March is National Nutrition Month, a yearly focus on eating smart promoted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional association of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. This year’s theme is Go Further with Food, emphasizing the way food fuels our lives, as well as relating to stretching food budgets and preventing food waste. This theme meshes well with the Family Nutrition Program’s mission to help our participants eat smart on a budget. Meal planning, my favorite topic, is key for going further with food. The Academy listed key messages to focus on this month and I’ve added some additional details (with links to previous posts!) on how you can go further with food this month and all year long. Continue reading
Budgeting for meals is an extremely important part of managing a household. But how do you know what a good amount is for your family? There are a few shortcuts to help you set a food budget that meets the MyPlate recommendations, evaluate the cost of recipes, and save money at the grocery store. Continue reading
For the next week, we will be sharing the experiences of one of FNP’s Dietetic Intern’s SNAP Challenge. We asked our interns to take the SNAP Challenge in order to better understand what our audience has to deal with living on a limited food budget. So, for one week, our interns limited their food purchases to just $32, the average SNAP benefit for an adult in Virginia and wrote about their experiences.
Hi, I am Jessica. Right now I am a dietetic intern at Virginia Tech. I love food and I love health and nutrition.
I also love saving money and learning how to cook on a budget. I am about to undertake the SNAP challenge. For the SNAP challenge, I will live off of $32 per week for food. Sound difficult? I am about to find out just how difficult it can be.
But before I go too far, let me explain a little bit about myself. Each week, I usually purchase food with three things in mind: health, taste, and expense– in that order. Sometimes taste comes first though. A usual week day for me would be something like this:
- Breakfast- oatmeal, soymilk, and Greek yogurt
- Lunch- Peanut butter sandwich, fruit, crackers or granola bar
- Dinner- Chicken or veggie burger sandwich or wrap, sweet potatoes, green veggies, and of course, some form of dessert.
My weaknesses- Starbuck’s and Panera’s coffees, frozen yogurt, and sweets. Yeah, I am a dietitian-to-be and those are some of my favorite foods. I believe in balance and moderation. I believe that ALL foods can be part of a healthy diet.
Weekends usually are anything goes. With family and friends and things to do and see, it’s hard not to eat out or grab food and goodies from those around you. That’s my typical weekend- going with the flow and eating whatever seems to work best.
Although I am working towards becoming a dietitian, I have my likes and dislikes of different foods just like everyone else. I LOVE all things yogurt (especially Greek), fruits, whole wheat breads, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, soups, kale, protein and cereal bars, cereal, oatmeal, veggie burgers, and lots and lots of sweets. NOT a big fan of carrots, meats, or green peppers. Also, I am somewhat lactose intolerant. I don’t do milk or cheese, but I can do yogurt and ice cream.
Have you been to ChooseMyPlate.gov yet? If not- what are you waiting for! You can type in your personal stats to start a profile and it will give personal recommendations.
This graphic is a helpful way to compare your meal to MyPlate and see how well you are doing. MyPlate also provides some other recommendations. Mine are:
- Grains- 7 ounces per day (3 ½ need to be whole grain)
- Veggies- 3 cups
- Fruit- 2 cups
- Dairy- 3 cups
- Protein- 6 ounces or less
- Oils- 6 teaspoons or less
So, let’s get down to the gritty stuff- how in the world do you plan a week’s worth of food on $32 and make it simple, fast, and nutritious? Is it possible? Well, we’re about to find out!
My Prep Work:
- Look for low cost, healthy recipes that can be fixed in bulk and eaten again for several meals with simple variations each night.
- Compare veggies and fruit to see which ones are the cheapest AND if it would be more cost-effective to get frozen, fresh, or canned.
- Compare prices from local stores that carry grocery items.
- Cook most food on one day of the week to save time the rest of the week.
- Pre-portion out some meals and snacks to have on-the-go.
One last thing I should discuss before going further- I live in a rural area. Where I am from, we do not have fancy grocery stores, farmer’s markets, organic options, etc. Grocery shopping is limited, and to get the most food for your buck, it’s easiest to get most of your food from the local big box supercenter.