Nutrition ense

How can you get the most nutrition for those food dollars? Be an educated consumer and plan ahead. Know exactly what you need. And be aware of marketing ploys that may encourage you to buy beyond your shopping list.

• Keep a shopping list—and stick to it! A list jogs your memory and saves time as you walk the supermarket aisles. With a list, you're less likely to spend money on items you really don't need.

For time management, keep a running list in your kitchen of items you need to replace. Organize by category to match the store layout—for example, produce department, dairy case, meat counter, deli, bakery, frozen, and grocery shelves.

  • Avoid extra shopping trips. If possible, shop just once or twice a week. You'll spend less on impulse items—and save time and gasoline expense, too.
  • Check supermarket specials printed in newspaper inserts. Then plan menus around them. If the store runs out of an item on special, ask for a rain check. Be aware that "limit" signs ("limit three per customer") and messages such as "two for $5.00" (not "$2.50 each") are marketing ploys to get consumers to buy more. Research shows they work!
  • Clip or download coupons for items you really need. Be aware that items with coupons aren't always the best buy. Another brand or a similar food might be cheaper, even without a coupon.
  • Try not to shop when you're hungry. You'll less likely succumb to impulse items, including more expensive and less nutritious snack and dessert foods.
  • Take advantage of seasonal produce. In season, the price for fresh fruit and vegetables may be lower, and the produce, more flavorful with more varietals. Depending on where you live, you might even go directly to the farm where they grow or to a local farmers' market.
  • Use food labels to find foods that match your needs, provide Nutrition Facts for comparison shopping, and help you get the most nutrition for your food dollar.
  • Decide what quality food you need. For example, if you're making a casserole, chunky tuna may be fine. But more expensive solid-pack tuna has more eye appeal in a tuna-vegetable salad.
  • Buy the economy size or family packs only if you can use that much. There's no savings if food spoils and must be discarded. For foods that freeze, take time to repackage food into smaller amounts in freezer bags, then freeze for later use.
  • Compare prices using unit pricing on supermarket shelves. To make comparisons easier, especially for similar foods in different-size containers, prices are given as cost per unit rather than price per package or container. The unit might be an ounce, a quart, or some other measurement. If the foods themselves and the units being compared are the same, the best value is the lowest price per unit.
  • Compare the prices of national brands, store brands, and generic brands. Store brands and generic products may cost less than national brands since they

don't have the same promotional costs. Convenient, innovative packaging such as squirt bottles and ready-to-serve pouches often add to the cost; decide if the benefits are worth any extra cost.

  • If available, and if you qualify, take advantage of senior citizen discount days.
  • Stock up on canned and other nonperishable foods when they're on sale. At home, rotate your food supply so that the "first in" is the "first out."
  • Buy perishable foods in amounts that will be consumed during their peak quality. An extra bunch of broccoli that spoils in the refrigerator is no savings.
  • Consider foods sold in bulk bins. Without the expense of packaging or branding, bulk foods often cost less, and they're usually the same foods you find on supermarket shelves. Perhaps the best advantage: you can buy just the amount you need. Foods such as dry fruits, rice, pasta, other grains, snack mixes, and spices are among those sold in bulk.
  • Consider the cost for convenience. Prepared, pre-sliced, and precooked foods usually cost more. Depending on your schedule, labor-saving and step-saving ingredients may be worth the price.
  • Remain flexible as you shop. If you see a better bargain or a new food (perhaps a vegetable or a fruit), adjust your menu.
  • Shop during off-hours. If time is at a premium, shop when stores aren't crowded—often early in the morning, late in the evening, or midweek rather than on weekends. It may be a less stressful time to shop, too.
  • Pay attention at checkout. See that prices ring up as advertised or as indicated on the shelf label, especially for sale items.
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