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While less healthful food often seems like the cheaper or easier option, it’s a good idea to factor in the value of your health when deciding what to eat.

Making meals at home is often more economical than eating out. Plus, it gives you greater control to create healthy, delicious, budget-friendly meals. This may seem easy to say and hard to implement, but we have the tips to help you eat well without breaking the bank.

1. Plan Ahead

The first step in smart food shopping is making a plan for the week. This means thinking about what you will eat for each meal and making a grocery list. It seems obvious, but working on a meal plan and sticking to your list is difficult for many people. It’s a good idea to get versatile ingredients that you can use for different meals throughout the week.

Search the Internet and clip coupons for deals on the groceries that made it on your list. Be a little flexible with your menu so that when you check the grocery inserts that come in the mail and read your inbox, you can adjust to incorporate the items on sale (by swapping one vegetable for another that is on sale for example).

2. Shop Smart

Another way to eat well on a budget is by looking backward instead of forward. Similar to how you track your spending when creating a budget, try tracking your past shopping to streamline your food shopping.

Go through past food receipts and assess what items you used and liked. Also take stock of what you ended up throwing away or what you didn’t like. This information can help ensure your shopping list consists of food that will make it onto your plate.

It’s a good idea to determine where you can cut costs by going with a generic version instead of a name brand. Also, there are certain foods that are better to buy organic than others. Often, frozen vegetables can be just as good as fresh ones and are much cheaper.

3. Cook in Bulk

Just as buying in bulk can save money due to a lower cost per unit, making large batches of food can mean more meals for less effort. By cooking once and eating for multiple days, you save time and money. Cooking single-serve meals can be wasteful and expensive, but making large amounts means leftovers can be eaten throughout the week.

4. Grow Your Own

Another way to eat well on a budget is to grow your own food. Whether it’s herbs on a windowsill, a garden in the yard for vegetables, trees or plants for fruit or raising chickens, growing your own food can help you cut back on grocery costs. While it’s not always possible to do this on a grand scale, it can help you add little touches (like herbs) to those store-bought ingredients so you don’t get tired of the same taste.

Just like with your overall budget, it’s important to check back in and see if your food budget is still on track or if it needs another makeover. Overspending on food can actually drive you into debt, which can affect more than just your pocketbook — it can have a long-term effect on your credit. If you want to see how your spending is affecting your credit scores, you can check two of them for free on Credit.com, plus get a personalized action plan for improving your credit.

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