Woman holding a list and grocery basket while standing in front of a produce bin.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to increase your budget. In fact, there are a number of tools and tricks to help you stay on track. Here are our top 4 tips to help you stay on budget and eat healthier this year.

Make a plan (and stick to it)

Having a plan in place before you shop for groceries can help you stay organized, save money and choose healthier options. It’s also a great way to cut back on food waste because you’ll only be buying the items you need.

To get started, create a menu for the week that includes all of your meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks). If you're new to meal planning, it's helpful to keep your meal and snack options fairly simple from day-to-day until you get more comfortable with the process.

After you’ve planned out your meals for the week, start to identify which ingredients you already have on hand and which ones you’ll need to purchase. Make a commitment to stick to your list: avoid buying items just because they're on sale or because they sound good in the moment, and don't grocery shop while you are hungry. This will help ensure that you stick to your meal plan and your budget.

If you’re worried about items that may or may not be available, consider alternatives. For instance, if you are planning to make mashed potatoes, you may want to consider getting a boxed variety if the produce variety is sold out. 

Check for coupons or discounts

Most major stores offer digital coupons. Some stores, like King Soopers or Target, will even personalize coupons based on what you most frequently purchase. Once you’ve made your list, check store apps or websites to see if there are any coupons that align with your meal plan. Remember to stick to your list and not buy products based on the coupon. Alternatively, you can adjust your meal plan based on items that are deeply discounted that week.

Swap items to save

There are a number of simple swaps that you can make to help you save a few bucks. Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Buy whole foods: Some foods are cheaper in less processed forms. For example, blocks of cheese tend to be cheaper than bags of pre-shredded cheese.
  • Buy generic: Most stores carry generic brands for a variety of products. If you’re worried about quality differences, compare the ingredient list of the generic product to the one you normally buy to see how they compare. Oftentimes they are the same or very similar.
  • Buy produce that’s in season: Local, in-season produce tends to be cheaper. You may also consider buying produce that is pre-bagged (based on your needs), as this can save you even more.
  • Buy frozen: When fresh produce isn’t in season, opt for frozen varieties. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often cheaper and have great nutritional value, since they are picked and packaged at their peak quality.
  • Buy canned: When fresh and frozen produce are not available, consider buying canned fruits and vegetables like corn, pineapple or beans. 
  • Buy in bulk: Most major grocers carry common pantry goods at a lower price in their bulk foods section, including rice, beans, nuts, oatmeal and more.

Make it yourself

Preparing meals at home is a great way to save money. It’s also a great way to ensure you have healthy, filling options readily available. Need ideas? Check out these cheap and easy meal recipes or these dietitian-approved breakfast options.

Campus resources

All students and grad students can work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) through Nutrition Services at Wardenburg Health Center. They can help you manage food intolerances, meal planning, medical conditions and more. 

Nutrition Services also provides a number of free nutrition assessment tools online.

If you are struggling with food insecurity, Feed the Stampede provides free assistance for students, staff and faculty.

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