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Healthy Food Shopping At 30% OFF

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  January 17, 2012 01:32 PM

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There is both some good and bad news when it comes to the projected food costs for 2012.

First, the BAD news:

While food costs have increased steadily over the years, the cost of food at the supermarket is forecasted to increase 3 to 4% in 2012, according the Consumer Price Index (CPI) experts at the USDA.  Believe it or not, this is actually less than the approximate 4.5% increase that was seen in 2011.  So how is this going to affect your wallet at the supermarket in the coming year?

Let’s go back to 2008, when $100 went pretty far at the supermarket.  However, if you tried to fill your shopping cart with the same foods over the years, your bill would have looked like this:

$105.00 in 2009 (0.5% increase)
$108.15 in 2010 (0.3% increase)
$113.02 in 2011 (4.5% increase)
$116.97 in 2012 (based on a 3.5% projected increase)  Ouch…

Now, the GOOD news:

By shopping smarter, you can fight this annual food increase and actually reverse your bill, while simultaneously improving your health  Consider these three steps, Chart, Clip, and Cash In, before you head out to the store:

Step 1) Chart Your Shopping Course
  • According to NCH Marketing, three out of every four shoppers are making food decisions prior to heading out to the store.  Visit your supermarket's website and have their weekly circular emailed to you.  Supermarkets purposely put healthy perishables (produce, poultry, etc.) and staples (grains, cereals) on sale to lure you into the store.  Plan your meals around the sales items and make a shopping list to chart your course before you head out to the store. Your list should contain predominately fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and moderate amounts of lean protein and dairy. In fact, shopping with a list has made a trendy comeback as customers are quickly learning that sticking to a list helps avoid impulsive purchases, which tend to not only be pricy but often less healthy.
  • Cut costs by cutting back on lean protein. Keep in mind that you don't need more than about 6 ounces of cooked lean meat, fish, and poultry daily. A pound (16 oz) of raw ground turkey or beef will cook down to 12 ounces so will serve up four 3-oz portions.  A chicken breast will shrink about an ounce after it’s cooked.
  • Go meatless at least once a week. Click here for a Mexican Mac & Cheese recipe that is fast, cheap, and has a kick.
  • Frozen veggies and fruit are nutritionally equivalent, cheaper, and a time saver in the kitchen compared to fresh as there isn't any slicing or dicing involved.
Step 2) Clip Coupons   

“Coupon” is the code word for CA$H.  According to Coupon Package Goods (CPG), over 165 billion coupons were distributed to consumers during the first half of 2011 and usage is at an all-time high. Double your cash back by coupling a supermarket's coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. For example, if the circular includes a $1 off coupon for Cheerios and General Mills provide $1 off coupon for this cereal in the Sunday newspaper, you will save two bucks when you checkout.

Visit these websites below, which offer coupons for healthy foods such as yogurt, wholegrain cereals, canned fruits, and frozen veggies:
Eat Better America
Smart Source
General Mills  

Step 3) Cash In
Sign up for your supermarket's preferred buying card to reap the weekly savings automatically.

 What can you expect?   

Using all of the above steps, this shopping outing was reduced by over 30%:
What supermarket strategies do you use to cut costs but still purchase healthy foods? Please share:

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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