Grocery Shopping


So as we think about healthy food for 2010, here are some thoughts to get you going on all of the top three resolutions and still keep you on budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy eating means to ditch the extreme diets.   People almost always fail when trying to follow extreme diet plans, because diets are difficult for many of us to stick with over time.  So instead of eliminating certain foods or paying for diet plans, try writing down what you eat for several days, and evaluate where you can cut back 100 calories per day.   Much of the health data indicates that cutting back by 100 calories per day can lead to sustainable weight loss of pound a month.   

When thinking about cutting calories, don’t forget to think about your drinks.  Cutting out sugary drinks such as soda and other sweetened beverages, can be a quick way to save   150 -200 calories.  Try drinking tap water or other non- sugary drinks.   To get started here’s a free website to help you track your calories and other tips for healthy eating www.Sparkpeople.com

Healthy eating and losing weight also means not skipping meals.      Individuals who successfully lose weight and keep it off are those who consistently report eating breakfast.   A morning meal rich in fiber such as whole grains and small amounts protein slows the passage of food through the digestive system and provides you with a more satisfying feeling.   This feeling of fullness helps curb appetite to keep you satisfied for 3-4 hours until you’re ready for a healthy snack or lunch.

For the same price as you pay for a sugary donut or muffin and coffee to go, a healthy bowl of oatmeal or muesli with fruit  can satisfy, provide fewer calories,  and maintain  blood sugar levels  to start your day off toward maintaining  your goal.   Check out these power breakfast ideas to fuel your day.   http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/hilary_meyer/2009_07_15/power_breakfasts_to_fuel_your_day

Fill your plate with colorful vegetables throughout the day.  There are many more vegetables to try other than lettuce and tomatoes! Bright-colored and dark green leafy vegetables are especially loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. They are also high in fiber, which as mentioned makes them very filling. In addition, they are low in calories – good to help trim the waistline. When you fill up your stomach with veggies, you will be less likely to feel the urge to binge on other high-fat or processed foods.

To save on food costs, look for fresh produce that is in-season. Right now, citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and clementines are reasonably priced.  Collard greens, kale and turnips, squashes, and sweet potatoes are all lower priced.   Watch your grocery flyers for sales on frozen vegetables without sauce and stock up.   Here’s a link to check out winter fruits and vegetables.  http://www.foodfit.com/healthy/healthywinterfoods.asp

 Try getting organized and begin with planning your meals.  This step will save you money and time.   If you plan out what you are having for meals, you can utilize foods for more than one meal to reduce waste, for example chicken from dinner meal can be added to a tortilla wrap with fresh veggies for an easy to prepare lunch.  This will save you from spending extra on take out lunches.  

 For new ideas on planning your meals, check out many of the popular women magazines in grocery stores, they often promote weekly or month menus that are cost effective on the budget.  Here is on-line link to support menu planning.   http://www.mealsmatter.org/MealPlanning/MealPlanner/index.aspx

So as a New Year begins, let’s look toward healthier ideas that will save money, time, and will be high in nutrients but low in calories to keep us well in 2010.

  Happy New Year everyone!

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 Sometimes we think farmer’s markets are not cheap and in this economy everyone is watching their budget tightly, however farmers’ markets are beneficial for both your personal finances and for your local economy.  Farmers’ markets provide closer, fresher, and more nutritious foods for just slightly more than or equal to the price of produce at a supermarket. 

 For some neighborhoods in the inner city, supermarkets are usually far away.   If you cannot pay the extra transportation costs, this leaves people with the limited selections offered at small grocery stores, convenient stores and fast food restaurants.   All of these are places where prices are high, products are processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables are poor quality or non-existent.     Since the smaller stores lack the ability to buy in huge quantities like chain supermarkets, they pay more for the products and produce they sell.  Their prices may also be higher due to higher property costs, higher security costs, higher shrinkage (loss of products due to theft and waste), and higher employee turnover, these costs are all pass onto the consumer.

 When a farmers’ market in your community is open, residents should take advantage of the opportunity to buy some of highest quality food available for themselves and for their family.  The farmers do not have to charge for transportation and middle-men costs. In addition, most  of them take WIC and Senior coupons.  Half of them take EBT, and if you are using EBT, check out Boston’s Bounty Bucks’ to find out how you can double your purchasing power!   

Perhaps the most interesting financial benefit of shopping at farmers’ markets is the impact it has on the local economy.  A lot of people don’t think about where their money goes after it is spent.  When you buy produce from supermarkets, the majority of the money you spend goes to the supermarket corporation, whose headquarters may be thousands of miles away.  Only a fraction of every dollar goes back to the farmers themselves.  This is part of the reason why most large farms are subsidized by the government.  They are actually running at a deficit because of the low return they receive for their products.

 When you buy produce directly from the farmers, they get 100% of the money.  They then reinvest a lot of this money back into their local or regional economy.  Small farms are more likely to buy equipment and supplies from other small businesses in the area, and are also providing jobs for local residents.  Local farms stands and businesses are also more likely to stock and sell products from other local merchants.  Since the money you give them stays and re-circulates in your neighborhood, you actually reap more of a benefit from it in the long term. A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every pound (or dollar) spent on local goods generates nearly twice as much income for the local economy as money spent in national chain stores

 So contrary to popular belief, farmers’ markets are more beneficial to you than supermarkets.  For the same money that you would spend at the supermarket on produce that has been sitting in warehouses and on trucks, you can by fresh, delicious, and more nutritious produce. Often you can find a greater variety of produce at the farmer’s market, because the grocery store purchases on volume and cannot store different varieties in small quantities.

 Shopping at your local farmers’ markets can impact your health, as we had discussed in one of the past blogs, but it can have an even deeper impact, because you will be helping to support your neighborhood, small farmers, and your wallet! 

 The sight of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm, and the interaction with people who grew them, leaves a good taste in your mouth for the summer, but it might offer a reconnection to nature and to where food actually comes from all year long. 

 Come join us at many of the farmer’s markets in Boston.  Here’s the listing of times,  and location.

By Phoebe Fleming from Project Bread

As we approach the closing of schools, we may overlook lunch – an important meal that children should be eating even though they are not in school.  The solution is The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides free, healthy meals to children and teens up to age 18.    The free meals are available at specific Boston locations during the summer months. The SFSP is a safe, fun way for children to get nutritious meals when school is not in session, and it’s easy to participate since no sign up or identification is required.

 Why is there a summer meals program?

During the school year, many families can stretch their food budget by applying for free or reduced price school meals for their children.   The School Lunch Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

When school is not in session, families often find it difficult to pay the additional meal costs.  During the summer months, without the opportunity to meet this need, children may be at risk for hunger and malnutrition, which could put them at a disadvantage when they return to school in September.  By providing free, nutritious meals and opportunities to continue physical and social development throughout the summer, the SFSP ensures that children return to school ready to learn.

What are the meals like?

Most sites serve lunch and some may offer other meals such as breakfast, snack, or supper. All food served as part of the SFSP must meet federal nutritional guidelines. Meals may be hot, cold, or a combination of both and include milk, fruit and/or vegetables, grains, and a meat or meat alternate (egg, yogurt, nuts, etc.).

Where?

SFSP sites are located in schools, parks, pools, neighborhood centers, faith based organizations, social service agencies, and other local sites in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. In addition to healthy meals, sites often feature supervised recreational or educational activities for kids such as sports, arts and crafts, books, and games.

 How to Get Involved

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, CALL Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or visit www.meals4kids.org   from July 1st through August 31st.

 As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, and  the kids made dinner,  It also  reinforced  with  me that many joyful and memorable experiences do not have  to break our budget to be accomplished and that cooking at home with children not only  create family fun, but also teach our children healthy eating habits. 

Cooking together can be a delicious learning experience where kids can explore new foods, learn about healthy eating, and develop math and reading skills as they measure and read directions. These simple guidelines are designed to help you make cooking safe and fun, and to entice your children into trying something new! 

Tips for cooking activities can benefit the whole family. 

  1. Learning to cook helps children to learn about healthy choices. Young people today are growing up with fast food and many choices for unhealthy foods at their fingertips, which is one part of the reason why childhood obesity is on the rise! Teaching your kids to cook healthy foods will help instill skills to last them a lifetime.  The cooking skills learned as child can be especially helpful when kids are older, and can make healthier   food choices to and on their own.
  2. Create family time and bonding. Take time to cook with your kids, and they will have memories that they, in turn, can pass on to their families. It may take a longer time to get the meal or snack done, but the moments with your children will be priceless. (Just remember to have patience and don’t worry about what gets spilled on the floor).  Cooking together, children contribute to the family and they can feel the importance of helping. They are also working together as a team, whether it is with a parent or with a sibling to get the job done.

3.  Children will be more apt to eat what they make.    

Perhaps it is the enthusiasm  creating something themselves, but they will be more likely to eat whatever they had a hand in making.   Cooking new foods is one way to expand your child’s taste buds.

 Remember the basic goals of healthy cooking at home are to reduce the unhealthy fats,  and lower the salt, and sugar in many of the dishes we prepare.  Here are healthy recipes that incorporate these principles and have been tried and accepted well by children.  Just click away.   

So as we watch our food budget and continue to discuss preparing meals at home, don’t forget that the kids can become great chefs too! 

Tip for this week:

 All the major grocery stores in the Boston have yogurt on sale this week.  Here is a delicious recipe for yogurt parfait that children can make with just yogurt, fruit and whole grain cereal.   Serve this for dessert or as a quick breakfast.

 

breakfast_parfait

Posted By

Steven Belec, Director
Mayor’s Health Line,
Boston Public Health Commission

 

1.      You Can Apply for SNAP – SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the NEW name for the federal Food Stamps program. Many families are eligible and it’s easy to start an application! The Mayor’s Health Line can help you begin the process right over the phone. Call 617-534-5050 or 1-800-847-0710.

2.      The First Step is Simple – The initial step of the application is easy and can be completed over the phone. Seniors even have an easier application. Interviews are required for all applicants, but this can also be done over the phone.

3.      You Can Find Out If You Are Eligible – Before applying, you can go to a website to use an online calculator tool and see if you may be eligible for benefits. Find it here: http://www.gettingfoodstamps.org/Screener2/index.cfm

4.      If Eligible, You May Receive Food Stamps Within 1 Week – If you qualify for emergency food stamps, the DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance)  must provide them no later than 7 days after they receive your application. For regular food stamps, it is no later than 30 days after DTA receives your application.

5.      SNAP Benefits Are Given on a Card – This plastic card, called an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card can be used at grocery stores in the same machine that ATM or credit cards are swiped. This provides privacy and will prevent others from knowing that SNAP benefits are being used for payment. This card is automatically reloaded with funds each month the person is eligible for benefits.

6.      Many Seniors Have NO Asset Limits – Recently, the SNAP program eliminated the asset ceiling for many low-income households. Seniors whose income is below the eligibility guidelines will not have to provide information about assets.

7.      No Work Requirements if Caring For a Child – A person who is responsible for the care of a dependent child under age 6 or of someone who is incapacitated is exempt from work requirements. The person does not have to be living in the same household as the dependent. Further, a person who is residing in a home with someone else under age 18 is exempt from the Food Stamp Work Program. The applicant does not have to be related to or responsible for the household member under 18.

8.      You Can Get Food Stamps While Working – People who have any sort of regular income, including Social Security or a pension can get food stamps.

The Mayor’s Health Line can help you with a new application for Food Stamps and SNAP benefits right over the phone. They can also assist you if you have questions or are caught in the middle of the process.

Call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 or 1-800-847-0710.

I used to save coupons when the kids were small and my budget was really tight. I did pretty well then and somehow over the years I had gotten out the practice.  Now I’m back to using coupons again and I have to admit that some things have changed but the basics for clipping and saving with coupons have not.

I first like to think of coupons as money to keep myself motivated to bring them to the store!   If I am going to purchase a product and there is a coupon for a small amount off, then that‘s money saved.  It may seem like too much work for small savings but if you maximize your coupon use over time, the savings do add up. Here are some strategies to get you organized and on your way to saving and achieving that great thrill when you see you grocery bill get reduced by using coupons.

Clipping coupons:

Timing Try to choose the same day and time to clip your grocery or store coupons each week.  This will help you establish a routine.  I like to do mine at the beginning of the week, either on Sundays or Mondays.

Method when it comes to clipping your free grocery coupons, here are several methods to choose from…

* Clip them all out.  This is a quick way to clip the grocery coupons and is also an easy job you can assign to an older child.  Later, you can sort out which coupons you need to keep and which coupons you can share with a friend.

* Clip out only the coupons you know you will use.  This might take a little more time as you will need to look at (and think about) each individual coupon as you cut them out, but will save time later when filing them away and when going through them for use each week.

* Don’t clip out any of the coupons, but save them in their whole page form. This method takes longer in the end, but it will do when you’re really pressed for time.  I once had a month’s worth of coupon flyers to go through before leaving for the grocery store, not very fun!

* Find savings on the internet. The Sunday flyers are always a good place to start for clipping, but you can also look to the internet.  For online coupons, sign up using an email address and there may be small surveys on products to complete. Once that’s set, you will receive great coupons for products that are specific to what you selected. Here is the link: Print Coupons. 

Storing Coupons: This where the organization really comes in handy. Decide how you want to organize your coupons so that you can see what you have on a regular basis. Here are some ideas:

* Small index boxes or shoe boxes. You can usually find these at discount stores.
* A binder with clear plastic inserts is a great way to see your coupons. Add dividers either to sort by different products or by expiration date.
* I like to use a photo album. It’s smaller than a standard binder and I can carry it more easily in my bag,

Saving with coupons:  Maximize your coupon potential.

* Scan store sale flyers to find matching items. One of the best ways to save money with coupons is to match them with items that are already on sale. The key is use coupons on products that you typically purchase.
* Only purchase new products with the coupon when it is lower priced than comparable store brand.  
* Check with the store for their coupons. Grocery stores generally do not list everything they have on sale in their weekly sale flyers, so while matching your grocery coupons to the store flyers is a huge help, there will also be some additional sales you may have coupons for. Simply bring your coupon organizer with you to the store each week, and this way you can take advantage of the specials without forgetting to bring your coupons. If you can match it with a manufacturer’s coupon, then the savings really feel good.

Last tip:  When the end of the month is drawing near, I like to take a quick look through my coupons for any that might be expiring soon. Manufacturers set many of their coupons to expire on either the first or last day of the month, so keep an eye out for both dates and take any that you need to the store that week before they expire!

Share your coupon tips with us!

 Weekly Food Forecast –

This week, stores are running specials on canned soups.  This is an opportunity to save by using coupons offered in this week’s Sunday flyers with the matched sale.  Stock up for quick, easy meals, pairing the soup with whole grain bread and a salad.  Try and select the low-sodium varieties whenever possible or increase the water and add vegetables to regular soups to help keep the sodium (salt) level down.

I saved on soups when I purchased four on sale and used a $2.00 off coupon, so I actually only paid for two.  Now I have a quick lunch to bring to work that only cost me about 3.00 (that’s adding in crackers and a piece of fruit for dessert).                        

This article is responding to a question asked by one of our blog readers:


Organic, when is it worth the price difference?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

So when is the price difference worth it? 

Most researchers say, if you can afford it, buy local and organic, because of the lower pesticides and that organic farms use environmentally friendly practices that will sustain the earth and replenishes resources. (CSPI, 2007)

 

What should one be looking for when purchasing organic foods? 

When shopping for organic foods, always look for the USDA seal or certified organic on any kind of packaged food. For meat and dairy, this seal ensures you’re getting antibiotic- and hormone-free products. When buying meat or produce that isn’t packaged, look for a sign stating that it’s organic.

 usdaorganiclogo

Many organic foods cost more than conventionally grown foods, but they do contain lower levels of pesticide residues and that it is a health plus.  If you want to reduce pesticides intake, but do not want to buy everything organic, fruits and vegetables are the most cost effective areas to begin to make decisions for purchasing organically grown foods.

First take advantage of local farmers’ markets and locally grown produce whenever possible.

Secondly, be aware that The Environmental Working Group EWG (a Washington –based   non –profit) has identified a list of produce where it makes the most difference.                The “dirty dozen” are fragile fruits and vegetables that often require more pesticides to   fight off bugs.  Whenever possible, try and purchase organic or locally grown of the following twelve produce:  peaches, strawberries, nectarines, apples, spinach, celery,    pears, sweet bell peppers, cherries, potatoes, lettuce, and imported grapes.

Thirdly, the EWG also lists produce with the least contaminates which are: onions, avocados, frozen corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi fruit, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya. These fruits and vegetables are hardier produce where pesticides are less absorbed and you can feel comfortable eating these.

 

What should one do for the winter months in New England?

During the winter months in New England, fruits and vegetables should remain an essential part of our healthy diet.  Local fresh produce may be limited, so select seasonal produce.   Select hardier vegetables like sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and the great variety of squashes, and dark hardy greens such as collards, and kale which tend to have fewer pesticides.  You can also select non local seasonal fruit such as bananas, and citrus fruits.  These fruits, we peel away the flesh to reduce ingesting the pesticides.

 

Purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables is always a good deal.  These products are picked at the farm and frozen within a short time, so they retain their nutrients and have small or no traces of pesticides.

 

Through out the year, here are a few tips to reduce your pesticide risk:

  • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This would limit exposure to any one type of pesticide residue.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching raw produce
  • Consider cutting your own fruits and vegetables, instead of purchasing them precut, especially if you are going to eat them raw.
  • Remove and discard outmost leaves of lettuce and greens
  • Wait until just before preparation to wash or immerse your produce in clean water. When appropriate, scrub with a brush, this removes nearly all insects and dirt, as well as bacteria and pesticide residues.
  • Special soaps or washes are not necessary, Cold water is perfectly fine.
  • Practice food safety and prevention of cross contamination; do not place raw fruits and vegetables near uncooked meat fish or poultry.

Finally, organically grown foods are more expensive than conventionally grown, however knowing when organic pays off really helps towards making wise decisions. For example, fruits that you peel the skin, removes most of the pesticides which reduces your risk. However, soft –skinned fruits and vegetables that are consistently ranked on the top of the dirty dozen list, you may be are better off purchasing organic.

As the growing season changes, remember to check out the local farmer’s markets which now accept WIC and EBT cards.  Here you can purchase organic produce at reasonable cost and contribute to the bigger picture, the health and safety of our planet.

 

 

References:

Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2007 vol. 34 #6

Environmental Nutrition, 2007 vol.30, #6

EWG  Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. 4th ed.