipes that you would not have thought of before.
  • Enjoy oatmeal for a quick breakfast and granola as an easy snack.

How to save money when purchasing whole grains:

  • Buy in bulk. The bulk section of health food stores often have rice, bulgur, quinoa, and couscous at a lower cost per unit than the name brand options in the aisles. If you are local, I like to check the Three Rivers Market monthly sales to see what is the best buy for that month. One month I might purchase a few pounds of popcorn, and in another month I might find that the whole grain couscous is a good deal. If you have an Earth Fare, Whole Foods, or other health foods store nearby, seek out their bulk section and start shopping there first.
  • Look for clearance pricing in the health foods sections of larger grocery stores. Some stores find that they do not have as much of a turnover of these products as they do other items.
  • When purchasing whole grains remember that they become rancid more quickly. Whole grains contain more natural oils in them than their more processed counterparts. When purchasing brown rice, I have always heard it is best to shop at an Asian market where the turnover of the rice is faster. Brown rice will store for about 6 months. If purchasing whole wheat flour, store it in the freezer.
  • If you are able to make an investment, a grain mill might be right for you. We rarely buy store bought flour anymore and mill our own. I mill rice flour for my sister and all of the cornmeal and wheat flours that we use at home. Go here to read a short blog post about money saving and grain mills.
  • Look for coupons. You might be surprised at how often you can find coupons for whole wheat products and grains/flours. Right now, there is one on the Eat Better America site for Gold Medal Flour, and it includes their whole wheat flours. Look through the newspapers and pay attention to manufacturers who also have whole grain options. For example, a Trisket coupon would also work for their whole grain option unless it specifies otherwise.
  • If you can’t find a coupon, opt for cooking from scratch. There are times when coupons will save you money when buying a pre-made or packaged product. If either your diet does not allow due to allergies or if you cannot find a coupon, you might save money by making your own. A simple comparison of boil in bag brown rice without a coupon to a price per pound of dried brown rice will open your eyes to how much money you can save by doing a little light cooking.

What other ideas do readers have for eating more whole grains or saving money at the store when purchasing them? Please add any tips to the comments section so that all readers may benefit.

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