We are all looking for ways to save money. Food costs keep climbing while paychecks seem to stay constant or be non-existent for many American families in this tough economy. There are ways to save money while still managing to eat healthy. Here are a few simple tips.

Plan Weekly Meals
Every Saturday morning, my husband and I sit down and plan out our meals for the week. We look at the calendar to see what we have scheduled and select meals accordingly. If it is a busy week, we stick to quick and easy to prepare meals. Have kids? Involve them in the meal planning process and get their suggestions too. It sounds simple, but one of the keys to success with this tip is writing the meals down in a visible place (we have a whiteboard on the fridge). This way everyone in the family knows what to expect each day and cooking can start immediately instead of playing the “what’s for dinner tonight?” game again. If you stay committed to the weekly plan, you’ll also find you go out to eat much less often.

Make a List
After planning your meals, create your shopping list. Include everything you will need for one full week for all meals (breakfast , lunch, snacks, and dinner). Get in the habit of writing down things you need as you run out of them. We only shop once a week and try not to go to the grocery store between trips. Now, here’s the really hard part: when you get to the grocery store, STICK to the list!  If you do, you are much less likely to buy the junk food that taunts you at every turn. While you’re at it, don’t forget the golden rule and avoid shopping when hungry!

Shop the Bulk Bins
Purchasing things like rice, flour, nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, and cereal from bulk bins can save you lots of cash. Many stores such as Lassen’s, Whole Foods and Henry’s have bulk bins items. They are often much less expensive because you are not paying for the packaging so you get to save money and the planet at the same time. If you purchase many bulk bin items, you may want to invest in some glass storage containers (those with rubberized lids keep the air and bugs out) to make contents easy to see and use. Another tip for the cupboard? Keep foods from going stale by using clips on everything (I like plain old wooden clothespins best and they are super cheap).

Buy Local and In-Season Produce
Try to buy produce which is local to your area (within a 4 hour driving radius). Local produce isn’t trucked long distances and therefore doesn’t need to be picked prior to ripening or be artificially ripened. Buying local keeps the money in your community, helps local farmers, and reduces your carbon footprint. Fruits and veggies which are purchased in season are always tastier and less expensive. Case in point: have you ever tried to purchase off-season artichokes? They will likely set you back $3  to $4 each. Pay attention to what’s in season and plan your meals around it. If you shop at your local farmer’s market, ask the sellers for recipe suggestions. Keep these ideas in mind for next week’s list.

Take  Note of What You Throw Away
If you find you are constantly throwing away spinach each week, buy less or stop buying it all together for a while. Sometimes we have great intentions, but don’t actually eat what we buy. Get creative. If you purchase basil for homemade pesto pasta, but still have a small amount left over, think of something else you can use it for. Throw it in your scrambled eggs or chop it up for your next salad. This goes for anything you throw away whether it be produce, dairy products, or meats. Do you always throw away leftovers? Try making smaller portions to begin with or freeze a portion for later in the month.