1. Buy from a farmer. Buy food directly from a local farmer who doesn’t use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. It strengthens community by financially supporting our neighbors, keeps dangerous chemicals out of our food and water, and lowers costs by cutting out the middleman. If every household in Maine spent $10 a week on locally grown foods, an additional $100 million would flow into the Maine economy!
2. Cook at home more often. One week’s groceries can cost as much as a single restaurant meal. Make cooking fun by involving your family: Give your kids age-appropriate tasks like picking stems off string beans, or peeling carrots. Home-cooked meals are more nutrient-rich, and family meals build community.
3. Buy local and in-season. Maine food tastes better and is more nutritious. The average bite of food travels 2,500 miles before you eat it. Local food reduces air pollution and fuel consumption.
4. Extend the season. Load up when you see a great deal—and learn how to freeze, dry, or can it. Have a canning party.
5. Cook with the seasons. If you shop by recipe, find a cookbook that pairs ingredients by season so you’re not trying to buy two seasonally mismatched things at the same time, such as asparagus (early spring) and peaches (late summer).
6. Go veggie a few nights a week. Or add veggies to meat to “extend” it—which will also boost the fiber and antioxidant content of burgers or meatballs. Beans make the basis of many yummy entrées, such as black-bean burritos.
7. Buy in bulk. Buying healthful foods like brown or wild rice, oats, nuts, and dried fruit in bulk is a win-win-win: You eat healthier meals, you save money, and you keep excess packaging out of the waste stream.
8. Work the perimeter. Foods along the walls—not in aisles—are generally the healthiest. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and seafood are usually around the perimeter of the store, while processed, boxed foods with little nutritional value tend to be in the middle.
9. Mix it up. For variety, set aside a few dollars to buy something new, like mushrooms or a new kind of cheese.
10. Return reusable containers. Bring reusable bags and return clean containers, such as quart baskets and egg cartons, to lower costs for farmers so they can pass along the savings to you. Buying milk in returnable glass bottles reduces waste.
From “Save Money and Eat Healthy, Tasty Food” by Leah Zerbe, rodale.com and Prevention Magazine.