Cash, Food Stamps, WIC Program, School Lunch Program, etc., or all of the above?
Many resources are often available and can be used together to help lower food cost. Check into them through your local food stamp office, health department, and school system. Make sure you count all your resources when figuring how much money you have available for food. This will help you plan nutritious meals that fit your pocketbook.
In addition, you may also want to consider food co-ops, planting a vegetable garden, fishing, and hunting to help lower food cost and in meal planning.
REMEMBER: Be sure to plan ahead and keep track of how much money you spend. Try to make your food dollars, stamps, etc., last throughout the month.
Plan meals at least one week ahead of time. This helps to save time, effort, and especially money. Preplanning helps you to use the foods you already have, saving trips to the grocery store and making use of leftovers. When grocery shopping you will know exactly what foods you need and how much, allowing you to compare prices, read food labels, and make good quality food choices. Also, preplanned quick meals can replace more costly convenience items and restaurant meals. You can increase food variety by planning ahead - try to be creative! Poor food choices such as foods high in fat, salt, and sugar can be avoided by careful meal planning.
When planning meals, it is important that you always include a variety of foods from the 5 food groups to make sure that you and your family get all the nutrients needed for good health. The 5 food groups and servings needed are:
|FOOD GROUP||DAILY SERVINGS|
|Breads, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta||6-11|
|Milk,Yogurt, and Cheese||2-3|
|Meats, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans and Peas, Eggs, and Nuts||2-3|
For healthier eating avoid too many fats and sweets, as well as foods high in salt. Choose lean meats. Cut off excess fat and remove skin from chicken and/or turkey. Bake or broil foods instead of frying. Go easy on sauces, dressings, and gravies. Choose sandwich items such as tuna fish, peanut butter, hard-cooked eggs, etc., instead of lunch meats, which are generally higher in fat. Add dried beans or peas to your diet. They are very nutritious, low in fat, and are cheap in comparison to meat, poultry and fish.
What is unit pricing? It is a method to show exactly how much a food costs per ounce, pound, quart, gallon, etc. The unit price can be used to figure out which brand or size is a better buy. Unit prices are usually located on the shelf right below the food item.
For example, if a 16 oz. (1 lb) can of peaches costs 49 cents and a 1 lb and 13 oz. can costs 63 cents, it's hard to figure out which is a better buy. With unit pricing, you can find the unit price for each, and then determine which is a better buy. In this case the larger size is a better buy for its unit price per pound is 35 cents instead of 49 cents for the smaller can of peaches.
Food labels provide important information such as the name of the food, its description, its weight, and style of pack. Most labels also havea list of ingredients. The ingredients are listed in the order of the amount (by weight) in the food. This can be quite helpful when deciding what kind of food(s) you want in your diet. Often water or sugar is listed first or second, and many foods contain lots of fat and/or salt. You must ask yourself if this is the kind of food you want and if this is how you really want to spend your money.
Read the label on all the foods you buy. That way you can choose your foods wisely, pay for foods that you want, and actually get more for your money.
Now that suggestions have been made for lowering your food bill, try them for a while. Should you have any problems or questions , please feel free to contact/call your area Extension or EFNEP Office.
Cornell Cooperative Extension for VA EFNEP, "Planning Your Food Purchases," More From Your Money series. 1984.
USDA-Human Nutrition Information Service, "Making Food Dollars Count, Nutritious Meals At Low Cost," Home Garden Bulletin No 240. No date.
USDA-Human Nutrition Information Service, "Preparing Foods and Planning Menus," Home and Garden Bulletin No 232-8. No date.
USDA-Human Nutrition Information Service, "Shopping For Food and Making Meals In Minutes," Home and Garden Bulletin No 232-10. No date.
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech. Publication 354-155, "Cutting Costs." 1990.
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech. "Shopping With Kids," with minor revisions from "Shopping With Keikis," an Extension flyer produced by the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension. 1984.
Reviewed by Celia Hayhoe, Extension Specialist, Apparel, Housing and Resource Management
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009