Do you ever wonder how our parents were able to fix such delicious meals when we were growing up and still managed to stay on a budget? Yep, I do. Food was not wasted, and serving sizes were much smaller. We didn’t go out to eat except for special occasions, and the homemade desserts were spectacular. I miss those days when I look at the grocery budget I’m trying to control while trying to feed a hungry family! Something has happened in the last 20 years, and it’s called portion distortion! That’s right, sounds very scientific, but according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, portion size has increased to almost double in the past 20 years. That one statistic can explain a lot about my food budget and what I need to do to address the issue! Portion distortion has led to increased calorie intake and increased food costs in my budget. So, I’ve come up with some great tips to help when you’re shopping—and I’m not suggesting starving your family. I’m suggesting being smart about how you shop and the money you can save all while keeping your family healthy!

1. Stick to the serving size

Let’s use a bagel for an example. Twenty years ago, the average bagel was around 3 inches and about 140 calories. Today, the size has doubled and swelled to a whopping 350 calories. Try this experiment: purchase a bag of bagels, but put half of the bag in the freezer. Simply cut the ones you plan to eat immediately in half when you serve them. This way, you’re increasing the number of servings per each bag and doubling your investment. Does this sound crazy? It may because it’s not how we’re used to thinking. But if half a bagel can fill you up, making a change in the serving size prior to serving it will save you money. If you’re still hungry, eat the other half!

2. Pay attention to servings per container

I recently bought a new frozen garlic knots product. The sale price was $2.50, but I had a $1 coupon that doubled, so I got the box for only $0.50! As I was getting ready to prepare them, I read the serving size. There were six (yes, only six) garlic knots in the box. Before I started paying attention to serving sizes, I would’ve prepared all of the garlic knots despite the recommended serving suggestion. This time, I prepared only two as it was just my husband and I eating. Prior to thinking about serving size, we would’ve eaten all of them. By the way, they were delicious! After becoming aware of serving size, I prepared the recommended amount, and it was the perfect compliment to our lasagna—plus, I still have four servings left in the box!

3. Cook only what you plan to eat

Next time you’re having spaghetti, read the box of spaghetti first and see exactly what one serving size is—you’ll be surprised. I normally cook the whole box of spaghetti just so I know I’ve got enough for everyone! That’s throwing money away if we don’t eat it all. Add a side salad and decrease the serving size of all that pasta! Remember, pasta typically doubles in size when you boil it. And just so you’re aware, one cup is the recommended serving size for pasta.

4. Use a measuring cup

Do you just pour cereal from the box into a bowl? Most people do. It wasn’t until recently that I actually started measuring my cereal to identify the actual serving size. Boy, was I surprised! The serving size for cereal is typically one half-cup to one cup. Using measuring tools gives you a better idea of how much you should actually consume. For your family, prepare the suggested serving size, and if anyone requests seconds, add more then. Don’t pour three cups of cereal and have your kids only eat half of it!
4 Ways to Increase Your Savings by Paying Attention to Serving Size