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6 Simple Changes That Could Help You Save $2,997 a Year

Americans are eating out less, and more and more of our food decisions are being driven by two things: budget and health. The following tips and tricks will help you save money while maintaining a healthy diet.

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1. Eat Vegetarian Occasionally

Try to include a couple of vegetarian meals in your menu for the week. Skipping meat, even once or twice a week, can help save money; meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. And you will have a lighter impact on the environment -- almost one-fifth of the world's human-made greenhouse-gas emissions are generated by the meat industry, according to the United Nations.

Save $210 per year. (Replace 1 pound of sirloin [$5.99] with a 14-ounce block of tofu [$1.96] once a week for a year.)

Don't Miss: 15 Fruits & Vegetables You Don't Need to Buy Organic

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2. Minimize Waste

One of the easiest ways to save money is to make sure you're not wasting food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out more than 25 percent of the food we prepare. And a study at the University of Arizona that tracked food use and waste from production to the table to the landfill estimated that the average American family of four throws out $590 worth of food each year. So we need to do a better job of using leftovers and learn what to do with food before it's past its peak.

Save $590 per year. (Estimated value of the food an average American household of four wastes in a year.)

Try This: 5 Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Start Saving Money

3. Plug In the Slow Cooker

If you don't have hours to be at home tending a braise, try a slow cooker. It will give you the same effect (it makes inexpensive cuts of meat meltingly tender), but you can plug it in, leave for the day, and come home to a delicious dinner. Inexpensive cuts of meat that work wonderfully in the slow cooker include chicken thighs, pork shoulder, beef chuck, and beef brisket.

Save $78 per year. (Replace 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken breast [$4.99] with 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken thighs [$3.49] once a week for a year.)

Don't Miss: Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes

4. Discover Great Ways to Use Canned Fish

Just like their fresh counterparts, canned salmon and tuna provide omega-3 fats, which help keep your heart healthy by lowering triglycerides and blood pressure. The difference: Canned fish is significantly less expensive.

Save $224 per year. (Replace 1 pound of fresh tuna [$7.99] with 1 pound of canned tuna [$3.68] once a week for a year.)

5. Don't Order a Pizza; Make One at Home

Ordering pizza seems like a cheap and quick solution for dinner. But a typical pie costs more than $15. You can make your own at home for a lot less and in about the same amount of time that delivery takes.

Save $520 per year. (Make pizza once a week instead of ordering.)

Try This: Healthy Pizza Recipes

6. Pack a Lunch

When you're busy at work, the easiest choice is to grab a bite to eat someplace nearby. The problem is that the cost of buying lunch takes a toll on your food budget. (The average lunch at the national chain Panera Bread, which specializes in sandwiches, soups, and salads, costs $8.50.) So try bringing a lunch from home. When you make dinner, think about what you're going to eat for lunch tomorrow. If you're preparing a salad, make a little extra and put it in a container, undressed. And what about your leftovers? If you have a little extra chicken or canned beans, toss that in with your lunch salad.

Save $1,375 per year. (Replace an $8.50 lunch with a $3 lunch from home 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year.)

More Budget-Saving Tips:
8 Superfoods for $1 or Less
12 Secrets to Spending Less Money at the Grocery Store

© Copyright 2013, EatingWell. All Rights Reserved.

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