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Save Money & Eat Healthy (1 of 3)
Plan Ahead and Cut Your Food Bill Down

I like saving money. I also like eating healthy. Unfortunately, foods higher in fat, sugar and sodium tend to be cheaper than their healthier alternatives. So to help you save a little cash while still eating healthy, I'm going to share some of the tricks I use to reduce my food bill each month.

Start with the basics. Look at your schedule and decide how many meals you're going to prepare for yourself and how many times you'll eat out. If you're serious about saving money, you'll plan on preparing most of your own meals. Remember that every time you eat out, the food is almost always more expensive and less healthy. While you've got your schedule out, include time each day to prepare the food.

Make a personal menu. Once you know how many meals you're going to make, put together a personal menu. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a list of the meals you can eat that are good for you. If you're trying to change your weight, you might also include the total calorie count beside each meal, as well as some specifics like total fat, carbs or protein. Take that personal menu and insert those meals into when you'll be eating them on your calendar. Here's an example.

For breakfast, I like low sugar oatmeals, high fiber cereals and various egg dishes made with high protein egg whites. I list each one of those items on my personal menu. Then I look at my schedule and put in the oatmeals and cereals on days I won't have much time. Days that start a little later, I plan on making eggs or other more time-consuming dishes. By having the calories listed next to each meal on my personal menu, I can quickly sum up what I plan on eating for the day.

Look for recipes you can cook in advance and freeze. Look for recipes you can cook in advance and freeze. It saves a tremendous amount of time and allows you to re-heat something healthy in minutes. To spend even less time in the kitchen, choose recipes that can be cooked together in one pot. Casseroles, stir-fry dishes or crock pot meals can all save cooking and clean up time.

Now it's time to make your shopping list. Figure out what ingredients you've already got on hand, then make a list of what you'll need. Keep the list handy and update it as you run out of essentials so you can minimize your trips to the grocery store.

Go online for coupons. Many companies now offer coupons on their website. Look up your favorite items online and see if you can save some money. Be careful how you use coupons. Only use them for things you plan on purchasing. It's not a deal if you weren't going to buy it in the first place. Also, just because you have a coupon doesn't mean it's the best buy. You should still compare prices before you put something in your cart.

Compare grocery "sales circulars" if you live near more than one store. Shopping the sales can cut 10-20% off your bill. While you're at the store, write the prices you paid for the things you buy most. The next time, buy those items from the store that had the best price.

Get something ready to eat for when you return from shopping. If you've got a big shopping trip, it's not unusual to come home hungry. Have something put aside for when you get back and you won't be tempted to eat junk when you get home.

Don't focus on what you're giving up. Concentrate on what you have to gain. When you eat healthier, your body will look and feel better. If you like pizza, experiment with some of the healthier versions. When you find one you like, put it on your menu and reward yourself with it.

Next week I'll share some simple shopping tips that'll save you big bucks on your grocery bill.

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