Cheat Sheet: How to Use Coupons for Better Nutrition
What took off when the economy tanked? Coupon clipping. We all eat, we all shop and we all want to get the biggest bang for our bucks and using coupons is one way to accomplish all of the above. Whether you flip through the pages of a Sunday newspaper, check the website of your favorite supermarket or search the circulars of your neighborhood stores, you’ll find a wide range of savings at your fingertips if you use coupons.
Saving money, however, doesn’t mean that you’re preserving your health. The ideal win-win situation entails using a coupon to buy foods that benefit your wallet and your waistline, and for this, here’s a little cheat sheet on how to cut costs and calories at the same time:
- Be smart about what goes in your cart. Sixty to seventy percent of what ends up at that checkout line is unplanned, and those choices can be costly. Take stock of what you have at home before you walk out the door or you might wind up buying more of what you already have and may not need. Coordinate your coupons with the foods don’t have so that you won’t spend money unnecessarily.
- Let your shopping list guide you. Countless studies have shown that making a list ahead of time is the best way to avoid over shopping, overspending, and ultimately, overeating. And try to stick to the list -- I know this is easier said than done, but your wallet will thank you for it.
- Arrange your shopping list according to the layout of the store you shop in most frequently to avoid backtracking. Save this list on your computer so that you can just print out a copy early on in the week and circle the foods you need as the week unfolds. This helps to make it easier for other family members to get involved and circle their favorites too.
- Many cities provide online shopping so that you can stock your cabinets without leaving the comfort of your own home. These services provide lists that include prepared foods as well as make-your-own personalized lists that you can keep on their sites for quick reference and future use. The beauty of this type of shopping is that you can coordinate your list with their special sales of the week.
- Buy in bulk or purchase extra of those foods that are exceptional deals and that have a long shelf life. You can also prepare more than you need for one meal and freeze the rest for a later date.
- One of my favorite expressions is, “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” If you plan ahead, coupons can help you plan a menu and keep you from blowing your budget. Try to coordinate the week’s meal plan in accordance with foods that are on sale. Be sure to include variety and balance.
- Surf for sales. If you don’t see coupons for your favorite healthier foods or organic options, visit a company’s website. Make use of the “Contact Us” tab and request to be sent coupons or to be put on a mailing list so that you can be notified when special sales occur.
- Although you’ve probably heard this a million times… don’t go shopping hungry and try not to search through circulars while your stomach is grumbling. Empty stomachs could lead to empty pockets resulting from impulsive and potentially expensive decisions.
The bottom line is that coupons can be cost and calorie cutting, but no matter what you buy, don’t be fooled by the word “sale” or the flashy front of package. It’s what’s inside the box that’ll go inside you; so don’t forget to also read the food label to see what you’re really getting. The key is learning about which foods are the healthiest to shop for, finding them on sale, and then buying extra so that you can get the most out of the sale and your health.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA,RD,CDN
Owner, BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC
Author, Read It Before You Eat It (Plume)
Blogger USA Today: http://tinyurl.com/bonnieusatoday
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