Spend less, eat better

EBT acceptedBy Leah Brown, MS, RD, Community Nutritionist

Hello! My name is Leah, and I work in the SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) department. For those who are unfamiliar, SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (new name for food stamps).  The goal of SNAP-Ed is to promote health and prevention of nutrition-related chronic diseases by helping SNAP-Ed recipients establish healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle and help with resource management.

In a few days SNAP benefits will be cut due to the expiration of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  This could not come at a more inopportune time. With the approaching holiday season and a weak economy,  this will put a strain on an already struggling population.  In light of these upcoming cuts, today I will be sharing tips on how to spend less and eat better.

The USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan reports the latest cost of food for a week as $37.60 and $42.20 for an adult woman and a man respectively; for a family of four with young children $127.70-146.40 a week.  The Thrifty Food Plan menu chooses foods from the five Choose MyPlate food groups.  (Choose MyPlate is a product of the current dietary guidelines that contain the five food groups:  protein, grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables).  It is possible for a person or families to eat balanced healthy meals with a “thrifty” budget.

Okay, it’s possible, but how do you go from running out of money for food to stretching your food dollar and having balanced meals?

  1. It starts with your budget.  Take the time to track your income and expenses.  Do it monthly or whenever changes occur.  This will show you where your money is going and where you can improve on your spending choices.  Money going out should not exceed money coming in.
  2. Plan menus and make a list.  Decide what you want to eat for the week or month.   Take inventory of your pantry.  What do you already have to complete your menu?  Make a shopping list of the items you do not have on hand so you are less likely to make unnecessary purchases. NOTE: Remember when you plan your meals:make half your plate fruits and vegetables, make half your grains whole grains, choose lean meats, beans, seeds and nuts for protein, and low-fat dairy products.
  3. Use coupons, sales papers and supermarket rewards cards.  Coupons may save you 10-15 percent off your grocery bill, and the Sunday paper, on average, has $50 worth of coupons.  Compare your shopping lists to the sales circulars and try to shop where the items you need are discounted.
  4. Shop when it’s less crowded and when you’re not hungry.  You’ll purchase less and will get out of the store faster.  Shop alone when possible to avoid purchases not on your list.  However, let older children help with planning/shopping for a meal.
  5. Purchase store brands.  Generic brands are often approximately 20 percent less expensive.  And if you compare the nutrition facts along with the ingredients list, there is not much difference between certain products.
  6. Compare unit prices.  The “unit price” is the price per pound, ounce or pint.  Compare the cost of different brands.  For example a box of cereal for $2.50 may be one pound and the same type of cereal of another brand may be $3.50 but contains two pounds of cereal.  One is cheaper than the other in overall all cost, but the price per unit is less with the $3.50 box.  You get more cereal for your money.
  7. Buy in bulk and reduce food waste.  Buying in bulk can be very beneficial if you have a large family and can consume what you purchase in a reasonable amount of time.  If you do not have a large family, perhaps buy in bulk with a friend, splitting the expense and the food.  However, purchase only what you know your family will eat.  The typical household throws out 45 pounds of food a month, equaling about $600 worth of food a year.
  8. Read food labels and check product dates.  Try to purchase nutrient-rich foods; foods with more fiber, vitamins, minerals and low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.  Use dates to select the freshest foods.  The “expiration” or “use by” date is the only date that determines food safety.
  9. Shop seasonally and locally.  Fresh produce tastes better and costs less when it’s in season.  Shop at local farmers’ markets to take advantage of in-season fruits and vegetables and support your local economy.
  10. Utilize community resources.  By dialing 2-1-1 (the Delaware Helpline) you can connect with organizations that can assist.  These resources help to fill in the gaps between income, expenses and SNAP benefits.

To learn more about SNAP-Ed at the Food Bank of Delaware, please visit http://www.fbd.org/program/snap-education/.

Resources: Spending Less, Eating Better Module and Cost of Food at Home



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Filed under Nutrition, Poverty, Programs

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