By Sarah Ransom

We all make trips to the grocery store. Some of us visit the farmers market, and some just grow their own food in gardens and greenhouses. Living in rural areas, we have a wider variety of options when it comes to food availability. However, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s always affordable for the families needing to feed their members.
There are some easy tips to keep in mind when it comes to grocery shopping and trying to stretch your dollars.

•Meal planning is key. Planning out your meals on a weekly basis is helpful. If you get really motivated, you can plan on a monthly basis. If you know what your food budget is for the month, divide that by the weeks, and you will know what financial resources you have to work with to feed your family. As you make your meal plan, be sure to check the sale papers and prepare your meal around what has the best price option for your family. Many groceries stores and retail chains will match sale prices – so be sure to ask.
Look for coupons. While ten cents may not seem like a big deal on its own, when you add it with a bunch of others you can save several dollars, which means significant savings over the course of a month.

•Check prices. There are several ways you can save on pricing outside of coupons. One way to do this is to check between fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Choosing canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can help save money during times when fresh foods are not in season. Canned and frozen options have many of the same nutrients and can be found lower costs when foods are not in season. Be sure to check the unit pricing on the foods you are purchasing. Sometimes selecting smaller or larger quantities can be cheaper. Also, do not be afraid to eat the store brand, they are frequently made by the same companies but offered at a much-reduced cost.
Before shopping, be sure to check your pantry, freezer, and fridge before purchasing new foods. Having a few staple items on hand can help stretch the food you are buying. Beans, rice, and potatoes are just a few things that provide a lot of nutrients while staying on a budget.
Lastly, check into your local resources. The Farmers Markets provide matching SNAP dollars, which can allow you to maximize dollars for some fresh foods. Food banks also help offer some staple items to complete your meals with vital nutrients. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t eat good, well-balanced meals.