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Eat Healthy, Save Money

Even if you're not interested in going on a diet plan these tips from Weight Watchers can help minimize costs while maximizing efforts for a healthy lifestyle.

Wolfgang Lienbacher
In an uncertain economy everyone tries to make a dollar stretch further, which is why an important element of the Weight Watchers® program is planning ahead, encouraging women to become more aware of their food choices, including the cost. Filling foods is the focus of Weight Watchers new Momentum Program and planning meals that incorporate those types of foods keep satisfaction high and hunger at bay.

1. Develop a budget. First, identify the amount of money you are comfortable spending on food each week. Next, make a list of staples for weekly purchases, such as low-fat milk, whole-grain bread, fruits and vegetables, and lean cuts of meat

Tip: Most of these items are located on the perimeter of the grocery store.

2. Limit impulse purchases. Go to the store with a shopping list and stick to it. Buy generic when you can.

3. BYO. A person can easily spend up to $10 a day stopping for a morning latte and eating out for lunch — not to mention a few stops at the vending machine. To cut down on costs, "bring your own — BYO!" Bring a thermos of coffee from home to drink throughout the day. Bring a small cooler and pack it with sugar-free soda and a healthy lunch. According to the lunch savings calculator on American Public Media, brown bagging it can save you $70 per month!

4. Purchase sale items in bulk. When lean meats go on sale, stock up and freeze the extras or share with family and friends. Buying larger quantities at discount or warehouse stores can also cut costs.

5. Find the freezer or go canned. If fresh produce is too expensive, buy frozen or canned alternatives. Most grocery stores even offer generic brands of frozen and canned favorites. A pound of 85% lean ground beef can cost close to $4.00 while a can of black beans is a mere .75.

6. Be a bean counter. Beans are rich in fiber, plus they're a cheaper protein source than meat. Beans bulk up salads, soups and are great in tortillas. See the recipe below for a great low cost meal idea, high in fiber and protein but low in cost per serving.

Black Bean-Tomatillo Dip

Makes 6 servings

2 (15.5 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed, drained

1 (12 ounce) can tomatillos, drained, chopped

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

3 scallions, chopped

.5 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

.5 teaspoon salt

.5 teaspoon black pepper

Combine beans and tomatillos in a food processor and process to a chunky puree. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.

Nutrition per 1/3 cup: 102 calories, 1 gram fat, no cholesterol, 390 grams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 6 grams protein.

7. Do it yourself. Grate your own cheese, clean and shred your own lettuce, and chop your own fruit salads instead of buying pricey packaged convenience items. Generally, supermarkets increase the cost of fruits and vegetables when they cut and package them.

8. Grow it. Whether it's a small patch in the backyard or a few pots on your balcony, an initial investment in a few garden supplies will produce a bounty of fresh produce. Gardening experts say just three to four plants produces enough tomatoes to feed an entire family. Don't forget, one hour of digging in the garden can help you burn more than 100 calories.

9. Portion patrol/proportion shift. Your budget and pantry can be devastated by portion sizes that are too large. By monitoring the portions you use in meals, you can stretch your food throughout the week and consume healthier meals. In addition use pricey meats as an accent to meals not as the main event for example skip the pork chops and cook up a pork stir-fry.

10. Cut insurance costs. According to a 2002 RAND report, obese individuals spend $395 more on health care costs than those at a healthy weight. Overweight employees cost businesses up to 52% more in health-care costs as well, so ask your supervisor about creating wellness programs at work.

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