These 5 tips will make it easier for you to eat healthier and save money so that the only thing getting bigger is your wallet.

Maybe it’s the foodie in me, but I often find myself disappointed when I dine out. The dilemma: Why would I spend $20 on a meal I could easily make myself for a fraction of the cost and with fresher, tastier ingredients?

Eating out can really eat into your budget, not to mention restaurant-sized portions aren’t exactly good for your waistline, either, so I usually opt for home-cooked meals instead.

According to an ABC World News “Real Money” poll, two out of three people admit to overspending on food. A family of four spends an average of $568 a month on the thrifty end, up to $1,301 a month on the spendier side, finds the USDA “Cost of Food” report.

If you’re looking for ways to save on your groceries but don’t want to sacrifice flavor, quality or convenience, these tips can help you eat healthier and stay within your budget.

1. Eat more whole foods

Skip the packaged foods and pick up whole foods instead at the grocery store. Add fresh fruits and veggies to your meals, which typically cost much less, taste better and are more nutritious than prepared foods and frozen meals. Save even more by buying produce in season when it’s cheaper. For example, buy strawberries in the spring when they’re $1.99 a basket and not $4.99 in the winter.

2. Make your own restaurant-quality meals at home

Instead of dining out, get creative in the kitchen. Cooking up delicious meals doesn’t have to be pricey or complicated, especially when there are countless foodie blogs and drool-worthy Pinterest images waiting to inspire you. Being short on time isn’t an excuse. There are hundreds of simple recipes for one-pot meals that make great leftovers or gourmet-style tacos just a couple clicks away.

3. Try these grocery store hacks

Grocery stores are designed to get you to fork out more money by distracting you with all of the convenience foods in the middle aisles as you make your way to the milk, eggs and produce, so point your shopping cart in the right direction.

Pre-chopped, packaged produce is usually overpriced and you can save by doing it yourself. Buying meats straight from the deli is cheaper and fresher than the packaged version by the same brand. The salad bar can get expensive when you’re paying by the pound, but there are tricks to bringing down the cost such as grabbing almond slices from the bulk section.

Also, learn what’s a good price for your grocery items, so you’ll know when to stock up and when a “sale” price is actually a good deal.

4. Plan weekly themed menus

Get more bang for your buck by using the same fresh ingredients in your meals for the week. One night, you can make a homemade margherita pizza with fresh basil and mozzarella, which can then be used for caprese sandwiches another day.

Find recipes using common ingredients that keep things interesting and inexpensive. This BLT bowl recipe is my go-to lunchtime salad and it’s also versatile. Another day, I might use the same ingredients for a sandwich by adding turkey, black olive and cucumber slices, minus the cilantro. Some of the ingredients can be reused in another recipe like this turkey, bacon and avocado panini. Recipes like these will tempt you to brown-bag it instead of going out for lunch.

5. Use coupons and phone apps to save

A little-known secret of savvy shoppers, you can download several apps to your smartphone and save money on certain healthy brands and even fresh produce. Oftentimes, when you can get a $1 rebate from a phone app on a particular product, there’s also a manufacturer coupon available so you can “stack” your savings.

Some popular apps include:

Sometimes you save as little as $0.25 per item, other times you can score items for free when combined with sales, promotions, and store and manufacturer coupons, and every little bit counts.

Eating well can cost less if you strategize your grocery shopping. There’s no need to scrimp on ingredients because enjoying healthy foods and knowing what’s in your meal is worth much more than the dollar amount on your receipt.

Written by Margie Monin Dombrowski, who blogs at Margiemd.com

Participation Pays Off: What are your go-to tricks for eating healthier or saving money on food?

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