Tag Archives: shopping

Don’t Bring Home the Bacon!

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!

eat this not that


Balanced meal

Image by Elaine Meredith

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

Dietetic Intern Adrienne’s SNAP Challenge – Wrap Up

That’s All, Folks!

Well, I have finished the SNAP challenge and can truthfully say I learned a lot about grocery shopping on a tight budget. It was tough adjusting to a week without ice cream, but substituting fruit for a sweet treat was equally as satisfying. My meals and snacks were both nutritious and filling (and under budget), so I feel like this week was a success.

Here are some things I learned that helped me stay within budget:

  • Plan ahead: I would not have stayed within budget without meal planning first!
  • Use coupons and savings cards: free grocery membership programs can really help you save.
  • Take a look at the tag: price tags help you compare unit prices to find the cheapest option.
    • Unit prices tell you how much the item costs per pound or ounce. This podcast describes how to find and use them for the best deal. Added bonus: I’m in the video!
  • Try something new: lentils and beans are inexpensive and very nutritious, don’t be afraid to try them if you haven’t already.
  • Keep your eye on the prize: I tried to be very aware of how much we were eating each day so that we didn’t run out of food before the end of the week.

Shopping with couponsI have often heard that eating healthy foods is very expensive — it seems like people are always arguing whether or not this is true. From my perspective, I think that it is doable if you are willing to sacrifice some guilty pleasures (like ice cream, cookies, soda, chips, and other junk food). Comparing the unit prices of fresh, frozen, and canned produce to find the best buy will also be kind to your wallet.  I really did miss my usual sweets, but I was happy to leave them behind for other options that would keep me healthy and feeling good.

The greatest thing I learned from this experience is that grocery shopping with a restricted budget is definitely not easy. The time it takes to plan out every meal and snack, compare prices, and prepare each meal is a really big time commitment.

TIME = MONEY…the less money you have to spare, the more time it takes to plan and cook from scratch so that you stay within budget. The less time you have, the more you might have to pay for convenience and fast-foods on the go.

I will certainly take this experience with me, and I hope that my story has taught you something, too. Thanks for reading along!

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)

Continue reading

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Wrap Up

Wrapping Up

After adding how much I ate through the whole week, my costs ended up to around $29.50. I ended up having leftover food, including: about ¼ cup beans, ¼ cup broth, ¼ cup diced tomatoes, ¼ box rice, couple slices of bread, ½ cup of spaghetti squash, a couple eggs, a packet of oatmeal, a bunch of Stevia packets, instant coffee, and some cake mix. These items total to about $3.50.

If I were to continue the SNAP challenge into another week, I would use these food products to make the Southwestern Beans and Rice dish again as well as a spaghetti squash dish.



My meals left me pretty satisfied and full, and I did decent on meeting the MyPlate food groups goal. The hardest food groups to meet were dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Because I don’t tolerate regular cow’s milk, I have to get most of my calcium sources through soymilk and yogurt. Being low in calcium is serious business! Calcium is essential for adequate growth and a handful of other functions. Those who are not lactose intolerant should aim to consume the recommended 2-3 cups of dairy per day (recommendations vary slightly for different people). Even for those who are lactose intolerant, you can purchase lactose free milk or milk alternatives, like soy or almond milk. The key point is to get calcium-rich foods in some form or another.

Next, I think that if I would have added a serving of veggies to my lunch every day then I would have come closer to meeting the recommendations. I ran out of fruit by the end and was not able to eat multiple servings per day. I bought bananas because they were really cheap- but, I did not realize how fast they would go bad. The apples lasted a long time in the fridge, but they were more expensive.

Looking back, there are several things I should have done differently.

  • I should have bought a big container of yogurt instead of small individual containers
  • I should have used a big container of oats instead of buying the individual flavored packs.
  • I should have cooked more rice and beans dishes.
  • The bananas and apples were not the best options. Depending on the season, certain fruits are cheaper and last longer.
  • I need to find out when meats and poultry go on sale at my local grocery store. The chicken I bought was the most expensive thing, but I bet I could have found a cheaper protein source if I knew when food went on sale at the store. I am going to start looking into this more.
  • The soymilk cost a LOT. If I were able to tolerate milk, I would have used dried milk instead.
  • Depending on availability and each individual location, farmer’s markets need to be used way more often by those looking to save money. This is especially true for those farmer’s markets that allow for SNAP/EBT benefits.

Well, the SNAP challenge has definitely been an interesting experience that makes you appreciate your food dollar so much more than before. The main things I learned from this experience:

  • Use whatever resources you can to make living healthy on a budget easier to do
    • Take advantage of farmer’s markets
    • If able, look online for low cost recipes
    • Check out government resources such as http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
  • Be a savvy shopper.
    • Look for sales
    • Look for seasonal produce
    • Compare prices of fresh vs. canned vs. frozen
  • Make a plan and stick to it!
    • Plan several meal ideas at the beginning of your week
    • Make some meal and snack food ahead of time
    • Plan on making meals that can be doubled or tripled. Save the extras for lunch or dinner.

Eating healthy takes time and effort. Eating on a budget takes time and effort. When you try to successfully combine the two, you have an even greater challenge to tackle. But, the good news is, it can be done! Most people don’t do things perfectly the first time. Planning meals and finding what items are the cheapest and most nutritious takes lots of time. You might plan a week’s worth of meals and find that what you thought would work doesn’t work. Don’t get discouraged! Keep on working at it and you will eventually become a wiser and savvier food shopper and healthy eater.

Build a Better Pantry Part 1: Non-Perishable Food

Look at this Better Pantry. Lots of whole grains and beans in there. [Photo by Jules:stonesoup used under Creative Commons Attribution License.]

Look at this Better Pantry. Lots of whole grains and beans in there. [Photo by Jules:stonesoup used under Creative Commons Attribution License.]

Welcome to the first of our new blog series, Build a Better Pantry. The purpose of this is to help you 1- Create a list of food to keep on hand and 2- Cook quick and easy meals from these basic ingredients. An added bonus to having a Better Pantry is saving money by stocking up on your basics when you find a good sale.

I asked our Facebook Friends for suggestions on what foods to include in our Better Pantry. Here is what they said.

I asked our Facebook Friends for suggestions on what foods to include in our Better Pantry. Here is what they said.

Since this is a series, I’m not giving away all the secrets just yet. You will have to keep checking in as we go along. So today’s post starts with the list of non-perishable food to keep on hand. (We will get to the fridge and freezer later.) I do want to point out that this is a suggested list. I highly recommend that you customize your list to your families’ preferences.

Non-Perishable Better Pantry Items

Grains myplate_white_grains-1

  • Whole Wheat Flour– Whole wheat flour adds more vitamins, minerals and fiber to your recipes than white flour. To make the transition easier, use half whole wheat and half white flour in recipes until your white flour is gone.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta– Any size or shape is fine.
    • Couscous is an excellent kind of pasta to keep around because if you can boil water, you can cook it in 5 minutes!
  • Oatmeal– Steel cut or rolled oats, not instant. I have a great recipe in mind for these…
  • Brown Rice– Rice is an affordable staple in many cultures and a good side dish for many recipes.
  • Other grains– For more variety, try an unfamiliar grain like quinoa or bulgar.

Fruit myplate_white_fruits-1

  • Dried fruit– won’t go bad as quickly as fresh, but watch the portion sizes
    • Raisins are a great low-cost choice and can be used in many recipes
  • Canned fruit, any type- Make sure it’s canned in juice or extra light syrup to limit the extra sugar and calories.

Vegetables myplate_white_vegetables-1

  • Diced Tomatoes– very popular suggestion from Facebook. Look for No Salt Added varieties. Great to have on hand for soup, pasta, pizza, etc.
  • Canned veggies, any type- Canned veggies are nice because they don’t go bad like fresh ones do. Like with tomatoes, look for No Salt Added varieties.

Protein myplate_white_protein-2

  • Dry (or canned) Beans– Dried beans are a better buy, but canned can be more convenient. Be sure to rinse canned beans to remove some of the sodium.
  • Canned Fish– Tuna and Salmon are popular, but Mackerel, Anchovies and Sardines are great choices, too.
  • Peanut butter– Yum! Other nut butters can work in most peanut butter recipes, which is important for people with food allergies, but they usually cost a lot more.
  • Sunflower seeds– These and other types of seeds add tons of nutrition to recipes. I like to sprinkle sunflower seeds on garden salads to add some crunch and protein for fullness.

Dairy myplate_white_dairy

  • Nonfat Dried Milk– I think this used to be more popular years ago than it is now. But if you drink a lot of milk in your house, mixing prepared dried milk and refrigerated milk can save money. I’ve also used this when making creamy sauces (like mac and cheese from scratch or lighter Alfredo sauce) or soups to save some fat and calories. Let us know in the comments if and how you use dried milk.


  • Oil (olive, canola, etc.)– Each has a different flavor and some are better for cooking than others. I personally use extra virgin olive oil for everything, even baking. (Oils are healthier fats than solid ones, like butter or lard.)
  • Broth or Stock– These add tons of flavor to homemade soups or when cooking grains like rice or couscous.
  • Dried Herbs and Spices– Create a collection of your favorites over time. They add flavor without adding fat or sodium to home cooked meals.
  • Vinegar– Essential to making tasty homemade salad dressing or adding a little zip to a dish.
  • Baking Supplies– Baking from scratch is a good way to save money and easily improve the nutrition of some of your favorite foods.
    • Baking Powder and Soda
    • Vanilla extract
    • Sugar (white and brown) or artificial sweetener- Since these are used in many sweet treat recipes, you shouldn’t be using them all the time!

This is just a starting point. You may have other foods you keep on hand in your house. Let us know if you think I left out an important pantry item to keep around. The next post will cover staples for the fridge and freezer. Then we’ll get to the fun part, recipes using our Better Pantry staples!