Summer’s bounty is here!

Fresh, fabulous produce is easy and plentiful at local farmer’s markets and your favorite grocery stories.

It seems a little easier to eat healthier.  You’ll see kids eating berries or grapes like candy.

But recently, a friend of mine stated, “it’s MORE expensive to eat healthy.”  And for some things, that’s true.

Buy lowfat milk, high quality whole grain bread, or cage-free eggs – and you’ll definitely pay more per gallon/per loaf/per dozen.  But in most cases, you’re also getting higher quality nutrition for your money.  Your bill may be higher, but it takes less of the good stuff to fuel your body.  So how do you save money, without sacrificing nutrition?  I checked with some experts to come up with the top five ways.  I’ll put them to the test this week, and we can compare notes.

Plan Ahead:  I envy coupon clippers like my Dad.  But busy moms usually don’t have time to drive all over town for the best deals.  Any savings evaporates with the gas you burn up.  So the best I can do is take inventory what I have, plan a few meals, make a detailed shopping list, and go without kids, when I’m not hungry.  Thank goodness for 24 hour grocery stores!

Choose Healthy Whole Foods:  A 2002 study published in the American Dietetic Association shows families who go on weight loss diets both lose weight AND trim their food budget.  The savings comes from reducing portion sizes and buying fewer high calorie foods.  Folks tend to spend a lot on high-calorie snacks like chips, ice cream, and soda.  We buy very little soda, and instead drink “bubbly water and juice”, sparkling water (bought by the case at Costco) and 100% cranberry grape juice.

Brown-Bag It:   Take healthy snacks with you to work, in the car, to the park.  An apple, or granola bar is far less expensive than a trip through the drive-through.  Cooper’s favorite take-along GORP is a mixture of Cheerios, popcorn, M&M’s, raisins and nuts.  And get a reusable water bottle you can refill at home.  It saves money and cuts down on waste.  Our favorite now is the “not plastic” bottle by SIGG.  You can get them at REI.

Go Vegetarian at Least Once a Week:  Beans, eggs, and tofu are far less expensive than beef and chicken.  We have veggie burritos at least once a week with beans and rice.  Eggs are an excellent source of protein that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It works out great right now, because Asher’s just old enough to eat a mashed up hard-boiled egg yolk, and Cooper will only eat the whites.  And when we do eat meat, the portion is smaller than the pile of veggies and rice or pasta on our plates.

Plant a Garden:  There’s nothing better than fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from your own garden.  Friends helped me plant and cultivate last year, and I’m going to try to put in a few plants again.  Herbs are easy to grow, and there’s nothing better than fresh basil and mozzerella with those home-grown tomatoes.  The benefits you’ll reap go far beyond just saving money.