Choose Wisely When Food Shopping on a Budget

Grocery Shopping

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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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Healthy Eating Habits

dinner plate with flower

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Chef Crombie here to chime in on healthy eating habits:

There are hundreds of diets and different ways of eating right for good health. I want to tell you about a very simple way to help you meet your food needs. This way will help you eat the right foods in the right amounts for better health.

This method is called the Half-Plate Rule. You take a plate – a regular dinner size plate if you are a grown-up, or a smaller plate if you are younger.
Then you visually divide this plate in half.
You fill half of this plate with vegetables and/or fruit.
You fill 1/4 of this plate with lean meat or other protein food.
You fill the other 1/4 of plate with whole grains.
Young children can add milk.

There you have it. Simple. To the point. Easy.

Actually, I think the size of the plate makes a real difference in how much we eat, so even grown-ups may want to use  smaller plates.

Here’s to your good health.

Chef Crombie

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Eating Healthy Goals

This image shows a display of healthy foods on...

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Top on the list of most person’s goals this year are to eat healthy, lose weight and stay more active. When we look at the whole picture, this is a pretty daunting list. How can we do everything and still have a life?

Today let’s focus on eating healthy. What we eat has magnificent powers. Food can give us health and vigor, protecting us from disease and minor discomforts. Food can also make us sick and miserable. We are in control of what goes into our mouth and stomach. We can’t always control noise factors, pollution, or other detriments to our health. What we eat and how much we eat is totally up to us.

Where to start?

Use food for the mind and the body. Food is not something to quickly gulp down when there is a gnawing feeling in the stomach. It’s to be enjoyed and appreciated. Therefore, take time to sit down and really sense what it is you are eating. Perhaps you can even visualize where the food was grown, who picked it, the landscape of the area. Think: I want to eat foods that will feed my body. Make this a positive mind-set.

Set up  conditions conducive to this mind-set. Is there still a supply of high-sugar holiday goodies around the house? Eliminating these, as well as any junk foods such as chips, crackers and soft drinks will help keep you from hearing them call you. The “cupboard cleaning-out” process may even include cake mixes, chili mixes, and other pre-prepared foods. None of these are necessary for good health. They do not provide any nutrients for keeping the body at its best.

Plan family meals. Look in your kitchen to see what foods are available. Do you have high quality protein foods such chicken, turkey, eggs, fish or lean meat? What vegetables could you prepare? Are there any fruits available? Any legumes, nuts, seeds or whole grains?  Your meals should revolve around these types of foods. It is best to write out possible meal suggestions. Consider your family’s ages, as well as likes and dislikes. Look in your cookbooks for any new and interesting ways to prepare what you have or want to prepare. This will save you time when you do your grocery shopping. Planning nutritious and tasty meals is a skill which is developed through practice. See for more suggestions on meal planning, as well as how children can help you in the planning and preparation.

I’ve included three good practices that will help get the year started with you and your family’s health and well-being in mind. What are some ways you will implement “eating healthy” this year?

To your success,

Lee Jackson
“Healthy Eating for Your Family”

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Keep Thanksgiving Food Safe

Thanksgiving Feast

Image by Matthew Bietz via Flickr

Enjoy your feast tomorrow – remember to keep it safe.

  • Always keep hot foods hot – above 140 degrees and cold foods cold, below 40 degrees F.
  • Don’t partially cook meat, poultry or fish and complete the cooking the next day.
  • Best to bake the stuffing separate from the turkey.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly and reheat to at least 165 degrees F.
  • If eating at a restaurant and want to take left-overs home, refrigerate within two hours.
  • Be especially careful when taking home meats, egg products and dairy foods as these foods become easily infected with bacteria.
  • Be sure to reheat leftovers to 165 degrees before eating them.
  • Never taste any food that looks or smells questionable.

Be safe!

Lee Jackson

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