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Eat healthier, spend less money

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

A grocery list and a little preplanning can lead to a lower food bill and a healthier diet, a University of Georgia expert says.

"You're more likely to include a variety of foods and to include fruits and vegetables if you shop from a list," said Gail Hanula, a nutrition specialist with the UGA Extension Service. "This can lead to your family eating a healthier diet while you save money."

Save money? Shopping lists help food shoppers take advantage of weekly store specials, she said. They also help you make wise use of leftovers.

Don't waste food

"Up to 25 percent of all edible food goes to waste," Hanula said. "That's just like throwing money away, so you should definitely plan how you'll use those leftovers."

Hanula says planning your household menus ahead of time is a good idea nutritionally. She recommends setting aside 30 minutes to plan your family's weekly meals. Once you've completed one week's menu list, she said, save it and use it again in three or four weeks.

"Most of us don't vary the foods we eat from month to month," she said. "Of course, there are some seasonal differences to account for."

When planning menus, she said, remember fruits and vegetables. Buy them fresh to eat first, and stock up on canned and frozen ones to eat later in the week.

Buy quick fixes, too

Don't forget convenience foods for quick family meals. "Choose foods you can prepare quickly for days when you're on the run," she said. "A dozen eggs, canned soup, frozen pizza, a jar of spaghetti sauce and pasta are just a few items that can be transformed into quick meals for your family."

When you have your list in hand and you're ready to head to the supermarket, Hanula said, leave your kids with a sitter. And don't head out hungry.

"Shopping on an empty stomach can ruin your budget plan," she said. "And little helpers tossing in items they'd like can sabotage your plan, too."

Reducing the number of times you shop will keep your food bill down, too. "If you try to make just one trip to the grocery store each week, you'll also save on fuel costs," Hanula said. "Now that gasoline prices are so high, it can make a real difference in your budget."

Shop for groceries last

If you're running several errands, make the grocery store your last stop, she said, since cold foods must stay cold. When you get home, quickly put away the foods that need to be refrigerated or frozen.

To encourage little eaters to reach for fresh fruits and veggies, put them at kid's-eye-level in your refrigerator.

"This will encourage them to eat them," Hanula said. "The same goes for raw vegetables. Have them ready-to-eat and clearly visible in the refrigerator. Making nutritional food choices accessible for children is really a good idea at snack time."

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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