from the AICR Newsletter #116, Summer 2012

Healthy Eating on A Budget

Middle Aged Woman with groceries in brown paper bagHow can you get the most nutritious bang for your buck and still stay within a food budget? All it takes are a few thrifty steps.

In 1965, a typical supermarket stocked around 7,300 items. By 2010, this number soared to 38,718, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Unfortunately, the least healthful foods tend to receive the most advertising. To sell sodas, candy and chips, Coca Cola spends upwards of $2.8 billion, Hershey’s $241 million and Frito-Lay $146 million annually, compared to the meager $9.55 million to advertise the Five a Day campaign for eating vegetables and fruits.

Novelty vs. Nutrition

Heavily marketed foods are usually highly processed, says Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.

Yet with a little planning, shopping savvy and minimal cooking, it’s possible for a senior couple to eat at home for less than $100 per week, according to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. So here are some tips on planning, shopping for and preparing healthy meals.

1. Plan Ahead. Build your daily menus around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Use lean meat more sparingly.

For help in balancing your plate for lower cancer risk, use AICR's free brochures and recipes (Health-e-Recipes, AICR Test Kitchen).

Use leftovers the next day in soups, salads and sandwiches. For example, make soup by heating low-fat, reduced-sodium broth with frozen chopped vegetables, instant brown rice or leftover pasta, drained and rinsed canned beans and a half-cup of leftover rotisserie chicken. Freeze uneaten portions in labeled containers for quick meals later.

2. Before you Shop. Make a list of healthy ingredients needed for your daily meals. Check the supermarket’s weekly circular for healthy sale items. Go grocery shopping after a healthy snack or meal so hunger won't tempt you to buy those cupcakes.

3. Supermarket Hints. Search out less expensive store brands that may be on lower or higher shelves. Higher cost items are often placed at eye level.

Fresh foods like produce, meat, milk and eggs are usually located around the perimeter of the store. Canned and frozen vegetables, fruits, beans and whole-grains are in the center aisles.

Seasonal fresh produce is often on sale. Some items, like apples and oranges will keep for a while. Others, like berries or mushrooms, should be eaten within a few days. One serving equals 1/2 cup (1 cup for leafy greens) or 1 medium fruit.


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