How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Keeping a Budget in the Kitchen

Couple at farmer's market.
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If you want to save money on groceries, consider shopping at a farmer's market.

Budgeting begins at the supermarket and continues at the table. The challenge is to squeeze the maximum amount of food that you can get out of what you can afford to spend -- remembering, of course, to eat as healthily as possible.

The key to controlling grocery costs in the kitchen is portion size. We have a habit of cooking (and eating) far more than we really need for one meal. Make only enough for each person to have a normal serving. This not only helps control the food budget, but also helps to control blood sugar.

Keep meal portions sensible. For example, buy a chicken or roast that is large enough to give each person four ounces per serving, with little or no leftovers. This helps discourage overeating. If you do cook planned leftovers for another meal, cool, bag and freeze the planned leftovers to avoid the temptation of overeating.

Buy produce that is seasonally available and, when possible, buy in bulk. Farmers' markets, farm stands and natural food stores often offer substantial savings on seasonal and bulk items.

Serve healthful, filling, inexpensive side dishes. Vegetables, bread and beans will stretch your main-dish protein serving even further. To really make a meal healthy, offer a veggie or bean dish as the main serving, with a smaller side of meat.

Some ingredients are more expensive than others. If you know how to substitute expensive ingredients for less-expensive ones, you'll be better able to adapt your recipes to fit your budget. The chart below has some useful conversions and substitutions to transform an expensive meal into one you can afford.

To adapt recipes to your budget, see chart below:

Original Substitution
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon molasses
Baby spinach
Chopped fresh spinach
Phyllo dough
Low-fat biscuit dough
Goat cheese
Nonfat cream cheese with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Fresh mahi-mahi
Frozen fish fillets

Next, we'll look at the busy cook's secret weapon: the rotisserie chicken.