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Shopping Smart for the New Year

January 2012

Karen Ensle EdD, RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Buying and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in the New Year will guarantee that your intake of nutrients will improve. In addition, your calorie intake should decrease. Taking small steps to add more produce to your daily food intake will help your health and does not have to hurt your wallet. Follow these 10 tips for improved shopping and health in 2012:

  1. Buy in Season - Use fresh vegetables and fruits when in season. Shop for Jersey Fresh produce at local farm markets and grocery stores. Compare prices as they will be different each season.
  2. Why Pay Full Price? Check newspaper ads, online coupons, and store coupons for “specials” and sale items. Often, large discount grocers will be cheaper than the smaller stores.
  3. Develop a Shopping List - Plan your meals ahead of time and then develop your shopping list. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and shelves for foods you already have and then shop for what is missing. Do not shop when hungry and buy only what you need.
  4. Buy Canned or Frozen in the Off-Season - Make sure to always compare the prices of fresh, frozen and canned of the same item. Read the food label to see if there is extra salt or sugar added. Buy fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.” Choose the form that is the best price at that time of the year.
  5. Buy Frequently in Small Amounts - Some fresh produce doesn’t last long so buy small amounts that you will eat without having to throw some away.
  6. Buy in Bulk When on Sale Only if You Have Sufficient Storage - Buy what you will use within a short period of time. Frozen or canned vegetables and fruit can be purchased in bulk, but use it up within six months if possible.
  7. Store Brands are Usually Cheaper - Choosing store brands is usually less expensive. However, compare prices of various size packages of the item.
  8. Keep Preparation Simple - Greens that are washed, pre-cut, bagged and ready-to-eat are more expensive than individual produce items. . Preparation from scratch is usually the cheapest.
  9. Plant a Garden - Start small with some planters on your deck or porch or consider changing a small plot into a vegetable garden. Home grown taste is wonderful, and the produce will be low on calories and encourage you and your family to eat healthy. Visit our Home, Lawn & Garden page for more gardening information.
  10. Plan Ahead and Think “Healthful Eating” - Take small steps and learn how to prepare and freeze soups, stews, casseroles, and one dish meals to save time and money.

Eating more vegetables and fruits will “upgrade” your diet with more Vitamin A and Vitamin C along with the B-complex and many important minerals. Both types of produce are good sources of fiber and bring color to your plate. Remember, take small steps and eat a rainbow of color EVERY day for good health.