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Trim food costs, reduce waste with 10 money-saving tips

Food prices are rising, yet it's still possible to trim the grocery bill.

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, American households waste an average of 14 percent of the food they buy, said Kansas State University professor Mary Meck Higgins.

If a family of four spends $100 a week ($5,200 a year) on food, reducing an average waste of 14 percent could yield a savings of $728--or enough to buy groceries for seven weeks, said Higgins, who is a food and nutrition specialist with K-State Research and Extension, and a registered dietitian.

To reduce waste, Higgins' suggestions include:

1) Review your calendar, and plan meals and snacks that work with your schedule. If time is available one day but not the next, cook a larger quantity when you have time, and use the leftovers when time is short.

2) Review recipes, and compare the list of ingredients with those on hand. Make a shopping list that includes only the items needed.

3) Give preference to nutrient-rich, less processed foods such as fresh fruit, rather than fruit canned with added sugar, or frozen vegetables without added sauces. Such items are usually displayed around the perimeter (on or near the outer walls) of a store.

4) Buy seasonal foods, when supplies are abundant and prices reduced. Fill in with canned, frozen or dried fruits and vegetables between shopping trips.

5) Choose economical versions of food choices, such as dried beans; soak and cook as directed to save on healthy, high protein and high fiber food choices. Buy coffee beans in bulk and grind as needed for fresh flavor at a reduced price.

6) Look for creative ways to use leftovers, such as incorporating them in a meal in the next day or two, freezing them for a future meal, or using them as a snack in place of more costly snack foods. Planning snacks to fill the gaps between meals can help manage weight and health.

7) Buy only as much as you can use within a reasonable period of time to prevent spoilage.

8) Opt for minimal packaging, and limit buying items that will go to the landfill by choosing re-usable fabric placemats and napkins, and washable dish cloths or sponges.

9) Choose local providers who have sustainable business practices, and take advantage of sales, such as a periodic meat sale or other promotion, such as buy one, get one free.

10) Shopping one store regularly, rather than spending time and money driving to different stores to buy one or two sale items, is usually cost-effective.

More time and money-saving ideas are included in a new K-State Research and Extension fact sheet: "Making Everyday Choices for a Healthy, Sustainable Diet," #MF 3060. It is available at local K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state and online:

Date: 12/10/2012


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