Photo courtesy of Katy Wilkens

10 ways to save money on food

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

A colleague with teenagers in the house asked me recently how to save money on groceries and still eat healthy. Below is a list of ideas for feeding a large family without spending a fortune or compromising health. You don’t have to give up money or flavor to eat well, healthy and low-salt.

1. Shop the food sales. Look for sale flyers, which usually appear in your local paper on Wednesdays. Or visit your favorite grocery store’s website and sign up to get email notices of specials.
2. Buy food in season.
3. Use frozen vegetables. They’re often a better buy and higher in nutritional value since they are picked at the height of the season. All those good vitamins are locked in during freezing.
4. Find a fruit market in your area. They often have better prices on local produce.
5. Use the slow cooker. You can use beans, tougher cuts of meat and other foods that take longer to cook. Because these items don’t cook fast, they are usually cheaper. A slow cooker works all day, tenderizing meat and developing amazing flavors, while you are gone! Try the Chinese pork with spices, a favorite of my family’s.
6. Make fast frozen meals. Use my husband’s quick grilled meals trick—buy a variety of proteins, including tofu, and put them on the grill while you cook rice, potatoes and veggies. When the protein comes off the grill, pack single servings in plastic containers with a scoop of rice or potato and a handful of the veggies. Freeze the containers for easy meals later.
7. Try more vegetarian meals. They are always cheaper: try vegetarian lasagna, chili, spaghetti sauce, curried paneer, and fettuccine. Try more meals using eggs—
like a quiche, omelets, waffles, pancakes, crepes or French toast.
8. Recycle leftovers in different ways. Leftover rice can go in rice pudding, stir-fry or soup. Leftover dry bread is great for bread pudding, croutons for a salad, French toast, or a baked cheese strata casserole. Leftover potatoes can become hash browns or get added to soups or stews, while leftover mashed potatoes make great potato pancakes.
9. Find five or six fast-to-make meals that your family likes. Keep the ingredients on hand for these all the time, so you won’t ever be tempted to pick up fast food. My family’s “Quick 5” are: fettuccine, beef or chicken tacos, homemade pancakes, stir-fry (we use veggies, leftover rice and meat from other meals), and omelets made with whatever is in the fridge.
10. Make your own pizza! It is so fast, so easy, and so cheap! And everyone gets what they want. You can make what’s considered an “extra large” pizza for under $4. Try this recipe. It takes less time to make pizza than to have someone deliver!

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2013 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at]

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