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
Did you know that the average supermarket carries 39,500 different items? With so many options, how do you shop smart and make the best choices for your family? When you’re trying to eat smart on a budget, grocery shopping can be hard. But it is possible to save money and still eat well. It just takes some planning. These are the five best ways to shop smart on a budget. Continue reading
Written by Elaine Meredith
Part of National Nutrition Month 2014
A breakfast for those with hypertension.
Why do you eat what you eat? Maybe because the food you eat now is what you grew up with. Possibly it’s because one restaurant is cheaper than another. Maybe it’s because it’s just plain tasty! Taste has a huge influence on food selection. Why eat a food that you don’t think will make your taste buds happy? Many people, including my father, don’t try healthier options, because they don’t think it will taste good.
My dad’s favorite breakfast meal is pancakes with a side of bacon and fried potatoes. Unfortunately, eating habits like this, have led to my dad’s high blood pressure. The recommended diet for people with hypertension (high blood pressure) is full of fiber and potassium and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. For many people, including my dad, this diet sounds like a foreign language and it’s hard to translate into what foods to pick up at the grocery store. For others these recommendations may not sound appetizing. So I listed substitutes for his favorite grocery items and provided him with a healthy but tasty breakfast alternative that will still satisfy his sweet tooth!
Whole grain bagel thin + spinach + egg + turkey slice + Muenster cheese +yogurt + grapes + bananas + orange = One healthy delicious breakfast!
What healthy foods are you fearful of trying? Make that healthy substitute, because healthy can always be tasty. Fear no fruits or veggies! The grocery store is your oyster!
How to prevent high blood pressure. (2013, May 09). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/what_you_can_do.htm
Estimated Week Total: $20.20 of $32
This week compared with MyPlate recommendations:
The gaps between what MyPlate recommends and what I consumed this week are obvious. If I were to purchase $32 worth of food for the coming week, I would definitely purchase more fruit, vegetables, and dairy items. Maybe this next week I could more closely abide by the MyPlate recommendations. The variety of my food supply would increase as well. Since I have some leftover food, I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
With hindsight, I should have referred to the recommendations more during meal planning in order to achieve a well-balanced diet. I could have calculated the amount of these food groups recommended per week as I did in the table above and used it as a tool. On the contrary, if I would have eaten the full amount of servings as suggested, would I have eaten too much? At the end of each day, I was content; I couldn’t imagine trying to consume 3 more ounces of grains and additional servings of fruit and dairy.
My biggest challenges during the past week were my lack of freedom in choosing meals/snacks and attempting to fulfill the guidelines from MyPlate. Sticking to my meal plan was difficult when usually I would have had the option to eat out with my husband or return to the grocery store for additional produce for the weekend. In addition, the variety and amount of fruit, grain, dairy, and vegetables were less than optimal on many days. This was difficult to achieve on a budget because my biggest concern while planning was having enough food to last me throughout the week. Meal planning was instrumental for ensuring that I had enough food and played a huge role in completing this challenge. If circumstances were different – I lacked meal planning, nutrition, or cooking skills or if $32 per week was a way of life versus a 7-day challenge – my challenges would be considerably more problematic.
In reality, someone with SNAP benefits received $128 per month on average.
- Would this larger sum change the way I bought my food?
Suppose I had limited transportation and I had to spend all of it in one trip.
- How would that change my strategy?
My power went out during the middle of the month. Perhaps I had been without power the entire weekend and had to throw out my refrigerated and frozen food.
- How would I eat for the remainder of the month?
- Would I find a way to cook during the power outage?
Think you have what it takes to eat a balanced diet for 7 days on $32? Complete the SNAP Challenge and post your thoughts, challenges, and/ or triumphs on our blog!
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.