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To help you and your family be healthier. When you plan meals, you can make sure you include enough foods from each food group. Pay special attention to serving enough vegetables and fruits in family meals.

To help you balance meals. When you are serving a food with a lot of fat or salt, you can plan lowfat or low-salt foods to go with it. For example, ham is high in salt. If you have ham for dinner, you also can serve a salad or a vegetable that doesn�t need salt.

To save money. If you plan before you go food shopping, you will know what you have on hand and what you need. Also, shopping from a list helps you avoid expensive �impulse� purchases.

To save time and effort. When you plan meals, you have foods on hand and make fewer trips to the grocery store. Planning also helps you make good use of leftovers. This can cut your cooking time and food costs.


  • Build the main part of your meal around rice, noodles, or other grains. Use small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
  • Add variety to family meals. In addition to cooking family favorites, try new, low-cost recipes or food combinations.
  • Make meals easier to prepare by trying new ways to cook foods. For example, try using a slow cooker or crock-pot to cook stews or soups. They cook foods without constant watching.
  • Use planned leftovers to save both time and money. For example, prepare a Beef Pot Roast, serve half of it, and freeze the remaining half to use later. You also can freeze extra cooked meats and vegetables for soups or stews.
  • Do "batch cooking" when your food budget and time allow. For example, cook a large batch of Baked Meatballs or Turkey Chili, divide it into family-size portions, and freeze some for meals later in the month.
  • Plan snacks that give your family the nutrients they need. For example, buy fresh fruits in season like apples or peaches. Dried fruits like raisins or prunes, raw vegetables, crackers, and whole wheat bread are also good ideas for snacks.


Before you go shopping
  • Make a list of all the foods you need. Do this in your kitchen so you can check what you have on hand.
  • Look for specials in the newspaper ads for the stores where you shop.
  • Look for coupons for foods you plan to buy. But remember, coupons save money only if you need the product. Also, check if other brands are on sale, too. They may cost even less than the one with a coupon.
While you shop
  • When your food budget allows, buy extra lowcost, nutritious foods like potatoes and frozen orange juice concentrate. These foods keep well.
  • Compare the cost of convenience foods with the same foods made from scratch. "Convenience foods" are products like fancy baked goods, frozen meals, and vegetables with seasonings and sauces. Most of these cost more than similar foods prepared at home. Also, you can use less fat, sugar, and salt in food you make at home.
  • Try store brands. They usually cost less than name brands, but they taste as good and generally have the same nutritional value.
  • Take time to compare fresh, frozen, and canned foods to see which is cheapest. Buy what�s on special and what�s in season.
  • Prevent food waste. Buy only the amount that your family will eat before the food spoils.
Using label and shelf information
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. Compare the amount of fat, sodium, calories, and other nutrients in similar products. This can help you choose foods that have less fat, sodium or calories, and more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Use date information on packages "sell by" and "best if used by" dates to help you choose the freshest foods.
  • Look for the unit price to compare similar foods. It tells you the cost per ounce, pound, or pint, so you�ll know which brand or size is the best buy. Most stores show the unit price on a shelf sticker just below the product.

Source: 5 a Day Program