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Healthy Finances for Healthy Eating

Money is already tight as a student, which makes eating healthy a difficult thing to do.  So many other things compete for our money that living on Ramen can seem like the smart thing to do.  However, it’s important to consider your health and your body when deciding what choices to make in diet.  There are many ways to save money and not compromise health as a result:

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of the most effective ways to save money at the grocery store.  The phrase “don’t shop when you’re hungry” is highly used because it’s highly relevant.  Even when you’re not hungry, shopping without a plan can result in a cart full of items that may go bad before their used or may remain in your pantry for months along with other items that you may end up throwing away when you move out.

Instead, have a plan on what you want to eat throughout the week.  Make a list of what you need for each meal that week, excluding what you already have at home.  Find a way that is most convenient to make such a list, adding in regular or irregular grocery items such as milk, snacks, cereal, etc…

Meal planning can lighten the stress on your bank account as well as on the grocery store trip itself because you’ll be more prepared to avoid items you don’t need and know where to go to find the items you do need.

Buy In Bulk

Another great way to save money is to buy items in bulk.  Sometimes, it can cost less per unit price to buy a lot at once, especially when it comes to items such as meat or cheese.  Make sure to avoid the trap of buying in bulk when it isn’t necessary, however.  Many items may look like a deal to buy the larger containers, but that’s not necessarily true.  Check the unit price numbers to compare different sizes and prices to ensure you’re getting the best value.  Also be careful not to become wasteful when buying in bulk.  If it can’t be reasonably used or frozen before it spoils, it’s a waste of money to buy in bulk.

Freezer Meals

Now that you have bulk items, what do you do with them?  One useful and time-saving tip is to create freezer meals.  This entails putting all the ingredients for a meal in one or multiple resealable freezer bag (i.e. Ziplock), writing instructions on how to cook the meal (i.e. thaw, oven temperature, time to cook, etc…) and sticking it in the freezer to be pulled out the day of or night before to cook.  If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, it may be helpful to divide up the recipes accordingly or plan on eating the leftovers.  You can search for many recipes of this variety online.

Crock Pot Meals

Crock Pots are the perfect tool for students leading busy schedules.  Crock pots allow you to throw everything into the pot and let it sit for hours while you’re in class, at work, in a meeting, or even while you sleep at night.  When you’re done for the day, the meal is ready for you to eat.  Another perk of Crock Pot meals is that you can make multiple meals for the week at once, saving you time and money.  If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like eating the same meal twice, feel free to get creative and spice things up to the leftovers to make it unique.  Having a meal already prepared will help you resist the urge to eat out for convenience sake after a long, tiring day.

Make Your Own Servings

Generally speaking, single-serve items such as snacks, freezer meals, and individually packaged items are significantly more expensive than if you were to individually portion them yourself.  Taking the time to sort out your snacks into reusable or even ziplock bags can save you lots of money at the store while still providing you with the convenience of grabbing and going in the morning.  Not only will it help with cost and convenience, prepackaging your own portions can help you also with limiting your snacking to the appropriate and healthy serving size.

Buy in Season

One of the biggest expenses at the grocery store can come from the produce section.  It can be difficult to eat produce before it goes bad, especially when you’re only buying for yourself or for two.  On top of this, many produce items vary in their expenses month to month.  It’s important to know which produce items are in season when you’re shopping because that’s when you’ll get the best deal on them.  The following chart can help you decide which items to plan for your meals depending on what season it is.  Try to avoid getting off-season produce because it can be a burden on the bank.  Instead, experiment with new fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Brands

A simple way to save money without changing much of your habits or taking extra time in the week can be by switching to generic label items.  Brand names are more advertised and well-known, but aren’t necessarily much different than the same items made by the grocery store company itself.  Switching to Safeway, Kroger, Great Value, or Hyvee brand items will add up over time and over products without you having to change your lifestyle or even take the time it may take when planning meals, doing freezer or crock pot meals, creating your own servings, or buying in season.

Coupons

And lastly, using coupons can be very helpful, if used properly.  At times, using coupons can actually hurt your finances more than help when you find yourself buying items you didn’t need or won’t use in time.  However, if coupons are available for items that you were going to buy regardless or even if you specifically  meal plan around coupons, it can be a very financially smart thing to do.  Many grocery stores have apps with coupons on them.  You can also find coupons on the back of receipts and from simple searches online.

There are hundreds of other ways you can save money at the grocery store while avoiding compromising your health.  You can learn even more by attending the workshop Eating Healthy on a Budget on Monday, October 26th at 6:00 PM in the Union Flint Hills room.  Resources, recipes, and tips will be provided as well as free food to the first 30 attendees.

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Counselor III
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Save a Bundle Every Time You Shop!

Shopping at the grocery store can be a daunting task for anyone. From the amount of time it takes to purchase your food items to the bill that you receive when you check out, it can be difficult to enjoy a trip to the grocery store. However, there are many tools available to make your shopping trip run smoothly and to make sure you do not overspend while you are there. It takes planning and discipline, but over time you will find that shopping with a plan will make your grocery store shopping experience much better overall. Here are just a few ways that you can save money while you are at the grocery store:

Sign Up for Weekly Advertisements

Every grocery store has an option to sign up for weekly ads to be sent to you via e-mail. This is a great way to be able to comparison shop right from the comfort of your own home. Create a list of things you need and then go through the weekly ads and see what the stores in your area are offering. You can often times find very good deals on things on your shopping list by shopping this way. Be careful though!  Sometimes advertisements can sway you to buy things you never intended to. If you are purchasing more than you can use to get a special deal, then it is probably not a good deal for you at all. Be aware of “10 for $10” or “Buy 3 get one free” type of advertisements. While these may seem like good deals, the average college student probably does not need everything that the sale is offering. Make a detailed list of your needs and stick to it.

Shop With a Plan

There are few things more dangerous than shopping at the grocery store with no clear idea of what you really need. Grocery stores thrive on customers who mindlessly buy products they don’t really need. The best way to combat overspending and mindless spending is to go in with a plan. The best way to plan is by making a list of everything you need before you go to the grocery store. Make a plan of all of the meals that you will eat for the week and buy only what you need to make those meals. Go through your fridge and pantry and make sure you are not buying things you already have. When you go into the store, stick to your list and avoid putting things in your cart that you did not write down. Another way to combat overspending at the grocery store is to simply stick with cash. By only bringing in a set amount of cash with, you will never be able to overspend. Only having cash forces you to keep track of what you are putting in your cart and what your total will be. No more mindless spending!

Buy Your Produce in Season

One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is by purchasing produce only when it is in season. Buying produce during its harvesting season will ensure that you don’t overpay while buying fresh fruits and vegetables. The best way to know what is in season is to download a chart or table for your area that lists all of the produce typically sold in your local grocery store.

How much could you save from buying produce in season? Take asparagus for example. Currently, at the supermarket, asparagus is selling anywhere from $3.99-$4.99 a pound. Compare this to prices in April when asparagus can be found for around a $1.50-2.50 a pound. That’s 50% cheaper just by buying it during its growing season. Use this method for all of your fresh fruits and vegetables to save big while shopping.

Get the Most Out of Your Loyalty Card
A grocery store loyalty card is a great way to save money while you shop. By using the card in the store, you can save on many items just by scanning your card. Best of all, many of these cards offer rewards such as discounts on gas and exclusive coupons. Keep your eyes open for deals that these cards offer. These loyalty cards are completely free and are a great way to save several dollars on food and gas every time you shop!

Use Apps Created by your Grocery Store

A great way to save money and stay focused on your shopping trip is to download an app for the store you are shopping at. A few grocery stores in Manhattan offer this convenience. Usually the app will have a copy of your store rewards card so that you never forget it! These apps also have the weekly advertisement available so that you can check for savings while you shop. Many manufacturers will post their digital coupons on these apps to allow you to download them. Saving money has never been so easy! Another great feature is the ability to create a list right in the app. This will ensure that you buy only the things you need. These grocery store apps provide a “one stop shop” for all of your grocery store savings needs.

While these are just a few tips to save money while at the grocery store, there are still many more that can be used while shopping. Do you have any tips or trick that you use at the grocery store? Feel free to share them with us; we would love to hear from you! At Powercat Financial Counseling, we strive to provide tips to students at K-State to help them save money in their everyday lives. Have a question about saving, budgeting, or anything else related to your personal finances? Powercat Financial is here to help. Set up an appointment with us today and we can help you create a spending plan that works for you!

Tyler Pemble
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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