BUY MORE HEALTHY GROCERIES
Be a flexitarian. Make half of your week's meals meat-free and swap in canned beans, spinach and nuts. The benefits are twofold: Eating four protein-rich, nonmeat meals a week can lead to a 6 percent drop in bad cholesterol, according to a recent Tulane University study. And cutting our meat for even one night can save the average family of four more than $1,000 a year.
Go whole hog on whole grains. Yeah, you know whole grains are loaded with fiber and iron and get you fuller faster. But what you probably don't know is that practically all of your favorite foods have a whole grain sidekick: breads, cereals, snacks like popcorn and cookies -- even the breading on frozen fish sticks and the crusts on chicken potpies. Getting every little bit counts. Just be sure that whole grains are listed as one of the first ingredients on the package, or look for the "100% Whole Grains" stamp so you know you're buying the real thing.
Skip convenience foods and buy the raw ingredients. When time is on your side, swap in old-fashioned oats and maple syrup for maple-flavored instant oats, and canned crushed tomatoes and olive oil for jarred tomato sauce. "This one small step will automatically help you cut back on sugar, salt and calories," says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness.
GET EXCITED BY DINNER AGAIN
Break free from recipes. Inspiration is everywhere, and a lot of it doesn't come with a traditional recipe. Tap into social networking: Try simple 140-character meal ideas on Twitter (follow @rachaelraymag for our #take5 recipes) or check out us or your friends on Facebook to see what people are having for dinner tonight.
Linger in the grocery store. Slow down. "Find what's beautiful and fresh in your market and you'll feel more connected to your food," says Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan St. Bakery in New York City and author of My Bread. The more inspired you are, the more likely you'll enjoy the experience and cook more frequently.
Stock your kitchen with your favorite go-to ingredients. "Keeping a few basics on hand makes cooking far less intimidating, and the time spent thinking about dinner is cut in half," says Tamara Reynolds, co-author of Forking Fantastic! Put the Party Back in Dinner Party. Figure out what ingredients suit you best: For instance, if you love stir-fries, stockpile bags of cut frozen vegetables and rice.
LET THE COUPONS COME TO YOU
Bookmark your supermarket's Web site. It will often contain additional coupons. Just click on them and they'll be saved to your loyalty card. Plus, you can scan the circulars online without having to set foot in the store.
Zero in on coupons before you shop. Hop online and visit redplum.com, coupons.com or manufacturers' Web sites to print coupons for items that you regularly buy. This will also help you avoid wasting money and using a coupon just for coupon's sake.
Go mobile. We're right around the corner from having grocery coupons sent directly to our cell phones, but for now, cellfire.com's iPhone app allows you to search for coupons and add them to your loyalty card. And don't forget to set up a reminder alarm for double-coupon day.