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:
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?
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Plants: Many Beneficial Parts poster is a beautiful visual for plant-based eating. The message goes beyond “eat more fruits and vegetables” to bring a positive message about how there are so many colorful and abundant choices you have for fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Use the poster to generate discussions like these:
The edible parts of vegetables are often wasted. You can eat the stems! And the leaves!
A cooking demo and taste test would be great for introducing many new plant foods listed on this poster. Items like salads or crudite platters require no cooking equipment while soups or smoothies provide a palatable way to introduce more plant foods to the picky eater.
Each part of the plant provides different nutrients, tastes, and textures. What’s an example of a tuber? A root? What nutrients do they provide? This will reinforce why eating a wide variety of plant foods is important. Use these tips from Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD.
Moving toward a plant-based eating pattern might mean venturing into unfamiliar territory. Start out by asking people to name each item on the poster. What are those fruits on the top right, below the tomatoes and apple? What kind of nuts are those on the top left? Which of these foods have you tried? Do you like them? Brainstorm different ways of preparing some of the foods pictured on the poster.