Just because you're dieting doesn't mean your wallet has to shrink along with your waistline. You can lose weight and save money by making smart shopping decisions.

When most people start a diet they stock up on all sorts of diet products, which can be very expensive. For example, prices for frozen diet meals generally range from $1.50 to $3.19, and most contain meat, poultry, fish or meat and pasta combinations and one or two vegetables.If you calculate the price for eating one entree for lunch and one for dinner, you could spend more than $44 a week at the grocery store for diet meals alone.

Try making the same sort of entrees and veggies from scratch, put them in a dish with dividers and freeze them. If you don't have a dish with compartments, ask someone to save the trays from their frozen dinners.

Joan Webb, class leader at Weight Watchers Inc., said, "Although our dinners are on the market, we don't ever require that people buy our food. You have to learn to cook the food yourself, especially if you have a family because you have to prepare something for them."

Margaret Love, food marketing agent with the Shelby County, Tenn., Agricultural Extension Service, says any food that's been cooked thoroughly can be stored in the freezer for about a month: "The container should be air-tight and the date should be written on it. Food blends such as casseroles and quiches, don't hold as well as individual foods that are frozen."

Love suggests freezing broiled and grilled meats and poultry and using them with vegetables for a nutritious, low-fat dinner.

"Stay away from fried meats because they absorb grease and turn rancid. Broiled meats are better because there's no added fat - it drips away."

Extra meat or poultry can also be sliced for sandwiches or cut into strips for use with stir-fry vegetables or pasta.

"Your fresh meat, depending on how it's cooked, will have fewer calories and less fat than most processed meats," Love said.

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"Now is the perfect time to stock up on fresh produce and vegetables from markets. They are cheaper because they're in season and are better for you because of the higher fiber content than those that have been processed," added Linda Wood, manager at Diet Center Germantown. "Take low-calorie snacks such as fruit and raw vegetables to work to keep from being tempted at the vending machine.'

If you have a friend at work that is also dieting, take turns bringing the diet snacks.

"Good low-calorie snacks are fruits like apples, peaches, nectarines or berries. Vegetables like asparagus, green beans, cabbage and squash are good, but stay away from carrots - they have lots of sugar," Wood said.

If you are craving something sweet, "Why not eat a small portion of a homemade brownie instead of spending big bucks to buy a "diet" frozen brownie?" Webb said. One six-ounce package containing two individually wrapped diet brownies costs $2.19. A box of brownie mix that can be prepared with low-calorie ingredients costs about the same amount and will net an entire pan of brownies.

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