5 Activities for Healthy Shopping on a Budget

We know eating healthfully doesn’t have to be expensive, but food shopping when you’re having trouble making ends meet can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to toss the cheap, processed food into your cart.

Help your clients or students learn to stretch their food dollars and purchase healthy food. I like the Healthy Shopping on a Budget PowerPoint because it provides practical information about low-cost choices in each food group. It also includes a collection of recipes that are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and tasty.

Here are some activities you could use along with the Healthy Shopping on a Budget PowerPoint:

  1. Track food spending: Have participants keep receipts for every food and beverage purchase they make over the course of a week. What stands out? What are they spending most on? What lower cost choices could they make?
  2. Learn about low-cost protein: Fancy plant-based burgers and sausages are all the rage, but they are expensive. Discuss budget-friendly cuts of lean meat, fish, chicken, and beans. Do a cooking demo using dried beans, a whole chicken, or other protein sources people may not know how to prepare.
  3. Take advantage of every resource: Find affordable farmer’s markets, including ones that accept SNAP benefits. Many states have programs that double SNAP benefits when you buy fresh produce. Don’t forget about WIC’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and USDA’s Farmers to Families.
  4. Make a master list: Participants make a list of healthy items they typically buy, then print out copies to keep on the refrigerator. Circle items you run out of and take the list when you go shopping. Get this started with fun giveaways like our MyPlate Shopping List Notepads and Go Shopping with MyPlate Tearpad.
  5. Brainstorm barriers: Is there a full-service supermarket nearby? Do participants have transportation to get to a store that sells fresh produce? Is the closest supermarket a mega size monstrosity that is hard for an older person or someone with a disability to get around?

Any of your students or clients could be experiencing food insecurity, no matter where they live or how they dress. This makes healthy eating on a budget an important topic to cover!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

 

A Cure for COVID Cooking Fatigue

Raise your hand if you have COVID cooking fatigue!

I confess to recurring bouts with this condition. From what I see on social media and in the news, I’m not alone.

What can you do? Buy prepared foods at the supermarket…order carry-out from local restaurants…pay for a meal delivery service. But these options aren’t always the best for your budget or your health.

How about prescribing a 30-minute video that just might cure COVID cooking fatigue? Our 25 Ingredients, 15 Meals video makes food shopping and meal preparation a breeze for even the most reluctant cooks.

Your audience will learn a lot in just half an hour, including:

  • Menu planning.
  • Shopping from a list.
  • Healthy cooking methods.
  • Money-, time-, and calorie-saving strategies.
  • Cook it once and serve it 2-3 times

Beyond COVID cooking fatigue, 25 Ingredients, 15 Meals would work well for teaching:

  1. Weight loss groups
  2. Families or individuals at risk for food insecurity
  3. Home-school students who need lessons on cooking, nutrition, math, or budgeting
  4. Addiction recovery programs
  5. Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and other youth groups
  6. Students (middle school, high school, and college)

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Shop from your freezer

Not wanting to go to the grocery store and have more time at home to cook than usual? Looking for meals you can cook for dinner from what’s already in your house? It’s time to shop from your freezer.

Do you really know what’s in there? Take the time to pull things out and make decisions if I you’ll ever use that food or not. You might want to do an inventory list so you can remember what’s there. Update this list as you use up the food.

Some keys for freezer storage:

The “rule of thumb” for freezing fresh foods (like turkey, hamburger, fresh fruits and vegetables) is that it will keep for one year. Precooked foods and leftovers are best if eaten within three to four months. These time recommendations are for quality not safety.

This loss of quality is what’s often called “freezer burn” and does not necessarily make food unsafe.   This can be dehydration, deterioration of quality or just an “off flavor”.  Safety wise food can stay in the freezer longer if there has not been any loss of power and the food has been kept at zero degrees.  Think quality vs. safety. The US Food and Drug Administration has a great chart online with recommended freezer storage times.

Another key to keeping your freezer items under control and to help with the inventory is to label all items with the description and date.  You may think you’ll always remember what’s in that package, but once frozen applesauce can look like gravy and kale can look like chopped broccoli.  Mystery food.

If you have find you have a collection of these unknown items….have a Surprise Dinner! Thaw out all of these unlabeled items and serve as a smorgasbord.  It may not be balanced nutrition, it may not all go together, but you’ve accomplished several things – cleaned the freezer, learned what’s there and fun (ny) dinner.

When looking at these items and making decisions remember the old saying, “when in doubt about the age, the quality or the safety of a food….throw it out.”

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Reference:

Cold Food Storage https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/1d403c11-63f0-4671-990e-51c9f8f05b2c/Cold-Food-Storage-Magnet-2017.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

 

 

Reduce Food Waste with Meal Planning

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food each year. Food waste can impact your budget, but also the environment. One way to reduce food waste is to plan your meals. Of course, meal planning has many more benefits – it can help with eating on a budget, weight management, eating more family meals, following MyPlate, and more.

Here are some ways to teach your students, clients, or other groups about meal planning and reducing food waste:

  1. Zero-based food plan: Have you ever heard of a zero-based budget? You basically plan where every dollar of your income will go for the month – savings, rent, utilities, food, clothing, coffee, postage stamps, etc. (Learn more by reading this Nerd Wallet blog post.) How about applying this concept, in general terms, to the food you buy? By planning your meals, you can buy just as much food as you need. When leftover food is planned into future meals, food isn’t wasted (we call these planned-overs!). Knowing where every ounce of frozen broccoli will go isn’t such a big deal, because whatever you don’t use can go back into the freezer. But if you’re buying fresh vegetables for a recipe, either buy the exact amount you’ll use, or make a plan to use what’s left over. Try zero-based food planning with fresh produce, eggs, dairy products, bread, and other perishables.
  2. Fruit & veggie stock up: Use meal planning to make sure you have enough fruits and vegetables to fill up half of your plate for every meal, every day. Avoid food waste by planning on meals with fresh produce for the first few days after food shopping. Then start using frozen vegetables, and frozen fruits, too (add some to yogurt or oatmeal, heat some in the microwave to use as a topper for toast or pancakes). As you get to the very end of the week, use canned vegetables if you’re out of frozen. Canned fruit, applesauce, and raisins can fill in for fresh fruit.
  3. Meal styles: A more general meal plan with meal styles can make weekly meal planning easier. You have a different style for each day of the week. For example, Monday can be beans (burritos, chili, or soups). Saturday can be salads (entree salad with different proteins and veggies). See our free handout for seven different meal styles and ideas for each. These make the basis for meals, then you can add your own favorites, try new recipes, etc.
  4. Keep it simple: If meal planning makes you think of the perfect pictures of perfect meals you see on social media, think again! Meal planning is whatever YOU want it to be. Maybe you just want to plan breakfast for the week. It’s all fine – check out our free Meal Planning Ideas handout to get started.
  5. Menu planning tool: In our store, we have a great tool to use no matter how you decide to teach menu planning. Use the Menu Planning Dry Erase poster to walk individuals or groups through planning a week’s worth of meals. We also have a larger Menu Planning Dry Erase Wall Decal. And people can take home our smaller Menu Planning Tearpad to practice what they’ve learned.

Remember, planning meals can help you buy the right amount of food and use it before it goes bad. That’s good for you, your family, and the world!

Your bananas, my bananas…Yonanas!

Banana Date Yonananas

Banana Date Yonananas

We’ve had a lot of fun with Yonanas! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Yonanas is a small kitchen appliance that takes frozen bananas and other fruit and quickly processes them into a creamy frozen dessert-type product that looks like it came out of the machine of your favorite frozen yogurt place.

We had friends over for dinner one evening and we pulled out the Yonanas machine to make dessert. The friend admitted that she thought to herself “there’s a sucker born every day, what is this thing?” But after eating the Yonanas she wanted one for herself.

The joy of Yonanas is you’re eating pure fruit. Although the name implies bananas , you can use any fruit or combination of fruit. It is recommended to use a banana every time because it helps make the creamy consistency— I personally  like the combination of bananas, mango and strawberries. The combinations are endless and it comes with a recipe book.

Just think of all the calories and fat calories you can save by eating Yonana instead of ice cream? Two bananas, 1/2 cup strawberries and a half of a mango makes more than enough Yonana for three people for only 112 calories each. Yonanas satisfies the craving for ice cream without the added cream, sugar or preservatives. It’s a fun way to encourage kids to eat more fruit. Plus bananas are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamins B6 & C.

A couple tips: the fruit needs to slightly thaw (5-8 minutes) before putting through the Yonana machine to get a creamy texture. It doesn’t take long. If it thaws out too much, your final product will be mushy. The machine also comes with popsicle forms to refreeze any leftover product. I haven’t been real successful with this; you may need to experiment a little.

Another plus…it’s a great money saver. Fruit that would otherwise get tossed (over 40% of food in the US is discarded) is now saved for the Yonana! Simply freeze those very ripe bananas or buy the “mark down” bananas for Yonanas. No more wasted fruit or feeling the need to make even more banana muffins or nut bread. Plus kids can come up with their own flavor concoctions or toppings. It would take an older child or adult to push the fruit through because some exertion is needed.

A word of caution: as with any small appliance, it’s only good if you’ll use it. It’s easy to clean. I put it in the dishwasher.

Check out their website at www.yonanas.com (note: you can get a refurbished machine for 20% off with Amazon’s Warehouse Deal).

Banana Yonananas "Ice Cream" Tropical

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Check out the savings:

Food: Calories per half cup: Fat (g) Calories per week for a year:
Yonanas 112  0  5,824
Ice cream 250 16 13,000
Savings  82 16  7,176

Inexpensive but Meaningful Health Fair Prizes, Rewards, and Giveaways

If you are on a budget and looking for inexpensive prizes, giveways, and rewards for nutrition, health, and wellness classes, check out our new list:

Free infosheet: Inexpensive Wellness Fair or Health Fair Giveaways and Prize list – 40 ideas

You can see all of our prizes here:

Prizes for Health Fairs

Enjoy!

Lean Protein Spotlight: Turkey

The other day, I roasted a 15-pound turkey, but I was only serving two people. What was I thinking?

Actually it’s a simple answer.

Before Thanksgiving last year, our grocery store offered whole turkeys at $0.37 per pound if you bought $35 worth of groceries. I had to take them up on that deal, which meant that I had two turkeys in the freezer. Recently, I decided to cook one of them for guests, but they cancelled. Since I already had the turkey thawing in the fridge, I cooked it anyway. That’s the easy part: no dressing, no basting, cook until the thickest parts reach 165 degrees F. Results: a lot of food for two people.

Frozen turkeys will keep for a long time if held below zero degrees. They’re usually packed in air- and water-resistant plastic wraps that help prevent loss of quality during freezer storage. The general recommendation for freezer storage is one year, if the food has been frozen that whole time. This is a quality recommendation and not a food safety deadline.

According to the National Turkey Federation, removed bones typically reduce the weight of the turkey by 25% and my turkey was fairly true to that estimate. I weighed the bones after I cooked them down for soup and picked the meat off, and I had 3.3 pounds of “waste” (there was additional fat and moisture I couldn’t weigh) from my 15-pound turkey. We ended up with about 10 pounds of meat at around $0.50 a pound. What a deal!

The usual recommendation is to purchase one pound of turkey (on the bone) for each person served. This is geared for holiday meals with all the trimmings and to save leftovers too. With my February turkey, we had a few meals of roast turkey and then two big pots of soup. We also had lots of leftovers for sandwiches at a much better price, taste, and quality than that expensive processed turkey meat in the deli. Plus, I froze a few packages of cooked turkey for quick meals later. The recommendation for frozen cooked turkey is to eat it within three months.

The US Dietary Guidelines suggest choosing lean or low-fat meat and poultry as your protein source. Turkey is lower in fat and calories than many other foods in the protein group and can be a good choice. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 3 ounces of whole turkey (meat only) contains 135 calories, 24 grams of protein, and only 3.26 grams of fat.

Even if you can’t get as good a price as I did, roasting your own turkey or turkey parts any time of the year can be an easy job with lots of nutritional benefits.  Why wait until Thanksgiving?

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Shopping with MyPlate: A Handout

Balance your cart for a balanced plate!

Shopping with My Plate:

The food you buy has a huge impact on your eating habits. Make sure that the choices you make are healthful and balanced, starting at the grocery store.

What does that mean?

Well, since MyPlate advises you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, roughly half your cart should be full of fruits and vegetables in the store. Make lean protein choices, and select dairy foods that are low in saturated fat and added sugars. When it comes to grain foods, make sure that at least half of all the grains you’re eating are whole grains. Skip those processed grains whenever you can.

More Shopping Tips!

My Plate advises people to “Compare sodium content for similar foods, using the Nutrition Facts label to select brands lower in sodium.” The next time you’re in the store, grab a couple of different options for an ingredient and compare the sodium content. Choose one of the options with lower numbers.

Watch out for portion size! When you’re in the store, look at the serving size and number of servings in the food that you’d like to buy. Is it realistic? Will a sugary soda bottle really be used for 2 or 3 separate servings, or, despite what it says on the label, is the drink really going to be consumed all at once? Remember, MyPlate wants to help people enjoy food but eat less of it, counseling, “Avoid oversized portions.”

Here’s a printable MyPlate handout that you can use however you see fit!

MyPlate Shopping Handout

And here are even more MyPlate educational materials, fresh from the Nutrition Education Store!

Art of Health MyPlate Poster

Health Hopscotch Floor Sticker and Game

Salt and Sodium Poster

Carrots!

Carrots!What should I do with 10 pounds of carrots?

Actually, the first question should be “Why do I have so many carrots?”

The short answer is because I’m frugal. Carrots were on my grocery list; I use carrots frequently and consider them a vegetable staple.  I can’t bear to spend $1 to $1.50 for a pound of carrots at the grocery store when I can get 10 pounds at our big box store for about $6. That’s just $.60 cents a pound — half the price, but a whole lot of carrots.

This large amount of carrots does cause a bit of a problem. Can I use them up while they’re still fresh?

Yes, I admit that there is a certain level of convenience in the bagged, ready-to-eat carrots. It’s no surprise that baby carrots are among the most popular items in the produce aisle, accounting for over 80% of all retail carrot sales.

RIMG4206One pound of carrots equals 3 to 3½ cups of peeled and sliced, chopped, or grated raw carrots. In case you’re counting, one 7-inch-long carrot has only 30 calories. A single cup of grated carrots has 45 calories. And boy, there are lots of nutrients packed into those calories! Few other vegetables or fruits contain as much carotene as carrots, which the body converts to vitamin A. Carrots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

But now, back to my 10 pounds of carrots.

Storage of this many carrots can pose a conundrum. It’s best to store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncut, until you’re ready to use them. Most references say that carrots will keep for at least two weeks this way. However, I think we’re more inclined to eat our vegetables if they’re ready to use — that’s why baby carrots and pre-cut carrots are so popular (and $2 a pound!). So I left some carrots uncut and sliced some others for easy snacking on the go.

Carrot HummusTo use up my bounty, I turned to the Food and Health Communications recipe files. If you’re ever in the same boat as me, may I recommend the following recipes? They’re great for carrots!

Anyway, I’ve done this before, and after a while my husband finally said, enough is enough, he can’t eat any more carrots. Which is fine, but what do I do with the few that are lingering in the crisper drawer?

Carrots for the FreezerThe answer: I chop or grate them and throw them in the freezer in 1 cup portions. The National Center for Home Food Preservation says that carrots should be blanched before freezing for the best quality and texture. Since I plan to use the frozen carrots in cooked foods, I don’t worry too much about this, but I do try to use them up sooner rather than later. I actually like to have this extra stash in the freezer, ready to go for soups and casseroles when I don’t have fresh carrots available.

I’ve said this many times, a bargain isn’t a bargain if some of it goes to waste. But, in this case, I keep trying to convince myself that even losing a few last carrots would be cheaper than buying fewer at the $1.50 per pound price.  I think I’m still ahead financially, but I admit, I had to work at it!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here are a few more cooking and shopping resources from the Nutrition Education Store. We’re here to help you look your very best, right now.

Lighten Up Your Shopping Cart Poster

The Cooking Demo Book

Shop Smart for Diabetes PowerPoint

And here’s a handout that offers a great introduction to carrots, including their nutrient profile, how to cook with them, and how to store them. Enjoy!

Carrots

Sharol Cripe, RDN, LDN, has also sent in a fantastic carrot resource. Visit the Englewood Farmers’ Market homepage to see recipes for roasted carrots and carrots with a Moroccan twist!

A Fresh Look at Hummus

There are several foods in my refrigerator on a regular basis that weren’t there five years ago. One of these is hummus.

HummusI’ve been buying hummus as an alternative to sour cream or mayo-based dips, and it has now become my favorite appetizer. I try to “walk the talk” as a health educator, and so I put out healthful snacks when we have people over. Hummus goes very well with fresh vegetables, whole grain crackers, or baked pieces of pita bread.

Recently I wondered if I could make my own hummus. Some of this is just my curiosity, but I was also looking for a way to save some money/calories. The commercial versions of hummus are at least $2 for just 12 ounces and declare that 50 calories are in just 2 tablespoons. (This is still better than the typical French onion dip that averages 60 calories per 2 tablespoons, with 75% of the calories from fat). But I was looking for something even more healthful.

ChickpeasThe basic ingredient in hummus is the humble chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo beans or cece beans). Chickpeas themselves are powerhouses of nutrients. They are high in protein and dietary fiber while staying low in fat and sodium. What a great base for this dish!

In addition to chickpeas, another traditional ingredient in hummus is tahini. Tahini is a paste that is made by grinding up sesame seeds. Not only is it expensive, but it’s really high in fat. According to the Nutrition Facts label on the jar, just 2 tablespoons of tahini contain 260 calories, and 200 of them are from fat! Wow! That adds up fast, especially when recipes call for 1/3 to 1/2 cup of tahini for each 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of chickpeas.

Now, when it comes to the ingredients, I prefer to take things a bit farther. Most of the hummus recipes I found start with a can of chickpeas. But I wanted to be even more in control of the ingredients in my hummus, so I got dried chickpeas. If you’ve never purchased them, dried chickpeas are with the other dried beans and peas in the grocery store. I soaked them overnight in water, brought everything to a boil on top of the stove, and finished cooking them for 5 hours on low in the slow cooker. Made this way, they were perfect. Chickpeas can be cooked for a shorter period of time on top of the stove, but the slow cooker was easy for me to start and then do something else while the chickpeas cooked.

Mixing It TogetherOnce I had finished preparing my chickpeas, I found that I got 8 cups of cooked beans out of a single pound of dried chickpeas. That’s about four times the amount of beans you’d get in one can. Plus, that larger amount costs the same as a small can of beans, and this version has no added sodium.

I was also impressed with the flavor — I found it to be so much better than the canned version.

Now that the chickpeas were ready to roll, I started to experiment with actual hummus recipes. I found one particularly intriguing recipe from the free recipe database at Food and Health Communications — this recipe used plain yogurt instead of tahini. I tried it that way and loved it, and what a savings in terms of calories and fat!

Hummus!From there, making hummus is a snap! I slowly processed all the ingredients in my food processor, adding more yogurt until I got the consistency I liked. After a few experiments, I found that I prefer Greek yogurt in my hummus because it offers a little more body than more traditional yogurts.

Once it was well blended, I seasoned my hummus with lots of garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. Drizzling it with a little sesame oil and sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds gives it a hint of tahini flavor and makes the presentation super appealing.

I guess I’m not a “hummus purist,” but I like this lower-cost and lower-fat version.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Want to offer your clients a guide to healthful, tasty hummus? Get a free PDF recipe right here! This page is an excerpt from The Home Run Cooking Book, which is a fantastic introduction to healthful cooking. It goes over kitchen tips and techniques, discusses cooking equipment, and offers the most popular healthful recipes, all of which have been rigorously tested and audience approved. It’s the perfect educational resource. Try this hummus and see for yourself!

Hummus Recipe

Remember, we are here when you want to look your very best right now. Here are some wonderful options to help encourage your clients to choose balanced diets…

Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber, MyPlate and Much More!

Nutrition Poster Value Set

This CD has our top 6 grocery PowerPoints, all in one place!

Healthful Shopping Presentation

The truth about sugary drinks!

Beverage Banner and Stand