Summer is coming, and with that comes the latest wave of new fad diets to hit the market. You may have seen the newly released USDA study showing that healthy foods don't cost more than junk food but, for many of us, the damage to our wallet comes not in trying to be healthy but in buying the myriad foods required for special meal plans. Here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck with some of today's most popular diets, including The Mediterranean Diet, Weight Watchers and South Beach. All of these diets are aligned to certain food groups (that aren't cheap!) so here are some tangible ways to save and get the most out of the foods you buy.
Olive oil. Many diets require that you substitute butter with olive oil, so be sure to store it properly to make it last longer (70 degrees or less).
Spices. The Mediterranean diet calls for lots of spices to replace salt. Spices should always be bought in bulk, as the small bottles on the supermarket shelves are highly overpriced due to packaging. In fact, buying and grinding your own is truly the most cost effective route.
Produce. Saving money AND making fresh fruits and veggies last is the key, as all these diets expect you to ingest 7-10 servings a day. To get the most mileage out of your produce:
Store fruits like apples on their own. Apples emit ethylene, which causes quick ripening, so it's true that one bad apple will spoil the bunch.
Wash lettuce and herbs under cold water, then drain dry in a spinner or colander. Store in a plastic bag with a few sheets of paper towel inside the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to a week. Don't store onions, potatoes or garlic in the fridge. Keep them in a cool, dark and dry spot. Onions will last even longer if you store them in the legs of nylon stockings. Just pick up an inexpensive pair at the drugstore.
Always buy pre-bagged. A five-pound bag of anything (oranges, apples, potatoes) has to have at least five-pounds, so there is a good chance you will get an extra quarter or half pound free.
Buy frozen. It's generally comparable to fresh (just check the label to be sure the produce is the only item listed) and you are much more likely to find coupons for frozen produce.
Fish & Poultry. Look for canned tuna or salmon as possible lunch alternatives to more expensive fresh fish, which many of these diets encourage.
Red Meat. South Beach is the most forgiving around red meat, so make friends with your local butcher and find out what time of day they typically mark down meat (it's usually in the early morning or evening). Though it will be approaching its sell by date, it's fine to stock up and freeze it immediately. Some stores have two rounds of markdowns, so ask how they typically do it and if you see meat with a sell by date of the next day, ask your butcher if it can be marked down a day early.
Extra Savings. If you're feeling disciplined and want to stick with a certain plan for the foreseeable future, consider joining the Coupons savings club, which can save you even more on products from Weight Watchers and the South Beach Diet.