During these challenging times, the mere act of obtaining food has required a little more thought and planning than was needed in the past. Add to that a commitment to make nutritious choices that may also need to fit within a new budget, and meal planning and grocery shopping has, for many, become a very stressful job.
For nutrient-rich choices, work towards including the following:
- Include whole plant foods as a significant part of your family’s diet by choosing a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, remembering that all forms – canned, frozen, dried and fresh – count and are nutritious choices.
- Round out your family's plate with lean protein choices such as fish*, white breast meat of poultry, and an occasional egg, limiting the red meat choices of beef, pork, and lamb. Prepare by baking, poaching, or broiling to limit added fats.
- Consider making at least one or two meatless meals each week by substituting plant proteins such as beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.
- Choose water. For all ages, water is the recommended beverage of choice.
- Limit sugar sweetened beverages and energy-dense foods such as candy, cakes, pies, fried foods, and chips.
To save money, consider the following before shopping in the store or online:
- Make a plan. Experts say that planning meals in advance and making a detailed shopping list can cut your grocery spending by 20 percent or more. Check your pantry before shopping and buy only what you really need for the next two weeks.
- Stick to your list as much as possible, while being flexible with items as needed. By sticking to a list, you will only purchase what you need and “get in and get out” of the store quickly. When this is not possible, consider making changes such as switching out white beans or chick peas for black or garbanzo beans; trading “old-fashioned” for “quick-cooking” oats; or substituting broccoli for peas and carrots in a recipe. Chances are it will be just as delicious and a nice change.
- Break yourself of “brand habits.” Generic or store brands are generally better buys. Basic commodities such as sugar, flour, tomato sauce, and paper towels are often indistinguishable when the label is removed.
- Go easy on highly processed foods in expensive packaging. Buy the basics and add your own sugar, spices, condiments, and sauces. You’ll save 50 percent or more, and feel much more creative. The closer a food is to its natural state, the less it tends to cost, and in most cases, the more nutritious it is.
In addition to the above suggestions, take advantage of this opportunity to eat together as a family, and consider having others who are alone or distant to join your meal on FaceTime or Zoom to help brighten yours and someone else’s long, quiet day. Eat Together and Eat Well!
*When choosing fish for children or women of child-bearing age, be sure to check for current recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency at epa.gov.