Choose Wisely When Food Shopping on a Budget

Grocery Shopping

Image by Bruce A Stockwell via Flickr

With a little planning and effort, choosing foods at the grocery store can be simplified while still saving money and keeping nutritional values up.

Food for the week (or more) depends on how wisely you choose at the grocery store. The first step is planning nutritious menus before you go to the store. Make sure you keep in mind store specials and any coupons you use. Decide on the amount of money to spend based on your budget or food plan.

Then the next step is shopping carefully to assure that what you will have at home is nutritious, tasty, and stays within your allowance – this is no small task.

  • Try to shop only once a week or less frequently. The more you go to the store the more you will likely spend on food and other products.
  • Don’t go to the store hungry. You will probably buy much more than you need. Try to leave young children in the care of others while you shop.
  • Compare the cost of small and large containers of the same product. In most cases the larger size will be more economical. However, it will be more expensive if you won’t use it or don’t have room for it.
  • Consider the cost of convenience foods, that is, foods that are already prepared versus those you have to prepare yourself. For example, can you season the rice at home rather than buying packaged herb rice?  On the other hand, some foods such as cake mixes may be cheaper when found on special than making a cake from scratch. However, look at the ingredients and see whether any food coloring or additives are included, which are less desirable.
  • You gain a great deal of information by reading labels. The ingredient list will give you information about a product’s sugar, sodium, and fat content. Ingredients on labels are listed in descending order according to weight. Therefore, if sugar is the first item on the list, you know it is high in sugar.
  • Choose whole-grain bread and cereal products over white bleached flour products.
  • If you are buying canned fruits, buy those in their own juice rather than those with sweetened juice.
  • Make sure fruit juices are 100 per cent juice. Fruit drink and punches have too much sugar added.
  • Many canned soups, sauce mixes and packaged entrees have high sodium. Do you really need them?
  • Nobody needs pop or soda or cola, or whatever the regional dialect calls it – too much sugar!
  • Encourage the drinking of water. Flavor it, if necessary, with lemon or other fruits.
  • Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are usually less expensive in season and are higher in quality. If you can’t choose these fresh, then buy them canned or frozen. If possible, compare the cost of fresh, frozen, canned, and dried forms of the same food.
  • Many snack foods are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.  See whether you can find lighter versions that contain less of these components. Or, just eliminate them from your shopping. If they are not in the house, they won’t be a temptation.
  • Try the “Meatless Monday” schedule for awhile. This promotes healthier eating by emphasizing fruits, vegetables and alternative sources of protein such as beans and lentils that are free from saturated fats. Reducing meat consumption has been shown to provide many benefits, including limiting cancer risk, reducing risk of heart disease, as well as helping to fight obesity and curb diabetes. Chances are, you will not miss having meat at your meals for one day. Besides, meats are usually the most costly foods in a meal and make a huge ecological imprint on our planet.

When you shop for food you have lots of important decisions to make. Wise shopping is not just a matter of spending as little as you can. It means getting the most value for your money while keeping the health benefits of foods at  center stage.

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Nutrition Specialist

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5+ Reasons to Eat Fruit

Slices of melon

Image via Wikipedia

It tastes so good…plus

Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.

Dietary fiber from fruits helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for regularity. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of dietary fiber while fruit juices contain little or no fiber.

Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy should consume adequate folate, including folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of problems during fetal development.

  • Fruit contains large quantities of water. The human body consists of 80% water. It’s just logical to eat food that contains lots of water.
  • Fruits helps stimulate your brain power. They contains natural sugars that help you think faster and more clearly.
  • Fruit can help with weight control. Eating foods such as fruits that are low in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping lower calorie intake, thereby helping take off weight. In addition, fiber-containing fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
  • Fruit is readily available. Enjoy the color, texture, and the taste of the wide variety of fruits on the market.

Now, what’s in your refrigerator? or on the counter? apples? bananas? oranges? oh,my.

To your health and the health of your family,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Author: From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers
Apples, Apples, Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards

Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences
The Littlest Christmas Kitten

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Vacation Time With the Kids

2008 summer vacation, Indiana Dunes State Park...

Image by unwiht via Flickr

Vacation time means a great deal of time in the car. While traveling, the “hungries” come at different times than when we’re at home. Sometimes, they stay with us most of the day. too!

Having enough water for everybody is essential. If bringing along other liquids, check the label to be sure you are bringing juices that are 100% fruit juice or close to it.

Even if you are planning to stop for meals, it’s a good plan to pack a cooler for between-meal snacks. Here you can pack fruits, veggies, and cheeses. Having sandwiches with fillings that stick together rather than fall apart is helpful when eating in the car. You can cut the sandwiches in fourths for easier handling by young children.

You may want to bring some pre-wrapped packages of raisins, dried fruits, granola bars, etc. Remember, some foods such as chocolate can melt in the car. A wet washcloth in a plastic bag can be a real help.

In any case, I hope travel time will be a good time and a safe time for you.

Best to you,

Lee Jackson

Food writer and author of “Apples, Apples Everywhere –
Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards

About Lee Jackson

Writer and entrepreneur Lee Jackson is the award-winning author of Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences, From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers, Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards, and the children’s storybook, The Littlest Christmas Kitten. As the president and CEO of Images Unlimited Publishing, she works to provide books and information that helps families live more satisfying lives through knowledge and skills. Sign up to get her FREE newsletter full of tips for better family living through knowledge.

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Kids and Junk Food

Image by arthurohm via Flickr

Children are influenced in their food choices by their friends, family, the media, and other outside factors. The commercials on TV make a huge impact on what children want to eat. This often influences what they want their parents to buy.

What is a parent to do?

  • You can explain to the child that the commercials on TV are one way companies use to let the public know about their product. They make products look very special because they want you to buy their product. Sometimes they may not tell you the whole story about whatever they are trying to sell. It may not always be a wise buying choice if it is not nutritious, costs more than its worth, or other reasons.
  • Perhaps it is time to limit the child’s TV viewing, or, to be more selective in the types of programs that the child watches. There are many educational programs on TV that can present learning experiences.
  • Yes, sometimes you have to give in. It’s times like these that you need to let the child know why you think the food is not what you want your family eating.

To help satisfy your child’s craving for junk food, have some ideas on how you can help them make some special foods at home. The following is one suggestion, which incorporates fresh fruits and is fun and easy to make:

Fruity Freeze

1 large ripe banana
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 medium strawberries
1/4 cup frozen unsweetened apple juice concentrate

Child can peel the banana and slice into a small bowl. Drizzle lemon juice over banana and toss lightly so all banana pieces are covered. This will help prevent them from turning brown. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

Wash strawberries thoroughly in cold water that has a drop or two of vinegar. Using a plastic knife, children can help hull strawberries by cutting off the bloom end, and cutting each berry in half.

In a blender, add strawberries and banana slices. Turn blender on and off briefly to chop up the fruit. Add apple juice and process until smooth. Pour into small sauce or dessert dishes and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Here’s to you and your family’s good health,

Lee Jackson

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