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wknd-shopping-webRISMEDIA, May 9, 2009-“Shopping strategically at the grocery store to save money is not changing the way you eat, it is about changing the way you buy the food that you like,” says Stephanie Nelson, the Coupon Mom. “If you are working on losing weight, or improving your families’ health, you can save money on groceries when you know how to be a strategic shopper.”

Nelson has taught millions of people how to save money while using coupons, but she says some people believe they have to trade healthy choices for saving money. “It’s just not true, you can have a healthy diet and save money, too,” she says.

More than 1.7 million shoppers have joined the CouponMom.com website to save money on groceries. Nelson, one of the country’s leading experts on coupons, has taught millions how to save money on her website as well as on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, AOL, Wall Street Journal and CNN Money.

Some basic tips to saving money while serving healthy food include:

-Do it yourself, don’t pay for convenience
-Simple substitutions-be aware of less expensive, comparable alternatives
-Plans meals based on overall meal cost
-Save 10 to 40% by avoiding all food waste
-Save money and calories with proper portion control
-Use strategic shopping (combining store sales with coupons) on your key items
-Be store flexible: know the prices of your common items and shop where prices are lowest

How to save on produce:
-Compare prices for your common produce at a few different types of stores, such as a discount store (Wal-Mart or Target supercenters), a no-frills discount store (Aldi or Sav-a-Lot), a wholesale club (Costco or BJs) and a couple of local supermarkets. You may find that an alternate store is a better source of produce in the off-season. During the summer, a local farmers’ market could be a good source of healthy produce at a lower cost.
-Talk to the produce manager about markdowns, and find out what time of day they markdown produce (that is generally perfectly good).
-Buy fresh produce in season, concentrating on the featured sale items. If not on sale, buy frozen vegetables as they tend to be less expensive and have coupons available for name brands. Frozen vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness so they may have more nutrition than fresh vegetables that have been in storage for a longer period of time.
-Save money by doing it yourself. The cost savings of washing your own lettuce, peeling your own carrots, cutting your own fruit equates to an hourly wage of over $50. If it takes 5 minutes to save 60-70%, it’s worth doing yourself.
-Consider the cost per serving of fruits and vegetables and make simple substitutions to vary your diet and save money. Also compare the cost per piece of fruit or potatoes of a 5-lb. bag as compared to buying individual pieces by the pound. Smaller apples cost less, lead to less waste, and have fewer calories.
-Pay attention to food waste and work to reduce it to zero. Food waste accounts for 10% to 40% of families’ overall grocery spending (the average percentage increases as the average grocery spending increases according to USDA statistics). Serve realistic portions for weight-management and proper nutrition. Don’t serve children more food than they would realistically eat.

How to save on meat, chicken, fish:
-Only buy main dish ingredients when they are on sale. Pay attention to your stores’ featured sales item on the first page of their weekly ad and plan that week’s meals around that ingredient. Chicken is a common sale item, so be creative about finding healthy recipes that your family likes using various types of chicken. Buy at least one or two extra weeks’ worth of the main ingredient item to freeze so you don’t have to pay full price in the future.
-Consider buying fish that is flash-frozen to save, or only buy the type of fish that is on sale.
-Talk to your store’s butcher about daily markdowns and check them out each time you visit the store. Stores will frequently mark down items with sell-by dates of that day or the next day. As long as you freeze or prepare the item immediately, it is perfectly safe to eat.
-Buy larger family-pack quantities of meat, chicken or pork and package them into smaller quantities for the freezer to pay a lower per-pound cost.
-Buy less expensive cuts of meat and prepare them to be healthier. Marinate less-expensive cuts of steak to tenderize them, which tend to be healthier because they are lower in fat.
-Only buy boneless chicken breasts when they sell for half price. If not on sale, compare the per-pound price of individually frozen chicken breasts sold in the bag.
-Buy whole chickens at a lower per-pound price, or less-expensive chicken drumsticks or thighs. Buy chicken leg quarters and cut off the skin and visible fat. Bake some for dinner and bake additional pieces to use in a chicken soup, stew or casserole later in the week.
-Compare the per-pound cost of your favorite cuts of meat, pork, chicken, and fish at a local wholesale club to save 20-40%. Buy the large quantity for your freezer or divide with a friend.
-Substitute ground turkey for ground beef when it is less expensive in soups, pasta sauces and casseroles.
-Compare the cost of frozen ground turkey to fresh ground turkey; allow time to thaw if frozen is less expensive.
-Don’t buy sliced deli turkey for $8 or $9 per lb. at the deli counter-make extra grilled chicken breasts and slice for sandwiches during the week. You can also buy your own turkey breast and roast it and slice it for sandwiches.

Snacks:
-Managing snacks is important because family members are likely to eat planned ingredients for other meals if you don’t have easy snacks available. Let family members know what snacks are available and encourage them to choose the healthy options.
-Examples of inexpensive snacks include store brand pretzels, popcorn, store brand graham crackers, carrot sticks, small apples, bananas, frozen banana smoothies with skim milk, diet hot cocoa packets, diet gelatin or pudding, saltines, yogurts bought on sale with coupons, and homemade cookies and brownies.

Avoid food waste:
-Plan a leftover night once per week or plan a consecutive meal based on leftover ingredients.
-Have one shelf in your refrigerator with clear, see-through plastic containers with leftovers. Use for lunches, snacks or leftover night with a different meal for each person if necessary.

For more information, visit www.couponmom.com.

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