CHELSEA BARBER COLUMN: Ways to shop smarter while on a budget

With the unexpected changes in food costs, it can be difficult to prepare healthy meals without going over the budget. Let’s put a stop to overspending and stressing about our meals each week.

Chelsea Barber

Start planning ahead and take advantage of what’s on sale through price comparing and daily deals. Having these tips to reflect on will hopefully make your experiences at the grocery store enjoyable without the constant worry of spending more than your pockets allow.

Before going to the grocery store, it’s important to have a list prepared with all the ingredients that you need to purchase. This will help to decrease the amount of time being spent at the store. Once you know what you want to purchase in advance, going online and looking through the coupons of your local grocery store or finding sales items in the newspaper will ensure that you’re getting the best value for the amount of money that you want to spend. There are also discount cards available to sign up for if the other options are not accessible to you.

During your shopping trip, it’s very easy to get distracted and start picking up all the food items that look good when you’re hungry. This is why it’s important to eat before your shopping trip.

This will ensure that you have a clear mind of what you need to purchase without buying unnecessary food items that are not on your shopping list. Don’t be afraid to buy the store brand, since the food item will mostly likely be the same as the name brand, just without the expensive price tag attached.

Always check the “use by dates” that are on the food items to reduce early spoilage and wasted money. If you do buy something with an early expiration date, make sure to use this item first so that you’re not throwing away your bucks. Buying frozen and canned food items last longer as compared to fresh produce. If you are buying fresh produce, make sure that it’s in season since it generally costs less when compared to out of season.

Once you have completed your shopping trip, make sure that you store the food items properly by what’s written on the label. This will ensure that you’re not causing your food items to spoil, which in fact, wastes money. If you’ve bought food items in bulk, especially those that are fresh, it’s best to separate into smaller packages and freeze them.

Again, we want to shop smart without having to run to the grocery store every day because of forgotten food items or spending over our budgets because we didn’t have coupons. Make your grocery store trips worth the time by planning ahead, reading labels and comparing brands.

After reviewing over these resourceful tips, I hope that you are excited to start making your shopping trips worth every cent. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please feel free to contact me, Chelsea Barber, at cbbarber@ncat.edu or 704-983-3987.

Chelsea Barber is a nutrition program assistant with the Stanly County office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.