Category Archives: Stretching Your Food Dollar

Fall Fruits and Veggies Recipe Round-Up

The first day of fall was this week and already the weather is beginning to change. The nights are cooler and the days are noticeably shorter. As sad as I am to see summer go, I am excited about all of my favorite fall foods- apples, pumpkins, winter squash, cranberries, etc.

What fall foods are you most looking forward to?

Fall Produce

Fall Produce Recipes

Whoa, that’s a lot of recipes! The good news is that you have all of fall to try them out. Add one or two to your weekly meal plan as you find good prices on the seasonal produce.

Let us know in the comments which recipes you plan to try!

 

Shopping in Bulk

When you use unit pricing to compare costs of different foods, you quickly learn that larger sizes are often a better buy. But there are a few things you should think about before you bring home that 30-pound bag of rice and case of canned tuna.

Buying in bulk can help save money.

Is It Worth It?

  • Storage space– If you don’t have the space to keep it, buying a huge amount of food and supplies is not a great idea. If you do have space, remember the LIFO Rule– Last In, First Out. Figure out a system to make sure you use older stuff first. Writing the purchase date on the package can help.
  • Membership fees– Warehouse clubs (Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, etc.) charge membership fees in order to shop there. These stores all accept EBT, so if you think the savings outweigh the membership fees, which start at round $50 a year (based on my quick web search this morning), you can stock up on your Better Pantry staples.
Warehouse clubs can be a good place to stock up on staples, if the savings outweigh the membership fees.

Warehouse clubs can be a good place to stock up on staples, if the savings outweigh the membership fees.

  • Fresh products– Only buy what you can eat before it goes bad. Wasted food is never a good buy, no matter how great of a deal you got when you paid for it. In general, non-perishable foods, those that last a long time at room temperature or in the freezer are the best items to buy in bulk.
    • If you are willing to put in a little extra work, you can freeze or can extras to use later. But be sure to weigh the extra time and effort against the cost savings. Compare the price of commercially frozen or canned items with how much you would end up paying to do it yourself.
  • Nutrition– Don’t get sucked in by the low prices. You still need to read labels and make smart choices when shopping in bulk. While buying a “sometimes” treat at the normal size probably fits in a healthy diet, buying that treat in bulk might cause you to eat it more than you should. So skip the jumbo bag of chips and get your crunch from unsalted nuts or whole-wheat pretzels.
  • Necessity– Similar to the temptation of low prices to buy unhealthy foods, make sure that you are only buying what you truly need. A meal plan and a grocery list come in handy here. No matter how much you’ll be saving, if you don’t need it, it’s not a good buy. The point is the warehouse club is not the best place to try a new and unusual food. Unless you want the other 24 servings of the dried papaya your kids won’t eat haunting your pantry for the next year.

Do you ever shop at these bulk stores? What are some of your recommendations of good items to buy in bulk?

7 Steps to Meal Planning on a Budget

Quick, what is the best way to save money in the grocery store and time in the kitchen? Meal planning, of course. Every week on FNP’s Facebook and Twitter, I give tips on how to meal plan and how to shop on a budget. But how helpful are these tips if you are totally new to meal planning? Don’t worry. After today, you will have the 7 steps to meal planning on a budget.

Love this quote! It applies to everything FNP teaches. (thanks to tobifairley.com for the image)

Love this quote! It applies to everything FNP teaches. (thanks to tobifairley.com for the image)

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FNP at the Farmers Market

To give you a better idea of the many ways that FNP helps people Eat Smart and Move More, I wanted to talk about one of our newer projects, the Food Security Program. Meredith has been working very hard over the last year and a half to increase SNAP recipients’ access to local foods. Partnering with the VA Department of Social Services, she has helped more farmers markets get EBT machines in order to accept SNAP benefits.

Using SNAP at the Farmers Market

Using SNAP at the Farmers Market

Some markets she has worked with match SNAP benefits with extra money, letting families to buy even more local food. For instance, at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, SNAP benefits are matched dollar for dollar, so if you take $5 from your EBT card, they will give you $10 to spend! Each market that has these SNAP matching programs works very hard to fund them through grants and fundraising. We applaud their dedication to ensuring everyone can eat the delicious bounty that is harvested in Virginia!

This program fits very nicely with another Virginia group’s project. The Virginia Food System Council is asking all Virginians to take the $10 a Week Pledge. If everyone in Virginia spent just $10 per week on local food, it would boost our economy by an estimated $1.65 BILLION a year. You can help your local community thrive, while eating fresh and tasty fruits, veggies, meat and eggs produced by your neighbors. What’s not to love? With the matching programs, the benefits of local, seasonal foods and the huge economic impact, the $10 a Week project is a WIN-WIN-WIN for all Virginians, even those who use SNAP.

That’s not all that Meredith does for FNP at Farmers Markets. She is also our head Cooking Coach, giving cooking demos at Farmers Markets. She has plenty of tasty recipes to share that use old favorites in new ways (Green Beans with Toasted Garlic) or simple ways to prepare new fruits or veggies found at the market (Delicata Squash with Walnuts). She and her helpers have been all across Virginia this summer, handing out samples of these recipes for people to try. So far, FNP’s Cooking Coaches have showed over 600 people shopping at their local farmers markets how to prepare low-cost produce in simple, tasty ways their families will love.

Since the harvest season is in full swing, make a plan to visit your local Farmers Market this week. You can find the market closest to you, as well as find out who accepts SNAP, using USDA’s Farmers Market Directory. If you are in Roanoke, stop by these upcoming FNP cooking demos

  • August 1- Downtown Roanoke Farmers Market 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
  • August 13- West End Farmers Market 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • August 17- Vinton Farmers Market 10:30 am – 2:00 pm

Let us know if you run into one of our Cooking Coaches or what delicious local foods you buy at the market.

Gardening for Health and Wealth

Last week, we talked about seasonal foods. This week, I wanted to tell you about the best source of affordable, nutritious, local, seasonal foods: a garden! For the price of a pound of tomatoes, you can use your SNAP benefits to buy a tomato plant. That plant will produce many pounds of tomatoes over its lifetime for your family to enjoy. Not to mention how much tastier many people, including me, find a sun-ripened tomato to be compared to grocery store varieties.

Growing your own produce will help you and your family eat more fruits and veggies. Even picky eaters are more likely to eat food they helped to plant, nurture and harvest themselves. Eating more produce is good for your health by helping control your weight, protecting your eyesight, and reducing the risk of certain diseases, like cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Before you dismiss starting a garden as too much work or impossible to fit in your yard (or you may not even have a yard), pause and think outside the box…or actually, inside the pot! Just because you think of a huge garden with rows and rows of tomatoes, peppers, corn and other veggies your grandparents may have grown, doesn’t mean you can’t fit growing your own produce into your lifestyle.

Your garden doesn’t have to be huge. It is actually better to start small and add a bit more each year, especially if you are a beginner. A few herbs in a pot will add tons of flavor to your meals without a big investment or time commitment. Just remember to water them!

Speaking of pots, container gardens are a great alternative for people who don’t have an ideal spot for an in-ground garden. If your yard is too small, too shady or your yard is actually just a windowsill, you can still grow fresh, tasty produce for your family. Certain fruits and veggies work better in pots, so use this chart to help you decide what to grow.

Plants for Containers

Virginia Cooperative Extension can provide you with more detailed information on container gardening here, including how to choose a pot and soil, as well as caring for your plants.

I have wanted to start a garden for a long time, but I always seem to have to move in the middle of summer. So this year, I will be doing some container gardening with 2 tomato plants, some beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as basil, chives and parsley. By planting my garden in containers, I can take them with me when I move (which I will be doing next month). I chose these plants because:

  1. They grow well in containers.
  2. I eat a lot of salads, so having a continuous supply of leafy greens will save money. Did you know you can eat beet and radish greens?
  3. Those are my favorite herbs and they work well in many different recipes.
  4. I am very picky about tomatoes and only like homegrown ones, as you can tell by how many times I have said this in just 2 short posts! You have no idea how much I look forward to the first tomato sandwich of the summer.

How many of you like to grow fruits and veggies? What is in your garden this year?